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Hamptons International Film Festival

By Kate C. Patchett - September 22, 2020

The 28th edition of the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) has shifted its traditional viewing format to offer virtual and drive-in options for viewers this year. Running from October 8 through 14, the festival promises its usual lineup of thought-provoking, relevant long, short, fiction, and independent documentary films. A collection of films from around the world will be accompanied by post-screening Q&As and exclusive talks, while following CDC and WHO guidelines. This new hybrid format of virtual cinema and drive-in screenings includes films in sections like Conflict and Resolution, Views from Long Island, Compassion, Justice and Animal Rights, and more.
HIFF will kick off with its opening night featuring the world premiere of With Drawn Arms from Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi. To be awarded the Film of Conflict and Resolution Award, a signature HIFF given to a film that “deals with the complex issues and societal effects of war and violence, and the attendant human dramas, in creative ways,” this story follows the legacy of Olympic athlete Tommie Smith. Centered around Smith’s fist-raising gesture at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City – an act of silent protest that is one of the most recognizable images in the history of sports – the film includes interviews from various subjects including soccer gold medalist and activist Megan Rapinoe, the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, and actor Jesse Williams, who also serves as an executive producer along with musician John Legend.

Nearly 50 years have passed since this iconic moment raising a salute to human rights. Smith partnered with artist Kaino to explore and expand this legacy, traveling around the country to meet key figures inspired by his sacrifice and working on new art projects designed to connect Smith’s intention to a new generation. The film is described as being the “untold story of [Smith’s] sacrifice becomes a cautionary tale of how we must work together to keep each other’s stories alive, and a reminder of how much, but also how little, has changed for athletes who are using their voices to make a difference.” The award is accompanied by a $5,000 cash prize from the Brizzolara Family Foundation.
“In the face of these unprecedented times, we are thrilled to continue to present unique and fascinating films for our audiences — from thrilling narratives like The Father and Nine Days to powerful documentaries like Stray and Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something,” said HamptonsFilm artistic director David Nugent. “We are particularly proud to be opening this year’s 28th edition with a film that explores a seminal moment from the civil rights movement that continues to resonate with today’s climate of conflict and change in With Drawn Arms.”
Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something will be another world premiere unveiled at HIFF. Rick Korn’s film illuminates the world of award-winning songwriter Harry Chapin and his life defined by his storytelling and humanitarian work. The Long Island artist is known for such hits as “Cats in the Cradle” and “Taxi,” and as such this will be debuted in the festival’s Views from Long Island section. Chronicling his life’s journey, from his rise to fame to his untimely death, Korn includes archival footage and interviews with famous friends and fans. Among these is Billy Joel, Pete Seeger, Pat Benatar, and Bruce Springsteen. The film is a beautiful celebration of Chapin’s art and activism.

In another documentary by Elizabeth Lo that is sure to capture the attention of viewers is the film Stray, shot through the eyes of three stray dogs – Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal – wandering around the streets of Istanbul. It is through this lens that we see the overlooked corners of society. These animals search for food and shelter, embarking on inconspicuous journeys through Turkish society that portray an unvarnished portrait of human life. “Whether they lead us into bustling streets or decrepit ruins, the gaze of these strays act as windows into the overlooked corners of society: women in loveless marriages, protesters without arms, refugees without sanctuary. The film is a critical observation of human civilization through the unfamiliar gaze of dogs and a sensory voyage into new ways of seeing,” a description of the film reads. This inspiring tale will be shown in the Compassion, Justice and Animal Rights section.

HIFF not only shares powerful and inspiring films with viewers, but supports filmmakers and their process. “While this year’s festival may look different, we look forward to supporting filmmakers by following our mission to showcase new voices and the best of cinema from around the world, plus we are delighted to continue giving over $28,000 in cash awards, as well as another $130,000 in goods and services to our competition winners,” said Anne Chaisson, executive director of HamptonsFilm. “Now more than ever, audiences need a place to escape, whether through a virtual or a drive-in screening, and can immerse themselves in entertaining, gripping and enlightening movies this fall.”
Each year, HIFF selects an artist to design the festival’s poster. For 2020, world-renowned artist Bastienne Schmidt’s Blue Horizon Grid, 2018 has been selected. German-born Schmidt is a multi-media artist working with photography, painting, and large-scale drawings. She was raised in Greece and Italy, and has lived on the East End for the past 20 years. Her work can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the International Center of Photography, the Brooklyn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, among others.

In a world filled with uncertainty that has changed our very way of life, we find comfort that some Hamptons traditions can continue, particularly those designed to educate and inspire. Adapting to this reality has been a challenge, and now more than ever the need to raise awareness of human rights is critical. The festival showcases some of the year’s best offerings in contemporary cinema from around the world. The festival schedule and information on year-round programming, including the Now Showing series, SummerDocs Program, and the recently established Flashback Friday and Summer Drive-In Series can be found at www.hamptonsfilmfest.org.

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