Lifestyle: Spotlights

2018 Hamptons International Film Festival

By Rachel Bosworth - September 27, 2018

Activism, enlightenment, political turmoil, societal unrest, the clashing of generational values, social justice; it’s the content that fuels filmmakers to bring what they see behind the lens to the big screen. A celebration of independent film and an introduction to international talents and their works, the 26th annual Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) delivers a breadth of 150 long, short, fiction, and documentary screenings to audiences from October 4 though 8 throughout the Hamptons. On the top of the watch list this year are female screenwriters and directors at a time where women in the industry have become vocal about their place on and off screen.

Writer and director Sara Colangelo is among the HIFF Screenwriters Lab alumna debuting at this year’s festival. Her film, The Kindergarten Teacher, will be the opening night film on Thursday, October 4 at Guild Hall. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Rosa Salazar, and Gael García Bernal, the film tells the story of a kindergarten teacher who seeks to cultivate the poetic talents of one of her students with questionable methods. Both Gyllenhaal and Colangelo will attend the festival.

Two other Screenwriters Lab alumna’s work will be featured at the festival this year: Ísold Uggadóttir’s And Breathe Normally, about the blossoming relationship between an airport worker and detained refugee in Iceland, which will screen under the Conflict and Resolution section, and Cathy Yan’s Dead Pigs, about the interwoven lives of five individuals in Shanghai based on true events, which will screen under the World Cinema Narrative section.

“To be able to include so many completed feature films from our prestigious Screenwriters Lab is truly a dream come true, especially for our opening night,” says Anne Chaisson, HIFF ex ecutive director. “For eighteen years our lab has mentored over 75 screenwriters, and these three films from female directors offer diverse perspectives and have all garnered critical acclaim this year.”

The annual Screenwriters Lab pairs rising screenwriters with established and knowledgeable screenwriters, directors, and producers for a weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions. This past April, the three selected screenplays were Esra Saydam’s The Mesopotamian, Anu Valia’s We Strangers, and Aemilia Scott’s Birthday Suit. For the first time in the Screenwriters Lab’s history, all participants were women.

“We make it a priority to support new writers in establishing their careers with the guidance of experienced storytellers from the industry,” said HIFF artistic director David Nugent in a press release earlier this year announcing the 2018 participants. “We are thrilled to once again guide fresh voices and continue to diversify the narratives coming to the screen every year. We are even more proud that for the first time ever we have three female screenwriters who will participate in the Lab.”

Chaisson shares that as soon as one HIFF ends they begin planning for the next year. Anywhere from 2,500 – 3,000 submissions are received each year, and the programming team travels to various film festivals around the world looking for new works. Selections are a combination of discovered films the team has seen and would like to show and the submissions received. Each film is seen twice and rated, and selected, all under the guidance of Nugent. This year, the World Cinema Narrative and Documentary sections feature powerful films depicting drama, turmoil, hope, survival, and more.

“We are delighted to bring a dynamic mix of international stories to this year’s festival from both returning filmmakers and new voices in cinema,” says Nugent. “We are also thrilled to include some of this Fall’s most anticipated and buzzworthy films and for the opportunity to share them with our audience.”

In addition to screenings that will take place across the Hamptons, signature programs including exclusive screenings, conversations, and special events will bring diverse and thoughtful entertainment to the Hamptons.

“We are extremely proud of our programming,” Chaisson shares. “We cover animal rights, the environment, conflict and resolution, as well as views from Long Island, which is supported by the Suffolk County Film Commission. There is a lot to choose from and a little bit for everyone. It’s also the least expensive thing to do in the Hamptons and is the only event that happens in every single village at the same exact time.”

In honor of late filmmaker Gary Winick, HIFF hosts morning talks at Rowdy Hall in East Hampton with guest artists in a moderated conversation. The talks are presented by the Gary Winick Memorial Fund, which supports emerging artists perfecting their craft. Other discussions planned include a one-on-one conversation with legendary personalities and a new virtual reality and immersion experience with professionals that have been instrumental in the field. On the one-year anniversary of the emergence of #MeToo as a global movement, a panel of filmmakers and producers will come together to look at the tremendous impact the last year has had on both the film industry, and society as a whole.

At last year’s festival, The Dick Cavett Artistic Champion Award was established honoring the television personality. This year’s honoree is Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe®-winning actor Alan Alda. The award is a celebration of his artistic achievements and his contribution to the industry over the course of his career.

Alda’s most recognized role may be his character Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, which he wrote many episodes for as well. Along with several movie and television roles, he wrote and directed the films The Four Seasons, Sweet Liberty, A New Life, and Betsy’s Wedding. On Broadway, he took on roles in Glengarry Glen Ross, Jake’s Women, and The Apple Tree.

“Alan Alda is one of those now rare actors who in his career continues to distinguish himself on Broadway, in films and on television,” says HIFF co-chairman Alec Baldwin. “Of course, most people remember Alda for his starring role in the seminal TV series M*A*S*H, but Alda is also great in the movies and on stage.”

As with years past, HIFF promises to bring emerging and established talents to the big screen with thought-provoking films and programs that explore the human condition, current events, and the history that paved the way to today’s world. Passes, packages, and individual tickets for the 2018 festival are on sale now. For full programing schedules and ticket purchases, visit

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