The Hamptons Doc Fest, formerly known as the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, returns for its 11th year from November 29–December 3. Despite the streamlined name, the mission is the same. The festival will still present cutting-edge documentary films with relevant, interesting themes.
Founder Jacqui Lofaro decided the time was right to change the name because many people simply didn’t understand the original name. “For 10 years we were Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, which was not only long, but a lot of people didn’t understand why it was ‘Take 2.’ I originally named it that because I wanted to give filmmakers a second shot if they didn’t get into a film festival. Their film would not die. As a documentary filmmaker myself, that was my motivation. So people misunderstood it—didn’t understand it—so it was time to change,” she says. “We had a couple meetings and decided that the best thing to be is short and succinct, and own ‘documentaries,’ so the Hamptons Doc Fest was born! We’re all docs all year. We’ve really expanded our screenings. We’ve done spring docs, co-presenting with the Parrish Art Museum, we’ve screened at the Southampton Arts Center and it’s a yearlong effort. The more documentaries the better!”
Lofaro believes documentaries are so popular because they tell true stories. “A good documentary is a good story and people like stories about other people,” she says. “It’s the nature of the human animal, I think. And documentaries are rooted in the reality of someone’s life story or life mission and there’s also a learning component that people like. People will often leave the theater and say to me, ‘I never knew that!’”
While there isn’t necessarily a unifying theme tying the program together, this year’s documentaries focus on interesting pioneers. “We have a lot of biography documentaries about people who are game changers, like Sammy Davis Jr., Terrence McNally and Jane Fonda,” Lofaro says, referring to Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, Every Act of Life and Jane Fonda in Five Acts. Another pioneer, the late East Ender Edie Windsor, is highlighted in the Sunday Night Spotlight Film To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v Windsor, about the landmark court case that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Lofaro and a committee choose the films each year, and it’s about a 50/50 split between films submitted to the festival and films that are invited.
In addition to the various screenings, the Hamptons Doc Fest honors a filmmaker with the Lumiere Career Achievement Award. This year, the recipient is Sheila Nevins, the former President of HBO Documentary Films. “She brought the documentary into the homes of thousands of people,” says Lofaro.
Another initiative of the Hamptons Doc Fest is Young Voices, which brings students to the festival to expose them to the documentary form and even teach them the process of filmmaking via the year-round Media Lab in local schools, led by Megan Kiefer, founder of Take Two Film Academy. “We’re very happy with Young Voices. The schools ask for it and it’s a real wonderful program in the sense that digital media is where these kids live,” Lofaro says.
“There’s a film for everybody,” says Lofaro. “There’s a documentary to appeal to every cross section of the population here. Give yourself a gift. Come and have some time to yourself. Have a festival experience!”
The Hamptons Doc Fest runs from November 29–December 3 at Bay Street Theater. For a full schedule and tickets, visit hamptonsdocfest.com.