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October 17, 1997 2:00 AM
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Hamptons 97: The Calm Before The Weekend Storm?

Hamptons 97: The Calm Before The Weekend Storm?

by Eugene Hernandez




With an autumn chill in the air and a light rain falling, the 1997 Hamptons
International Film Festival kicked off in East Hampton, New York Wednesday
night. Festival chair Toni Ross, and new Festival Director Bruce Feinberg
welcomed a crowd of locals and other festival-goers who braved heavy traffic for
an early trip to the eastern tip of Long Island. Ross and Feinberg used the
occasion to mark the 5th anniversary of the 5 day event, and praised this years
film lineup. Introducing the Festival's new Program Director, Stephen
Gallagher, Ross noted that the selection of "Aura-t-Il De La Neige A Noel"
("Will it Snow for Christmas?") to launch the Festival, marks the first time a
foreign picture has served as an opening film here. Gallagher first saw the
French farm film at Cannes in 1996 and the movie was picked up by Zeitgeist
shortly after the Berlin Film Festival this year. The distributors' Co-President Nancy Gerstman told indieWIRE yesterday that they plan to release the
Cesar winner domestically during this yearís Holiday season. For some audience
members the film was an odd selection given its downbeat tone and near
documentary style plot, yet many overcame those potential hurdles and
appreciated the choice.


At the post screening party, held in a cavernous tent on an open field, guests
sampled cuisine from local eateries and some buzzed about the films in store
over the following four days. Of particular discussion were the ìcelebrity
reviewsî published in a special guide by the local weekly, The East Hampton
Star. Roy Scheider reviewed D.A. Pennebakerís new doc, entitled "Moon Over Broadway", ABCís Lynn Sherr covered the documentary, "A Midwife's Tale", and Dick
Cavett wrote about the documentary "Trekkies". But the celeb review that had
flacks and folks buzzing was Alec Baldwinís praise of "Strong Island Boys",
directed by Mark Schiffer. While Baldwin called the filmmakerís direction
ìfairly strong,î he praised the movie, likening its ìbleak representationî to
that of "River's Edge" and "A Clockwork Orange". Baldwin also singled out actress
Selma Blair as "a combination of Marlene Dietrich meets Debra Winger," noting
the film suffers when she is off screen.


As the festival kicked off yesterday morning, organizers had added a number of
third screenings to accommodate audience demands for a select group of films,
including "Sparkler", directed by Darren Stein, and the documentary, "Off The Menu:
The Last Days Of Chasens
", directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman.
Another film which will screen for audiences three times this weekend is Tim
Chey's "Fakin' Da Funk", a feature about an accidental adoption switch between
African-American and Chinese families. The movie, which stars Pam Grier,
Margaret Cho, Dante Basco, Ernie Hudson and Nell Carter, among others, received
considerably positive word of mouth after its early screening here yesterday
morning.


Festival crowds seemed slim early in the day, but as the afternoon progressed
screenings began to fill, and as the first full day wrapped up festival
attendees jammed The Farmhouse, a local restaurant, for a party sponsored by
Filmmaker Magazine. The aforementioned Ross, Feinberg and Gallagher mingled
with filmmakers, jurors, industry-types and other attendees well past midnight
as the temperature outside dropped and the festival began to truly heat up.

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