An Insider’s Take on Hamptons International Film Festival 2015

On Columbus Day weekend in the East End, the glow from the big screens, the pop and crackle of microphones and the hum and murmur of the galas rises to a fevered din: it’s the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF). “For a lot of people out here, the next thing on their radar—after having a well-deserved breather from the madness of summer—is to start looking forward to the festival,” said David Nugent, artistic director for HIFF.

Now in its 23rd year, Islanders have grown accustomed to the anticipation of the festival. For executive director Anne Chaisson, the journey HIFF has taken is exciting, perhaps even a little surprising. “I don’t know if anyone ever realized how big it would get. It’s certainly a sophisticated demographic who loves culture.”

The festival has built a reputation for consistently screening significant films that win major awards. “It’s normally the more artistic fare that gets the attention from awards shows,” Chaisson remarked, “and those are the films that we have always been programming. It just so happens that those are the preferred films now.” Nugent added, “The fact that it has happened six of the last seven years that we’ve screened the film that’s gone on to win Best Picture is something that I think our audiences get excited about.”

HIFF is enthusiastic about all their films but especially the festival’s opener: Truth. Directed by James Vanderbilt, starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, the film deals with the behind-the-scenes story of Dan Rather’s last days at CBS and the controversy surrounding an investigation of then-President George W. Bush’s military service in the Texas Air National Guard. “We think it’s a really timely and thought-provoking film by a filmmaker that we have a history with,” remarked Nugent.

Sentino’s humanist drama, Youth, explores the lifelong bond between two friends vacationing in a luxury Swiss Alps lodge as they ponder retirement. Starring Academy Award winner Michael Caine as Fred and Academy Award nominee Harvey Keitel as Mick, “Youth is an emotionally rich and complex film, and its dynamic cast brings incredible depth to the story,” said Nugent.

He Named Me Malala, Academy Awardwinner Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, will be featured in HIFF’s Conflict & Resolution program. This signature program includes both feature films and shorts, all of which recognize and celebrate films that deal with the complex issues and the human dramas associated with war and violence. The film is a candid look into the life of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Local filmmaker Alexandra Shiva will present: How to Dance in Ohio. It tells the story of a group of young people who are on the autistic spectrum as they prepare for their first formal dance. Viewers of this film will be reminded how hard it is for some people to connect, regardless of their personal strengths and challenges.

HIFF started accepting submissions in February and this year Nugent and his team of programmers whittled down 2,500 films to about 75 features and 55 shorts. They visited Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and South by Southwest. And, from March until early September, they watched a lot of films. “It’s not all about adding prestige.” Chaisson pointed out. Nugent concurred, “We’re an international film festival, but we love whenever we’re able to show a film that was either shot out here, or made by a local filmmaker, or is about a local subject.

HIFF opens on Oct 8 with a screening of James Vanderbilt’s Truth and runs through Oct 12. For film and event programming, tickets to shows and all other information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org