The Hamptons Doc Fest is back for its 14th year with a robust slate of award-worthy documentaries totaling 30 films to be screened at Bay Street Theater, Sag Harbor Cinema and virtually. Though all of these docs are insightful and expertly made, a select few have been given special recognition, proving their praiseworthiness. When purchasing tickets for the in-person week, December 3–10, or the virtual week, December 11–18, pay special attention to these lauded films.
Opening Night Film:
Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind
Friday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m., Sag Harbor Cinema, 94 minutes
To make a film about Joyce Carol Oates — the prolific, award-winning author of scores of novels, short story collections, poetry and essays, and a longtime professor at Princeton University — is no easy task, as Oates is intensely private. But Swedish film director Stig Bjorkman has done just that, having been granted access in this documentary to record her mornings of longhand writing, her walks with her husband and her moments of solitude. The film will be followed by a Q&A with Bjorkman, hosted by Miriam Parker, Associate Publisher of ECCO, an imprint of Harper Collins.
Pennebaker Career Achievement Award:
Dawn Porter (Bree Wayy: Promise, Witness, Remembrance and Cirque du Soleil)
Saturday, Dec. 4, 9 p.m., Sag Harbor Cinema
Dawn Porter will be honored with the Pennebaker Career Achievement Award in a ceremony on December 4. The award, named in honor of the Sag Harbor resident and documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker who died in August 2019, will be presented by sponsor Lana Jokel and Chris Hegedus, Pennebaker’s widow and fellow filmmaker. The ceremony will include a short reel of Porter’s work, her acceptance speech, her interview with Hamptons Doc Fest Advisory Board member documentary filmmaker Julie Anderson and a look at two of Porter’s films: Bree Wayy: Promise, Witness, Remembrance and Cirque du Soleil.
In 2020, Porter directed two award-winning documentaries: The Way I See It, which looked at the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama from the lens of White House photographer Pete Souza; and John Lewis: Good Trouble, the story of the Congressman and civil rights icon. Her 2016 award-winning film Trapped, which explores laws regulating abortion clinics in the South, will be shown at the festival on Tuesday, December 7.
Human Rights Award:
Saturday, Dec. 4, 5 p.m., Sag Harbor Cinema, 94 minutes
The film Citizen Ashe, directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard, details the life and career of tennis champion Arthur Ashe, who was the first African American to win the men’s singles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, and the first to win induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. He worked for civil rights causes in America and South Africa and also became an AIDS activist in the late 1980s after contracting HIV through blood transfusions related to heart surgery. A post-screening Q&A features directors Rex Miller and Sam Pollard in conversation with Nancy Buirski, founder/director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and director of several award-winning films involving African American subjects.
Tee & Charles Addams Foundation’s Art & Inspiration Award:
Sunday, Dec. 5, 5 p.m., Sag Harbor Cinema, 100 minutes
Presenting the award to award-winning director-writer Douglas Tirola and producer Susan Bedusa will be Kevin Miserocchi, director of the Tee & Charles Addams Foundation. The film will be followed by a Q&A with Tirola and Bedusa, hosted by Hamptons Doc Fest Advisory Board Member and documentary filmmaker Roger Sherman, a founder of Florentine Films. This film about famed composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein paints a complex portrait of how an immigrant son became the visionary and exuberant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and then an American cultural superstar and celebrity. Bernstein matched his passion for music with an unyielding commitment to political engagement, all the while wrestling with his hidden sexuality.
Producer Impact Award:
Tribute to Diane Weyermann (Citizenfour)
Sunday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. Sag Harbor Cinema
Hamptons Doc Fest and the Sag Harbor Cinema are joining together to recognize the life and work of producer Diane Weyermann, who tragically passed away in October. She was to receive the festival’s first Producer Impact Award, which will be presented by Hamptons Doc Fest artistic director Karen Arikian and now will be accepted posthumously by Weyermann’s sister Andrea Weyermann. After the film, Sag Harbor Cinema artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan will engage in a conversation with director Poitras.
Weyermann’s impact on the documentary film community was immense, spanning 25 years in leadership positions at three seminal organizations: Open Society Institute, Sundance Institute and Participant. While at Participant, Weyermann was a staunch champion of female-led projects including Citizenfour, directed by Laura Poitras and executive produced by Weyermann, which will be screened at Doc Fest after the award presentation. Citizenfour, which won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature as well as dozens of other awards, is a real-life espionage thriller, placing viewers right in the room with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald, about the National Security Agency’s illegal invasion of citizen privacy.
The Andrew Sabin Family Environmental Award:
Tuesday, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., Bay Street Theater, 105 minutes
This year’s recipient of The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award, presented by Andy Sabin, is After Antarctica, directed by Tasha Van Zandt, who has led expeditions around the world for National Geographic. It will be screened with a Q&A afterward featuring the director Van Zandt, hosted by Andrew Botsford, arts writer and president of the Hampton Theatre Company.
The film recounts the grueling 4,000-mile, seven-month trek by polar explorer/expert Will Steger, his five fellow international explorers and their dog teams as they completed the first coast-to-coast dogsled crossing of Antarctica in 1989-90 to draw global attention to preserving the continent, and it also revisits them 30 years later, Steger’s solo journey at the age of 75 across the Arctic, before melting ice makes that expedition impossible.
Closing Night Film:
Friday, Dec. 10, 8 p.m., Bay Street Theater, 92 minutes
Offered as part of the Saunders Free Community Day on December 10, Torn, directed by Max Lowe for National Geographic, will be screened, followed by a possible Q&A on Zoom. The film provides an intimate look at the Lowe-Anker family as Alex Lowe’s eldest son Max Lowe, the director, captures their emotionally and physically-harrowing journey to Tibet’s 26,289-foot mountain Shishapangma to put Alex to rest after the renowned mountain climber was tragically lost with his cameraman David Bridges in a deadly avalanche there in 1999. Surviving was Alex’s best friend and mountaineer Conrad Ankar, who fell in love with Max’s widow Jennifer and stepped in to help raise Alex’s three sons.
While these are just the award winners and opening/closing night films, there are plenty of other documentaries worth checking out at the festival, such as Raise the Bar, No Ordinary Life and Truth Tellers. Visit hamptonsdocfest.com for all passes and tickets.