The Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) is coming, October 8–12, to 11 screens near you. A Columbus Day weekend Hamptons tradition, HIFF will take over film screens across the area, with East Hampton Library’s Baldwin Family Room added to the list of venues this year. The festival will honor Nick Louvel, a director who was supposed to present his documentary The Uncondemned at HIFF, but who tragically died in a single-car accident on Route 114 last month.
This year’s festival is the 23rd for HIFF—the numerologists among us might note that 23 is a unique prime, made up of two consecutive primes and the most frequently cited prime in number mythology—so we should be primed to look for something “prime” in this year’s festival. And we’ll find it—films that are choice, dramas and documentaries, the best of the best. Look for the inauguration of a new signature program series that will focus on “compassion, social justice and animal rights,” and for an enhanced and extended education partnership between HIFF and the United Nations.
HIFF’s popular 10 a.m. morning conversations at Rowdy Hall continue, though they’re now called “Winick Talks,” in honor of the late American independent filmmaker, editor and producer Gary Winick, an HIFF Audience Award winner and lover of the Hamptons whose memorial fund also supports scholarships for up-and-coming filmmakers.
More than 40 countries will be represented at the festival, notes HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent, with many films from France. “It’s the birthplace of cinema,” Nugent says, so it seems appropriate, but fans should also keep their eyes open for some tantalizing offerings from Iceland and Denmark.
It has happened numerous times in the last decade, and so HIFF isn’t off-base to hope to have one of its 2015 features win Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s become an exciting aspect of HIFF to see these Oscar-buzz films before they get rolled out to the general public.
HIFF Executive Director Anne Chaisson points out that HIFF is unusual because it “positions itself on a competitive [international] landscape, while still staying faithful to our audience.” And so, while the October festival remains HIFF’s flagship, the festival has extended its reach with special events, screenings, workshops and the ever-popular SummerDocs series hosted by Amagansett’s own Alec Baldwin. Baldwin was just newly elected as co-chair of the Board of Directors, along with well-known litigation lawyer Randy Mastro.
World premieres, of course, attract year-rounders, and programs such as the Views From Long Island series are a big draw for locals. Supported by the Suffolk County Film Commission, Views presents an award to either an emerging or established filmmaker who has completed a “high quality, original, director-driven, low-budget independent film,” at least half of which was shot within Suffolk County.
Naturally, eyes are on openers: In East Hampton, there will be a screening of screenwriter James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut, Truth, starring Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Topher Grace and Elisabeth Moss. The film follows news anchor Dan Rather (Redford) during his final days at CBS “when he broadcast a report about how President Bush relied on privilege and family connections to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War.” Truth is based on the 2005 memoir by CBS producer Mary Mapes, Truth and Duty: The Press, The President And The Privilege Of Power. Vanderbilt was a mentor in the HIFF Screenwriters Lab in 2009, notes Nugent. Screening in Southampton will be Youth by director and screenwriter Paolo Sorrentino (who won the Oscar for best foreign language film last year). The film features Michael Caine as a retired orchestra conductor, Harvey Keitel as a retired screenwriter, and Jane Fonda as the screenwriter’s muse—it has already been pulling in prizes in France.
The Conflict and Resolution series, now in its 16th year, presented by the Tribeca Shortlist, continues to celebrate work that recognizes “films that deal with complex issues and the human dramas associated with war and violence.”
A related new series, The Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights Signature Program will reward one of three films, all of which are dedicated to “raising awareness about the moral and ethical treatment and the rights of animals that inspires compassion and compels social change.” The series will premiere The Champions, a documentary by photographer, director, producer Darcy
Dennett, which delves into the courageous and dangerous rescuing of fighting pit bulls destined to be euthanized.
Through a partnership with UNAOC (United Nations Alliance of Civilizations) and the UN’s IOM (International Organization for Migration), HIFF also is expanding into screening student works, in any language (English subtitles provided), that explore in no more than five minutes issues of “migration, diversity and social inclusion.” This highly competitive program, showcasing 25 films selected from over 200 submissions, should prove of particular interest to schools.
Among the highlights of the festival are the juried awards in several categories given to a Narrative or Documentary. Winners receive not just recognition but “a package of essential goods and services valued at over $85,000 and $3,000 toward a new feature film.” This is one way HIFF seeks to further the art of filmmaking while providing a series of captivating films to watch.
Speaking of captivating films, turn down the lights and pass the popcorn. And silence your cell phones—here’s HIFF!
Founders Passes and other passes are now on sale. The HIFF box office is open in New York, East Hampton and Southampton. Tickets to Opening Night and the After Party are currently available. Some events and screenings will sell out. For more information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.