The Hamptons International Film Festival, which runs October 10–14, has a history of screening a wide variety of great films. While there are many great independent movies shown, the festival also showcases some of the biggest and most critically acclaimed films each year. Films that have appeared at HIFF have gone on to win myriad awards and have often shaken up the film industry with their daring subject matter and innovative filming style.
Black Swan made its East Coast premiere at the 2010 festival. Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring East End regular Natalie Portman, as well as Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel, Black Swan is a dark, psychological thriller that follows Portman’s character, a talented but insecure ballerina, as she descends into madness while preparing for the lead role in Swan Lake. The unrelenting tension and Portman’s riveting, uncompromising performance led to her winning the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was also nominated for Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture and swept the Independent Spirit Awards, winning for Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Female Lead (Portman) and Best Film.
The Wrestler, also directed by Aronofsky and shown at HIFF in 2008, is a downbeat drama starring Mickey Rourke as a former wrestler who finds a new lease on life when he meets a compassionate stripper (Marisa Tomei) and decides to (attempt to) get his life back on track. Like Black Swan, The Wrestler pulled no punches in its exploration of despair and desperation and is considered by Aronofsky to be a companion piece to his ballet-themed masterpiece. The film is also notable for rejuvenating Rourke’s career; both he and Tomei received Academy Award nominations.
Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle, also made its East Coast premiere at HIFF. The gritty but uplifting drama stars Dev Patel as Jamal, a young man from the slums of Mumbai whose experiences as an orphan trying to survive on the violent streets help him win the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Slumdog Millionaire swept the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song (for the Bollywood-inspired “Jai Ho”) and Best Sound Mixing. And lead actor Dev Patel was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role by the British Academy Film Awards.
Yet another East Coast premiere that went on to conquer Awards season was 2010’s The King’s Speech, a British historical drama directed by Tom Hooper about King George IV, who hires speech therapist Lionel Logue to help him with his stammer. The incredible performance by Colin Firth as King George IV won him the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, while co-stars Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were also nominated for their supporting roles as Logue and Queen Elizabeth. The film also won Best Picture.
HIFF also screened The Artist, the 2011 love letter to the silent film era of Hollywood. Directed by Michael Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin, both of whom won Academy Awards for the stylized comedy/drama, The Artist tells the story of George Valentin, a Hollywood star whose career falls apart when “talkies” become more popular than silent films. With almost all of the movie staged as a silent film and in black and white, the beautiful and engaging film is the first French-produced film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Other successful movies HIFF has screened include the East Coast premiere of 127 Hours, starring James Franco; Toy Story 3; the New York premiere of Up in the Air; The Descendants, starring George Clooney; Searching For Sugarman, an Academy Award winner for Best Documentary; and 2012’s Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, two audience favorites that were nominated for and won several Academy Awards. This year’s festival will likely showcase more films that audiences will love.
For the complete HIFF schedule, go to hamptonsfilmfest.org.