European Film Market co-director Karen Arikian has been named the new Executive Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF). Arikian will join the festival, which is opening its 15th annual event on Wednesday, after the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival. The move comes as the Hamptons fest looks to the future after the recent departure of longtime executive director Denise Kassell and artistic director Rajendra Roy, who recently left to head the film department at MoMA.
"It's a small festival, but it's a gem of a festival positioned for growth in the future," noted Arikian, chatting about the festival with indieWIRE Tuesday morning. A native of Brooklyn, she is currently on Long Island to attend this year's event and added that building on the success of Kassell and Roy who sought connection with overseas events, she "wants to reach out internationally" given the growth potential for the Hamptons event. She will officially join the event in March.
Arikian will remain the Berlinale's Official Delegate for the US/East Coast after joining HIFF. The two events have maintained a strong relationship, nurtured by Kassell and Roy. The Hamptons fest's Rising Stars program was inspired by and linked to the Berlinale's annual Shooting Stars event for emerging actors and in recent years, Roy has served as member of the selection committee for the annual Berlin International Film Festival in February.
Akikian was appointed by Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick in 2002 to the key post at the EFM, working with longtime market head Beki Probst. She previously headed the New York office of TiMe Film und TV Produktion, producing films for the company. She started her career at WNET in New York, working for "Great Performances" before working at the IFP and then Bruce Weber's Little Bear Films.
"Karen brings her expertise and experience to us at a time when the Hamptons is growing in physical as well as artistic scope, and I know she will enhance our festival on many levels," said Hamptons board chair Stuart Match Suna, in a statement, adding that her relationship with the Berlin fest, "will only help to strengthen the strong association our two festivals have forged over the last few years and which we are extremely pleased to see continue and flourish."
Arikian told indieWIRE today that she ultimately hopes to develop more year round programs for the Hamptons festival, but for now she'll begin focusing on core issues, such as fundraising and bolstering the organization's staff. Noting that it's a bit premature to go into details, she added, "I'm putting together a little paper called 'my perfect festival'."