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Hamptons Film Festival Hosts Alfre Woodard, Awards Season Contenders

Variety — Akiva Gottlieb

The Hamptons Intl. Film Festival continues its 27-year run as a premier showcase for both contemporary global cinema and the most eagerly awaited awards season prestige movies.

Unspooling among the tony beach towns of New York’s Long Island, it’s earned a reputation as a kind of East Coast Telluride.

“It’s pretty busy,” says executive director Anne Chaisson. “Twenty-five thousand people descending on the area to come see movies is significant.”

Running Oct. 10-14, HIFF is less focused on splashy world premieres than in serving as a comfortable, slightly glamorous waystation for the most acclaimed titles on the international festival circuit. If there’s a movie you’ve heard about from Cannes, Venice or Berlin, you’re likely to find it in East Hampton.

Artistic director David Nugent, a Hamptons local, takes a curatorial approach to programming.

“We’re trying to bring a mixture of what we think are some of the best films of the year,” Nugent says. “This year we have the Berlin Golden Bear winner in Nadav Lapid’s ‘Synonyms,’ the Palme d’Or winner in Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner in Chinonye Chukwu’s ‘Clemency.’”

The star of the latter film, Alfre Woodard, will participate in one of the festival’s A Conversation With … interviews.

Clemency,” in which Woodard plays a warden overseeing executions at a maximum-security prison, seems like it couldn’t be further removed from the atmosphere of a resort-style festival, but Woodard sees the venue as entirely appropriate.

“One of the things I find about the Hamptons is that generally, the population has the luxury of free time, time to think,” Woodard says. “A lot of those people are socially conscious. There are philanthropists who support social action, nationally and internationally. A lot of those people have broad reach. To me, it’s a fitting festival for a picture like ‘Clemency.’ I’m excited to have it there.”

Looking beyond the big-name contenders in this year’s slate, Chaisson highlights the Montana-set drama “Mickey and the Bear,” whose writer-director, Annabelle Attanasio, is a 2017 graduate of HIFF’s Screenwriters Lab and received support from the fest’s Melissa Mathison Fund.

“We love the movie, and we’re happy to showcase the whole process: how a project goes through the development stage, to a staged reading, to finding its money and getting made, to having a premiere,” Chaisson says.

The festival’s opening-night film, the based-on-a-true-story legal drama “Just Mercy,” also has a HIFF family connection. Director Destin Daniel Cretton was in the fest’s Screenwriters Lab several years back with his script for “Short Term 12.”

Of the new film, Nugent says, “We think it’s really moving, and will hopefully set the tone for the festival.”

Between “Just Mercy” and Saturday Centerpiece selection “Ford v. Ferrari,” Chaisson says, “you’re either going to cry a lot or experience the best thrill ride you’ve ever had.”

Along with bringing the best of world cinema to the Hamptons, HIFF serves as a showcase for compelling stories from closer to home. This year’s Views From Long Island section features the U.S. premiere of Marc Meyers’ tense, twisty drama “Human Capital,” starring Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei and Peter Sarsgaard, as well as the world premiere of Treva Wurmfeld’s “Conscience Point,” a documentary about the conflict between the Shinnecock Indian Nation and its well-heeled Hamptons neighbors.

Veteran director Brian De Palma, who is being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, is both a part-time Hamptons resident and a friend of festival chairman Alec Baldwin. De Palma will participate in a special conversation with Baldwin, and the fest will screen his paranoid, beautifully orchestrated 1981 classic “Blow Out.”

HIFF’s Dick Cavett Artistic Champion Award will be given to Toni Ross, one of the Hamptons’ most prolific visual artists, who also served as HIFF’s founding chairman of the board, helping launch the fest in 1993.

For eight years in a row, the festival has screened the film that went on to win best picture at the Oscars.
Nugent says this particular winning streak “is not top of mind, [but] a lot of people, from our audiences to CEOs to publicists to tastemakers, have taken note of that, and are curious to see what we’ll have in the festival this year.”

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