Celebrating the silver anniversary of the esteemed festival housed in the tony East End of Long Island, the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) holds the unusual record of screening the eventual Best Picture Oscar winners in 8 of the last 9 years (including MOONLIGHT in 2016). Founded to honor independent film in all formats including short, long, fiction and documentary, HIFF continues to do just that, by showcasing innovative and thought provoking films from film makers all over the world. HIFF routinely brings 25,000 visitors to theaters located in East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor.
With ITZHAK, a compelling documentary about violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlmanfrom Alison Chernick as the opening night film and I, TONYA, the surprising look at the players behind the notorious Nancy Kerrigan/ Tonya Harding scandal from Craig Gillespie as the closing night film, the festival was cleverly bookended by strong films and filled with a number of powerful submissions.
A formidable Spotlight Film was THE TRIBES of PALOS VERDES from directors Emmett Malloy and Brendan Malloy. This family drama features Jennifer Garner as a mother whose marriage is disintegrating as her kids’ lives spiral out of control.
Another standout is MUHI, GENERALLY TEMPORARY. From Jerusalem-based filmmakers Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman, is the story of little Mohammad, or Muhi, a young boy who has been trapped in an Israeli hospital since he was an infant battling a deadly immune disorder. Muhi and his grandfather, Abu Naim, are in the middle of an immigration dance with the boy’s visa status unclear and his dedicated grandfather without a work permit or visa. They are confined to the grounds of the hospital as live goes on for their extended family in Gaza. One of the most heartbreaking and awe-inspiring documentaries created, it shines a light on the love and devotion of one family amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, humanizing the people caught in the middle.
In the Narrative Competition, DISAPPEARANCE made its US Premiere. From Iranian filmmaker Ali Asgari in his feature debut, this contemporary drama spans a very long evening for a young couple caught in a dilemma of modern desires against a traditional backdrop that doesn’t allow room for error.
The beautiful documentary HONDROS details the work of photojournalist Chris Hondros by his childhood friend, director Greg Campbell, truly going behind the lens to celebrate Hondros’ life and spectacular work, especially as a conflict photographer, prior to his death in 2011 in Libya. This haunting work will echo in viewer’s heads long after leaving the theater.
On Saturday, Julie Andrews was given the HIFF25 Lifetime Achievement Award at a special ceremony following screening of VICTOR VICTORIA and a conversation with HIFF Co-Chair, Alec Baldwin at Guild Hall. Past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Awards include Vanessa Redgrave, Stanley Tucci, Robert Altman, Richard Gere, Edward Norton and more. Other fascinating events included Conversations with Patrick Stewart and with Rob Reiner.
HIFF continued its streak in the annual awards season race, with 2016 HIFF films receiving a record 45 Oscar nominations, including four Best Picture nominations, and ten acting nominations and bringing home thirteen Oscars that year. We anxiously await the 2017 results!