Norwegian director Erik Poppe's "Troubled Water" and Japanese director Megumi Sasaki's "Herb and Dorothy" won big at the Hamptons International Film Festival this afternoon, with both features winning jury and audience prizes in their categories. "Water" took the festival's Golden Starfish for Best Narrative Feature, while "Herb" received the Golden Starfish for Documentary Feature Film -- and both won their respective audienece prizes -- during a ceremony in East Hampton, New York today hosted by "The Daily Show" co-creator Lizz Winstead. The narrative award includes a package of $185,000 in in-kind production services, while the doc nod includes a $5,000 cash prize.
"Troubled Water" centers on Thomas, a convict who is released after serving eight years in prison. He takes a job as an organist at a local church where he feels he can maintain an anonimity from a judgmental society. Settling into his new life, he begins a friendship with the church's pastor Anna and her young son with whom he finds a greater sense of absolution.
"I'd like to say that [being a] feature filmmaker in Europe, we see that great work comes from America," commented Poppe at the awards ceremony Sunday in East Hampton. "But we need the 'daring stuff.' I'd like to encourage [filmmakers] to go out and take on daring projects... ['Troubled Water'] is heavy stuff of course, but we wanted to make a story that was about humanity."
"Herb and Dorothy" meanwhile is a portrait of Dorothy and Herb Vogel, who have assembled one of the largest and most important collections of minimalist and conceptual art, which Herb calls "tough art." According to an HIFF description, the couple are limited to their modest salaries as a librarian and a postal worker and follow three principles when making acquisitions: They buy what they like; they buy what they can afford; and limit the pieces to what they can fit in their one bedroom rent controlled Manhattan apartment. Through their collection, they have befriended big names in the art world including Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Sol Le Witt, Robert and Sylvia Mangold and Richard Tuttle.
"I'm speechless," said Sasaki after going to the stage for the second time to pick up her jury award for best doc. "This is my first film and Herb and Dorothy gave me this chance, [yet] I had never had any experience in filmmaking." Sasaki went on to praise the festival and HIFF's new director of programming David Nugent in paticular for his tenacity in getting the film to screen at the festival. "The Hamptons wasn't something that I knew and I didn't know if I wanted to bring the film here, but David kept calling and talking to me and I like persistence."
In other prizes, Chao Gan's "The Red Race" received a special recognition from the doc jury. Don Hertzfeldt's "I Am So Proud of You" took the Golden Starfish for Short Film Award ($5,000), while Ram Shweky won the Kodak Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Mushon Salmona's "Vasermil." Best screenwriter went to Alexadru Baciu, Razvan Radulescu and Radu Muntean for "Boogie" by Radu Muntean and Bosnian director Aida Begic's "Snow" won the festival's "Brizzolara Family Award for Films of Conflict and Resolution." The RoC Gold Standard Award for Female Director went to Elissa Down for "The Black Baloon" and writer/actor Michael Spicer won the Caroline's Comedy Emerging Talent Award for "How I Learned to Love Richard Gere.
As previously announced, Marc Abraham's "Flash of Genius" won the $25,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film Prize in Science and Technology, while Patrick Johnson's "77" won the Heineken Red Star Award. "The Pig" by Danish director Dorte Hoegh won the audience prize for best short film.
The 16th Hamptons International Film Festival included 122 title, including 14 world, 23 North American and 18 U.S. premieres. "We are thrilled that our jury as well as our audience members have been equally affected by our presentations in the narrative and documentary categories," commented director of programming David Nugent in a statement. "It provides us with a strong mandate to continue presenting quality films from innovative filmmakers from around the world."