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Home » Arts & Social Life, Film

Turning Twenty: The 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival

Submitted by on September 27, 2012 – 6:47 amNo Comment

alec baldwin hamptons film festival

By Heather Buchanan

There’s a lot of buzz around the 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival running from Oct. 4th to 8th.  What was once perceived as a serious bunch dressed in black has turned into one of the chicest international crowds.  Now in its twentieth year the festival has reached a maturity and has honed its eye.  Academy Award winning films like Slumdog Millionaire, Black Swan, The King’s Speech and The Artist have all previewed here as well as many of the winners of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.  Director of Programming David Nugent who has a sixth sense for cinematic success has along with his team culled through thousands of films to present a diverse slate.

Honorary Chairman Alec Baldwin says, “Clear your schedules, turn off your cell phones, empty your minds, and indulge in the pure joy that immersion in a great program of films can bring.”

Although it’s a feather in your cap to see these films before the general public, the real gems of the festival are the films which will go on to more limited distribution.  The documentaries and international and American independent films are the exciting discoveries, and audiences have the unique opportunity to discuss the film with the filmmaker after the screening.   These personal stories transport you to a new place of understanding.

HipHamptons Insider note: Sold Out are two dirty words at HIFF.  What happens is a film is Rush Line Only.  What this means is that they hold a certain number of seats for Founders Pass holders who have all access.  If those seats aren’t filled, they will sell the unused seats.  Arrive early to wait in the Rush Line if you’re dying to see the film.

HIFF sign

Of course everyone wants to know about the parties.  Unfortunately they are private unless you buy a Founders Pass ($1500 for unlimited films which includes opening and Saturday filmmakers party) or Filmmakers Discovery Packet ($125 which includes Saturday filmmakers party).  However here are some HipHamptons tips on Hot Spots for the Hamptons International Film Festival in-crowd.

c/o The Maidstone Hotel – this is the HIFF Official Headquarters and continues to serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks to the public.

The Palm – The bar at The Palm is always a social spot before the evening screenings and for sure you will see a who’s who gathered around the prime rib.

Rowdy Hall – Each morning at 10 am from Oct. 5th to Oct. 8th there will be a free morning talk (first come first served with doors open at 9:30am).  The topics range from Atomic States and Cancer Rates on Long Island to Kickstarting Your Film to Hitting a Home Run: Meet Moneyball Producer Rachael Horovitz, to From Farm to Table to Film.  The public is welcome so come for free coffee and stimulating conversation.

The American Hotel – There will be screenings at the Sag Harbor Cinema and also Bay Street is the venue for A Conversation With…  Richard Gere, Alan Cumming and Stevie Nicks.  A civilized cocktail before or after is always in order.

But back to the movies — In a vast film slate it can be challenging to pick films.  Here are a few HipHamptons top pix to guide you.

Spotlight Films

A series of three love stories covers early love, mature love, then final chapters of love.  These three films have already garnered international festival acclaim.



Smashed– Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who will be at the festival) delivers a career making performance as Hannah, one half of an alcoholic couple.  The surprisingly funny and honest look at addiction and recovery from director James Ponsoldt (who will also be here) also features Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer.

Rust & Bone

Rust & Bone

Rust & Bone – This intense romance from Jacques Audiard pairs Oscar winner Marion Cotillard with Matthias Schoenaerts.   The gritty drama poses the question of what it means to be broken, emotionally or physically and how love can overcome both.  The leads’ performances have been receiving critical acclaim.  And the very compelling actor from Belgium Matthias Schoenaerts will also be here at the festival.  For sure we will be stalking…um politely looking to say hello.



Amour – Winner of this year’s Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or the masterful drama from director Michael Haneke explores the true meaning of growing old together.   When Anne played by Emmanuelle Riva has a stroke it is her husband played by Jean-Louis Trintignant who must struggle to continue to care for her and keep her at home versus a nursing home, straining his relationship with his daughter, portrayed by the amazing Isabelle Huppert.

GSA Competition Films:

These films are from emerging filmmakers and eligible for a host of awards and are chosen for their promising skill and unique style.




A debut from Austrian director Umat Dag, this compelling and complicated drama portrays the intensity of female relationships both in bonding and betrayal.  A close knit Turkish family living in Vienna faces a dying matriarch and a new second wife for her husband.  The beautiful, young Ayes is a surprise in many ways and becomes the confessor to the family’s secrets as well as harboring a few of her own.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet

From director Jesse Vile we find a moving and surprising portrait of a guitar prodigy who was destined to become one of the greats.  Just as his dreams were about to come true with a tour with David Lee Roth he receives what you think would be a fatal diagnosis.  But Jason Becker has as much will as he has talent and is not one to be counted out.  It’s a wonderful film.

Bay Of All Saints

Bay Of All Saints

Bay of All Saints

The Hamptons are of course real-estate obsessed, but what if the 47% decided to dump garbage to fill in Hampton Bays and erect houses on stilts?  Annie Eastman’s documentary follows three women who live on the palafitas or shacks built on stilts in the biggest by in Bahia, Brazil.  Their struggles with poverty, the weather, and the government with its false promises create the drama she portrays over a six year period.

American Masters: Inventing David Geffen

While not in competition, this is a winning documentary directed by the ultra talented Susan Lacy (and Hamptons resident).  If ever you wonder how a man was made, this film gives incredible insight into this media legend.  It’s a musical fun ride through his history of the talented artists he managed and the films he brought to the screen.  It’s insightful and poignant and ultimately an inspiration to say to yourself – dream big.

Films of Conflict and Resolution:

This is always my favorite section.  For many in this country, we are tired of polarizing media and rhetoric and we tend to turn off.  As my friend says, our “give a shit” is broken.  These are the films to watch to turn that around.  Somewhere on the sliding scale of revenge to forgiveness is salvation.

Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness

All the political rhetoric around war and foreign policy could be shoved to the side and this film shown in its place.  We’ve all drunk the polarizing drink Hate-orade which only embitters those with different views.  In this amazing documentary from Lekha Singh and Roger Spottiswoode, people in the most ravaged of war torn countries of Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Israel ,and Palestine come together to see if there is a road if not to national peace then to personal peace.   The subjects are the bravest of the brave — victims and their family’s killers coming face to face, seeking to humanize the inhuman.  As one mother states, “You have to tell the story of the enemy.  It is the ability to listen to the pain of the other.”

Call Me Kuchu

Call Me Kuchu

Call Me Kuchu

In Uganda, being gay can be a capital offense.   The film follows David Kato, the first openly gay many in Uganda and a leading advocate for the rights of the “kuchu” his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered compatriots.  Filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall follow him and his efforts even through his murder and the public outcry which followed, in a moving portrait.  The wicked glee of the anti-homosexual leaders is disturbing and a chilling reminder of hate and discrimination which is not isolated to a third world country.

screenwriters conference 8

Carolyn Kras, Doron Weber, Laura Oaksmith

Screenplay Reading: Selections From The Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriter’s Lab:

While film festivals tend to focus on the directors, movies would not exist without the writers.  Facing the blank page is the most brave and creative act in filmmaking.  The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation generously sponsors the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab.  I actually pitched the idea to HIFF’s then executive director and with the support of Doron Weber and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation we launched the screenwriter’s lab 12 years ago.  Now it is flourishing and two of the screenplays which went through this year’s lab will be read by wonderful actors gathered by casting director Amy Devra Gossels CSA.  Academy Award winner Melissa Leo will be one of the performers.

The Buck Decision by Laura Oaksmith – George Stoddart, a reporter with two strikes against him, investigates a huge hospital cover-up, bringing one of the nation’s biggest atrocities to light, and finding redemption no only for himself, but for the victims involved.

Magnetic by Carolyn Kras – William Gilbert, a brilliant scientist who discovers the earth is a magnet, is ordered to save Queen Elizabeth I from a mysterious illness.  As he uncovers her personal secrets, an intense but dangerous attraction develops between them in which any misstep could cost him his life.

“We are proud to present such a stellar program for this year’s 20th Anniversary edition of HIFF,” said Karen Arikian, Executive Director. “In addition to the incredible line-up of films this year, the Festival also has important new partnerships with industry leaders including the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, New York (BAFTA New York) and Variety. Thanks to the astute guidance of the Board of Directors, led by this year’s Honorary Chairman Alec Baldwin, and the commitment of our generous sponsors and patrons, we have been able to grow and fulfill our mission of the past 20 years: To exhibit the best and most thought-provoking independent films from around the globe.”


For information on ticketing and a full slate of films www.hamptonsfilmfest.org.

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