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DISPATCH FROM THE HAMPTONS: Award Winners, Altman, Pollock, and a Piano at 14th Hamptons Fest

DISPATCH FROM THE HAMPTONS: Award Winners, Altman, Pollock, and a Piano at 14th Hamptons Fest

Jens Lien‘s Norwegian film “The Bothersome Man” won a pair of jury prizes at the 14th Hamptons International Film Festival this weekend. Lien’s follow-up to his 2003 feature “Jonny Vang” won the Golden Starfish Competition, nabbing the in-kind production services package valued at $185,000 and it also won the Kodak award for best cinematography for the work of John Christian Rosenlund. Jurors made a special mention of Rajnesh Domalpalli‘s “Vanaja” in the narrative competition. Meanwhile, in the documentary competition, Georgi Lazarevski‘s “Voyage in G Major” won the $5,000 cash Golden Starfish documentary award. Jamie Travis from Canada won the Golden Starfish Short Film Award for his acclaimed film, “Patterns 3” (with an honorable mention for Arturo Cabanas‘ “Man Up“).

indieWIRE photos from this year’s Hamptons International Film Festival are available in a special iPOP section. Additional iPOP pictures will be published later this week.

James Moll‘s American film “Inheritance” won both the documentary audience prize and also the top jury award in the Films of Conflict and Resolution competition (with an honorable mention for Annette K. Oleson‘s “1:1“). Meanwhile, Sven Taddicken‘s “Emma’s Bliss” from Germany and Niels Arden Oplev‘s “We Shall Overcome” from Denmark shared the narrative audience award. “Bliss” writers, Claudia Schreiber and Ruth Thoma won the festival’s screenwriting prize. The audience award for best short film went to Lee Greenberg‘s “Last Chance” from the U.S.

Some 115 films screened at this year’s festival in the Hamptons, which is based primarily in East Hampton, NY but also includes high-profile of screenings in nearby Southhampton and also showings in neighboring Sag Harbor and Montauk. During its nearly 15 years, particularly in recent years under the steady guidance of executive director Denise Kassell and artistic director Rajendra Roy, the festival has found a worthwhile role as not just a leisurely Autumn weekend getaway event for New Yorkers, but as a platform for showcasing new international films — some tackling serious issues in the Conflict and Resolution section — and a gateway to discovering new talent both in front of, and behind the camera. Planners wisely abandoned any previous ambitions of creating a Sundance Film Festival on the East Coast, sticking with a long weekend schedule and loosening premiere requirements, in favor of a more highly-curated competitions that includes international work.

“The Bothersome Man” producer Jorgen Storm Rosenberg at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

Described as a “dark, circular existential tragi-comedy,” Lien’s “The Bothersome Man” benefits from the recently relaxed restrictions and may also find a home in U.S. theaters. At least one of the handful of industry attendees who made the trip to the festival this weekend expressed at least some interest in the film, which was written by Per Schreiner and produced by Jorgen Storm Rosenberg. Buyer presence in the Hamptons this weekend wasn’t widespread, but reps boutique buyers Samuel Goldwyn FIlms, IFC Films, ThinkFilm, New Line, and Picturehouse were among those spotted at screenings. Often fickle, opionated, and even a bit wary of the potential for films debuting outisde of the larger market events, acquisitions executives seemed mixed on the newer titles that debuted in the Hamptons and a few grumbled about difficulties gaining access to some festival screenings and events.

IFC Films tied the announcement of its acquisition of North American rights to Eric Byler‘s “AMERICANese to the festival. On the eve of the film’s fest screening, the company unveiled the deal and said that the film willl be released under the IFC First Take banner. The film was a double award-winner at SXSW where it had its world premiere. An adaptation of a novel, Byler explores romance and race issues among a group of Asian Americans.

Among the new documentaries that seem to have some dealmaking potential is Ben Niles‘ “Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037,” an entertaining and insightful look at the building of a Steinway & Sons piano, following the year-long journey of the large instrument from lumber harvested in Alaska to the precise, hand-crafted assembly line process at the company’s factory in Queens, New York. Skiiled builders joined director Niles at the film’s debut on Friday night, fielding a few questions from the audience and then mingling with guests at a post-screening party at the Wolffer Estates where the actual concert grand piano (identified by its production line number L1037) was the guest of honor). Steinway artist Judy Carmichael played three songs on the young piano that will probably find a residence on a concert stage somewhere in the future.

An equally compelling documentary drew considerable applause Saturday night. “Who the fuck is Jackson Pollock,” asks truck driver Teri Horton, early on in Harry Moses‘ new documentary of the same name (officially titled “Who the $#%& is Jackson Pollock?“). Horton, in the raspy voice of a smoker, utters the line after learning that a painting she purchased for a few dollars at a thrift store may in fact be a work of art by the leading 20th Century American artist (who lived, worked and died here on the East End of New York’s Long Island).

The work, which certainly looks like one of Pollock’s famous drip paintings, was resoundingly rejected as an original by art experts, but Teri Horton’s tireless battle to conclusively determine the painting’s authenticity has yieled the intriguing potential that the work could really be from the hand of the artist. As seen in the film, forensic evidence rather than the insights of experts may establish that it is an original, and could value the work at more than $60 million. Harry Moses’ often hilarious documentary, produced by Steven Hewitt and former “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt, debuted at SXSW and will be released early next month by Picturehouse. It offers a window into the often elitist art world establishment, playfully exposing class issues at work in Horton’s campaign for a definitive answer about the origin of her painting.

Picturehouse celebrated the film’s New York premiere with a festival dinner at popular local restaurant Nick and Toni’s (picking up the trend from the former Fine Line Features). Also in the spotlight on Saturday night was maverick director Robert Altman, who received a standing ovation when he took the stage earlier in the day at Guild Hall for the festival’s annual “A Conversation With…” discussion.

Director Robert Altman (left) with his wife Kathryn (far right) and New Line co-chairman and co-CEO Michael Lynne with his wife Nina at the Picturehouse dinner at Nick and Toni’s on Saturday night. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

Introduced as having worked with “every actor from Lillian Gish to Lindsay Lohan,” by critic Peter Travers, who moderated the conversation, asked the eighty year old filmmaker what still excites him about making movies. “The cast,” Altman responded immediately, “It’s always the cast. As you pull a layer off, you realize they are really courageous, really gutsy…I admire them for what they bring to me (and) to the audience.” Despite the respect, Altman passingly referenced to problems with Warren Beatty, while making “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” and admitted that performers can be hard to please. He also acknowledged that a group of actors tried to get him fired from his first feature, “MASH,” while it was still shooting. Altman wasn’t told about the revolt until after the film was finished and said he quickly reconciled with co-star Elliott Gould and worked with him again, but he added that he never again worked with Donald Sutherland who also sought to have Altman removed from the picture.

The film also stirred its writer Ring Lardner, Jr., who remarked, after seeing an advance screening (according to the director), that Altman didn’t actually use any of the writer’s own dialogue in the finished film. “And then he got the Oscar for it,” quipped Altman on Saturday afternoon in the Hamptons, “That either tells you about the writer, or it tells you about the Oscar, take your pick.”

“Writers, when they write their script, they see that film in their head,” explained Altman, “And that isn’t the film it’s going to be…[I have] had a lot of problems throughout the years with writers, many of them were myself. I treated myself with the same disrespect, which I thought was OK.”

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