The 23rd Annual Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), took place over Columbus Day Weekend, October 8-12, 2015, celebrating Independent Filmmakers in the genres of long, short, fiction, and documentary films. Approximately 25,000 visitors attended the Film Festival featuring over 130 films with over 20 events in 14 venues across the East End. Over 30 countries were represented in the slate of films with cash and in-kind prizes totaling over $225,000. The festival’s diverse programs attracted celebrities and film buffs from around the world to the Hamptons on a spectacular fall weekend.
“Our aspiration for the festival has always been to highlight the importance of diversity in film and support emerging talent in the industry. We are incredibly proud of this year’s lineup and having had achieved these goals once again,” said Artistic Director, David Nugent, in a HIFF release.
In the same release, Executive Director, Anne Chaisson said, “This year’s line-up celebrated innovative and captivating films across a range of genres and formats. I am incredibly proud of our programming team and the entire staff, who have worked so passionately to make this a wildly successful 23rd year. We look forward to next year.”
Alec Baldwin and Randy Mastro will now assume their roles as Co-Chairmen of the HIFF Board of Directors following Stuart Match Suna’s departure as Chairman for the past 18 years. Suna will continue to support HIFF as Chair Emeritus.
East Hampton’s Opening Night Film on Thursday, October 8, featured James Vanderbilt’s Truth, starring Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, and Bruce Greenwood. The film is a sharp and insightful look at the controversial CBS 60 Minutes investigation of George W. Bush’s military record that ended Dan Rather’s career as the network’s anchorman.
Southampton’s Opening Night Film on Friday, October 9, featured Paolo Sorrentino’s, Youth, starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda, and Paul Dano. The film explores the lifelong bond between two friends vacationing in a luxury Swiss Alps lodge as they ponder retirement.
The Closing Night Film took place in East Hampton on Monday, October 12, featuring Bridge of Spies by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Tom Hanks, a Brooklyn lawyer who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible task of negotiating the release of a captured American U-2 pilot. Also starring Mark Rylance, Scott Shepherd, Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, and Alan Alda.
Among those awards presented were the HIFF Competition Awards. The HIFF Award for Best Narrative Feature was given to Grímur Hákonarson for his film Rams. The film portrays the hardships of farm work in remote Iceland featuring two stubborn brothers forced to get along when their prize-winning sheep and livelihood are threatened by a deadly virus. The HIFF Award for Best Documentary Feature was given to David Shapiro for his film Missing People. The film describes the journey of an art director obsessed with her brother’s murder while collecting the work of New Orleans artist Roy Ferdinand, whose paintings are known for their violent and graphic content.
One of the Spotlight Films presented at the festival was Michael Moore’s documentary film, Where to Invade Next which won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature. Unlike other films by Moore, where American imperialism is the theme, this title refers to Moore himself as the “invader.” Moore travels to several different European countries in a quest to bring the positive aspects of their systems of government back to the U.S.
Another Spotlight Film, Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron, was awarded the Tangerine Entertainment Juice Fund Award that honors a female narrative feature director. The film explores the passion and heartbreak of those who risked everything for the women’s right to vote in early-20th-century Britain. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep.
Throughout the five-day film festival, HIFF presented many interesting films from their Signature Programs such as the Films of Conflict & Resolution (C&R) program. The powerful film He Named Me Malala, by Davis Guggenheim depicts the life of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As a young girl in Pakistan, Malala stood up to the Taliban by advocating education for girls and on October 9, 2012 was shot for doing so. After recovering in Birmingham, England, she co-founded The Malala Fund to empower girls worldwide by facilitating access to education, believing, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”
Another film in the C&R program, The Uncondemned, by Nick Louvel and Michele Mitchell, won both The Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict & Resolution and the Victor Rabinowitz & Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice. The film tells the world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice.
The Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights program, HIFF’s new signature program, featured the World Premiere of Darcy Dennett’s The Champions. The documentary describes the plight of the pit-bulls rescued from the brutal fighting ring of NFL quarterback star Michael Vick, and those who risked everything to save them, despite pressure from PETA and The Humane Society to euthanize the dogs. One of the dogs that made a miraculous recovery is “Cherry” who, along with his adopted parents, was present on the Red Carpet and loved the attention! The film was awarded the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award, presented to a film that raises public awareness about contemporary social issues, including the moral and ethical treatment and the rights of animals as well as environmental protection.
In the Views From Long Island program, Robert Edwards’ When I Live My Life Over Again, won the Suffolk County Film Commission Next Exposure Grant awarded to filmmakers who have completed 50% of principal photography within Suffolk County. The film takes place in the wintry Hamptons and is an examination of regret, family, and the evolution of life.
HIFF is the premiere film event on the East End featuring contemporary cinema from around the world. It is a gathering of incredible talent, fine films, and passionate audiences in the intimate locale of the Hamptons. The 23rd Annual Hamptons International Film Festival of 2015 was a great success!