Hamptons Festival Unveils 30 World Premieres and New Programs for 12th Edition
by Brian Brooks
About 100 filmmakers, press, and other invitees joined Hamptons International Film Festival executive director Denise Kasell, board chairman Stuart Match Suna, and director of programming Rajendra Roy at the Sony building on Madison Ave. in Manhattan for a preview presentation of the 12th edition of the event, which takes place on Long Island's East End October 20-24. Opening the festival in East Hampton, NY is the East Coast premiere of Oscar-winning director Bill Condon's ("Gods and Monsters") drama about human sex behaviorist, Alfred Kinsey, who caused a cultural roar in 1948 with the publication of his book, "Sex Behavior in the Human."
The film is also be the recipient this year of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film Prize in Science and Technology, which includes a $25,000 cash award. The Sloan award is a year-round collaboration supporting filmmakers who turn their narrative talents to the realm of science and technology.
The film joins an extensive slate of 30 world premieres, 18 U.S. premieres, 19 East Coast premieres and 12 New York premieres. In introducing this year's program, Hamptons director of programming Rajendra Roy boasted that the festival had "established itself as the fall film festival of record on the East Coast."
Of particular interest for independent filmmakers is the competition for the Golden Starfish award for best narrative feature. Five features will vie this year for the prize, which includes one of the most lucrative prizes on the festival circuit, $180,000 in goods and in-kind services to be used toward the winner's next feature. Competing for the honor this year is the East Coast debut of director/producer Eddie O'Flaherty's "Fighting Tommy Riley," about a young boxer who has to decide whether or not to leave his mentor for an established trainer. Also in the section is the world premiere of Michael Goorjian's "Illusion," starring Karen Tucker and Ron Marasco in a film the fest describes as, "a fable about what really matters at the end of the road." Writer/director Amanda Goodwin's "Living 'Til the End" will also make its world debut about a man whose life experiences upheaval when a psychic predicts that he'll die prior to his next birthday. The East Coast premiere of Marty Sader's "Most High" concerns a man who devotes his energies to help people with severe substance abuse problems in order to avoid dealing with his own demons, while the world premiere of Debra Kirschener's "The Tollbooth" is a dramatic comedy that follows a young painter from an orthodox Jewish family in her first year after finishing college.
Five films will compete for the Hamptons' Golden Starfish Documentary prize, worth $10,000 in cash and in-kind services. Director Leslie Sullivan's "A Touch of Greatness" (New York premiere) follows the pioneering teaching techniques of Albert Cullum, who utilized the classics, including Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Shaw to instruct his elementary school students in the '50s and '60s. The U.S. premiere of director/screenwriter Sarah Goodman's "Army of One" observes three young military recruits who join the service as a result of the army's marketing campaign, "An Army of One." The world premiere of "Following Sean" updates a short film director Ralph Arlyck made in the '60s about a four-year-old living in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury who admitted he lived among speed freaks and "smoked grass." Arlyck then goes and tracks down the boy decades later to revisit their conversation and see how his life evolved. The world debut of Fredric Golding's "Hardwood Dreams," meanwhile chronicles the lives of five high school hoop stars from Inglewood, CA ten years down the line, and is narrated by Wesley Snipes. The world premiere of Keith Beauchamp's "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till" revisits the 1955 abduction and murder of Emmett Louis Till, a 14 year-old African-American from Chicago killed while visiting his family in Mississippi.
In addition to narrative and documentary competitions, Hamptons also hosts a shorts ($5,000 cash prize), the inaugural Golden Starfish International award competition ($10,000), the Kodak award for cinematography ($6,000 of goods and in-kind services), the Films of Conflict and Resolution award ($10,000) as well as other cash prizes for screenwriting, and student films.
The fifth annual Films of Conflict & Resolution is a program that spotlights films with a focus on strife worldwide. This year's section offers work that promotes "transformation." According to a festival release, this year's section are "stories [that] once viewed by audiences, [will] resonate with a potent message." Six films will compete in the competition, while seven features will screen out-of-competition in addition to a shorts program in the sidebar.
The Hamptons' 'Spotlight Films' are among the most high-profile in the festival, and are screened ahead of their theatrical release. Jonathon Glazer's U.S. premiere "Birth" starring Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston and Anne Heche is described as a fairy-tale that is "part romance, party mystery, and part family drama. The screening is the film's U.S. premiere. Also among the eight 'Spotlight' titles is Dan Harris' New York premiere of "Imaginary Heroes," described as "a look at one long year in the lives of an ostensibly typical, upper-middle-class suburban family. The New York debut of Jonathan Nossiter's doc, "Mondovino," meanwhile explores the art and industry of wine around the world and how globalization is changing, for better or worse, the craft. The world debut of Stephen Vittoria's "One Bright Shining Moment" recalls the 1972 McGovern campaign and the South Dakota's determined opposition to the Vietnam War. The film includes interviews with Dick Gregory, Gloria Steinem, Warren Beatty and Gary Hart.
During Tuesday night's festival preview, Hamptons executive director Denise Kasell announced that the event would host its inaugural "Industry Toast," co-presented with indieWIRE. The event celebrates a person or persons who "best exemplify the spirit of the independent film world, and whose energy, vision and acumen enhance the industry, and propels the art of film to greater heights." This year's "Toast" will fete veteran of Sony Pictures Classics, PMK and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Marcie Bloom. In announcing this year's "toast" recipient," indieWIRE editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez described Bloom Tuesday evening as a "tremendous champion for independent film."
Returning again this year is the "Rising Stars: Screen Acting Discoveries," which is a program that promotes the creative expression of emerging actors in independent film. Each year, the "Rising Stars" are shepherded throughout the festival by established mentors. Antony Lapaglia and Gena Rowland will serve as this year's "Rising Stars" hosts. The participants this year include Norman Reedus ("Until the Night"), Vinessa Shaw ("Bereft"), Aaron Stanford ("Winter Solstice"), Mark Webber ("Winter Solstice"), and Eugenia Yuan ("Mail Order Wife").
The Hamptons fest will close this year with the U.S. premiere of Niels Muller's "The Assassination of Richard Nixon." The film, based on a true story, stars Sean Penn about a desperate man, who attempts to assassinate President Nixon in 1974. In addition to its primary venues in the picturesque village of East Hampton, the festival will also screen in the nearby tony communities of Sag Harbor, Southampton, and for the first time, Montauk.
[ For more information and a complete line up, visit http://www.hamptonsfilmfest.org ]