HIFF Celebrates 25 Years with Star-Studded Events and Stellar Lineup

Will Tilston and Domhnall Gleeson in "Goodbye Christopher Robin," showing at HIFF 2017
Will Tilston and Domhnall Gleeson in “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” showing at HIFF 2017

The Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) is celebrating its 25th year and, with more than 65 feature films and 50 shorts representing 40 countries, it’s better than ever. The festivities begin Thursday, October 5 with the presentation of a new annual award, The Dick Cavett Artistic Champion Award. The award, which will honor people who, throughout their careers, have continued to support the arts and have made a significant impact and contribution within the industry, will be presented this year by HIFF Co-Chairman Alec Baldwin. The winner will be one of the most well-respected television personalities and interviewers in the industry, who has been on television for more than five decades, has been nominated for 10 Emmy Awards, started his career as a writer on The Tonight Show, and later hosted his own late night TV show. That sounds just like…yes, it’s Montauk’s own Dick Cavett….Cavett himself will receive the inaugural Dick Cavett Artistic Champion Award. “Of course, when it came time to create an award on behalf of those in our industry who have supported artists and the arts in unique and indelible ways, we realized we not only had to name the award after Dick, but also give our first award to him,” Baldwin says.

The hills will be alive on Saturday, October 7 at Guild Hall when North Haven’s Julie Andrews, well known for her defining roles on stage in My Fair Lady and Camelot and her classic screen performances in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, will receive HIFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Andrews is also a best-selling author of more than 30 children’s books, as well as her autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, to which she is now working on the sequel; she just completed directing a hugely successful revival of My Fair Lady, which is currently touring Australia; and Andrews is the co-creator and star of Julie’s Greenroom, a new Netflix series that teaches young children about theater and the arts. As part of a full day of events in her honor, HIFF and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will co-present a special screening of Victor Victoria, followed by a conversation and award presentation with Alec Baldwin. “We are proud to honor her at the festival and celebrate her incredible career,” Baldwin says. Tickets to the events, which include a reception at a private residence from 5–7 p.m., start at $500 and can be purchased on the HIFF website.

Four-time Academy Award nominee, two-time Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award winner Annette Bening will participate in one of the festival’s signature programs, “A Conversation With…” moderated by HIFF board member Bob Balaban on Sunday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. at East Hampton Middle School. Bening, known for her roles in Rob Reiner’s The American President and Sam Mendes’s American Beauty, also stars in one of the festival’s Spotlight films, Paul McGuigan’s Films Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, which will screen during the festival on Sunday, October 8 and Monday, October 9 at Guild Hall in East Hampton. Sony Pictures Classics will release the film on December 15. “We are delighted to have one of the industry’s most formidable and talented actresses join us this year to converse about her body of work,” says HIFF Executive Director Anne Chaisson, adding that Bening “is one of the most talented actresses of our generation and a perfect addition to our 25th anniversary.” Other artists featured in the “A Conversation With…” series include Patrick Stewart on Saturday at 1 p.m., and Rob Reiner, director of the Spotlight film LBJ, on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

HIFF also recently announced the jury members for the 2017 festival. The Narrative Jury will include Eric Kohn, chief film critic and a deputy editor for Indiewire and chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle; actor Harris Yulin, who has starred in films including Wanderland and television series Ozark and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; and producer Daniela Taplin Lundberg, who recently launched Stay Gold Features and has produced over 25 features, including Beasts Of No Nation and The Kids Are All Right. The Documentary Jury will include Oscar nominated and Emmy winning producer Julie Goldman, founder of Motto Pictures; artist and ceramist Toni Ross, the founder of HIFF and the Founding Chair for five years; and director Roger Ross Williams, who is the first African American director to win an Oscar.

Alison Chernick’s Itzhak, which chronicles the extraordinary life of Israeli violin virtuoso and conductor Itzhak Perlman and explores the ways in which Perlman’s passion for music allowed him to find a platform for personal expression against tremendous obstacles, will open the festival on Thursday, October 5, and Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya will be screened as the Closing Night Film on Monday, October 9. Simon Curtis’s Goodbye Christopher Robinson will serve as the Friday Centerpiece film; Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be the Saturday Centerpiece; and Andy Serkis’ Breathe is the Sunday Centerpiece.

During the intervening days, HIFF-goers will get to see a handful of movies before any other audience in the world. In addition to Itzhak, HIFF will be showcasing eight world premieres, including one with a very local connection and another filmed in and around the Hamptons. Killer Bees spotlights the famed Bridgehampton basketball team as they prepare to defend their state championship title. Following the young men on and off the court, filmmakers Benjamin and Orson Cummings explore the Bees’ historical importance within the local community. More than just a high school team, the Bees are a symbol of hope—particularly to those who are struggling to survive in one of the wealthiest districts in the country. Meanwhile, Josh Klausner’s Wanderland is a madcap East End experience featuring a cast of wonderfully kooky local characters. In an effort to briefly escape his humdrum life of isolation in New York, Alex impulsively accepts an invitation from an online acquaintance to house-sit at her picturesque “enchanted cottage” on Long Island. Despite his best attempts at a quiet weekend of relaxation, Alex suddenly finds himself lost on a surreal, all-night musical odyssey of misadventures.

Something to note if you’re on the fence about getting out to some of these movies: 2016 marked the 7th time in a row that a film in the Festival has become the eventual Best Picture winner at the Oscars, making HIFF the only Festival on the East Coast with such a distinction.

The 25th annual Hamptons International Film Festival will take place over Columbus Day Weekend, October 5–9, 2017. For a full list of films and events visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

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