The world premiere of Philip Haas‘ “The Situation” will open the 14th annual Hamptons International Film Festival (October 18 – 22), organizers announced today. Haas’ “Situation,” set for a U.S. release early next year by Shadow Distribution, is described as a thriller, romance and war movie set in contemporary Iraq. It stars Connie Nielsen and Damian Lewis, and written by Wendell Steavenson. In a break with tradition, Hamptons fest planners made a late August announcement of the opening film and unveiled the lineup of six films that will screen in each of the festival’s three competitive sections.
Hailed by festival organizers as the first U.S. narrative feature to deal with the war in Iraq, the film explores the story of an American journalist (Nielsen) who gains access to the people of Iraq via a young Iraqi photographer. But, when U.S. soldiers throw a local boy off a bridge in Samara, a cycle of violence erupts between insurgents and Iraqi police. In a conversation with indieWIRE, Hamptons festival Artistic Director Rajendra Roy noted that the film would set the stage for a festival that will explore the theme of women and children in a conflict zone within a number of festival films, particularly in the annual Conflict & Resolution competition.
A total of 18 films will screen in competition at the 14th Hamptons International Film Festival. Six titles are vying for the coveted Golden Starfish Award that includes a more than $190,000 good and services package. In the Golden Starfish competition are Brad Gann‘s “Black Irish” (U.S., world premiere), Jens Lien‘s “The Bothersome Man” (Norway, U.S. premiere), Sven Taddicken‘s “Emma’s Bliss” (Germany, North American premiere), Guy Moshe‘s “Holly” (U.S., east coast premiere), Dina Zvi-Riklis‘ “Three Mothers” (Israel, North American premiere), and Rajnesh Domalpalli‘s “Vanaja” (U.S./India, U.S. premiere).
Screening in the documentary competition, which presents a $10,000 goods and services prize, are Lincoln Ruchti‘s “Chasing Ghosts” (U.S., world premiere), Sara Lamm‘s “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox” (U.S., East Coast premiere), Jeremy Gans‘ “No Past to Speak Of” (Canada, U.S. Premiere), Benjamin Niles‘ “Note by Note” (U.S., world premiere), Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price‘s “Summercamp!” (U.S., East Coast premiere), and Georgi Lazarevski‘s “Voyage In G Major” (France, U.S. premiere).
Finally, in the Films of Conflict & Resolution competition, which will award a $5,000 cash prize, are Keren Yehezkely-Goldstein‘s “About The Body” (Israel, East Coast premiere), David Gleeson‘s “The Front Line” (Ireland, world premiere), James Moll‘s “Inheritance” (U.S., east coast premiere), Sedika Mojadidi‘s “Motherland Afghanistan” (U.S., world premiere), Annette K. Olesen‘s “One To One” (Denmark, U.S. premiere), and Hugo Latulippe and Francois Prevost‘s “What Remains of Us” (Canada, N.Y. premiere).
Raj Roy, who also serves on the programming committee for the Berlin International Film Festival, was promoted to the position of Artistic Director earlier this year at HIFF, while Josh Koury was named Programming Manager and Shorts Programmer at the festival. The two saw fest submissions jump some 30% this year, up to about 1,600 from about 1,200.
The decision to showcase the world premiere of Haas’ “Situation” in the festival’s highest profile spot marks an important step for the Hamptons festival, as Roy explained during the conversation with indieWIRE this afternoon. He said that those involved with the movie targeted the Hamptons as the place to launch their film and said he hoped the festival would offer them a higher profile than they might have received from a regular screening slot at a larger festival. Noting the film’s specific sense of urgency and timeliness, Roy added that it reflects the overall tone of his event. Citing the seriousness of his program, he noted that a number of festival directors this year see filmmaking “as a means to foster change, or at least create a dialogue.”
During the conversation with indieWIRE, Roy explained that the decision to announce the opening night and competition films earlier this year was timed to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival. “It is important for us now, given the increasing credibility and stature of the festival, that we become part of the dialogue in Toronto,” he explained, noting that he intends to spend time in Toronto working to create more awareness and buzz for the Hamptons’ competition lineup among the industry at the Canadian fest, while also finding a few more features to screen in his Spotlight and World Cinema sections.
While submissions to the festival were up overall this year, the total number of features screened will in fact drop to about 60 (a loss of about ten from last year), with additional fest details to be announced next month. “We want to be vital to the industry,” Roy explained, “But we also realize that (the film industry) is coming off of a huge saturation festival.” Continuing, he explained that he views the Hamptons role as providing, “a critical eye that will lead them to the strongest work available in October.”
“One of our biggest assets is our intimacy,” Roy elaborated. “We are not a small festival, but we are an intimate festival.” Concluding he said, “We are certainly not meant to be comprehensive,” Roy emphasized during the conversation with indieWIRE. “We want to be a very curated, specifically industry-friendly event, that is going to be a great platform for our filmmakers.”