It’s hard to believe that the long awaited and highly anticipated Hampton International Film Festival (HIFF) has come and gone for another year. Besides the long list of films, the five day event was filled with workshops, conferences, Conversations with and a host of industry cocktail parties and receptions.
This year legendary director Brian DePalma attended to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. A special screening of one of his most iconic films, Blow Out, was shown as well as his participation in an on stage conversation with Festival Co-Chair Alec Baldwin.
There is no way a festival attendee could possibly fit it all in. What it takes is advanced planning to combine movie viewing schedules and timing for any other events that are of interest. The HIFF Program Guide is invaluable for this purpose for times, locations and film summaries. Combine this event with the gorgeous autumn weather of the Hamptons during October and you have the makings of a splendid and exciting getaway. Too much to cover in this article, here are highlights of the Festival.
Long Island Films
Supported by the Suffolk County Film Commission, a shorts program of three films by local talent was offered under the heading, Views from Long Island Showcase. Two of the films were three minutes long and the other was 40 minutes. Imagine being able to tell a story in just three minutes? It’s possible and the entry to the HIFF Jr. Documentary category was written and directed by a fifth grader that attends Montauk’s elementary school. The student, Daisy Pitches, explained the importance of women’s role in the success of World War II. Relating her grandparents own story, the film, WWII was compiled with actual family photos supplied by her grandfather. The second film, Hacked, was a spooky look into what happened with a cell phone that started showing nerve-wracking images. This narrative entry was by HIFF Jr. Film Camp students and directed by Cooper Aiken, Beatrix Beirne, Caleb Garutti and Devan O’Halloran.
The last presentation in this shorts series, Waterproof, was an awe inspiring documentary highlighting how local residents started a water safety program years ago throughout the Hamptons. Brought on by the tragic death of a young mother, who drowned years earlier while trying to rescue some children caught in a rip current, the film detailed the efforts of “Big John” and Johnny Jr. Ryan as they developed a lifeguard training program. This father-son dynamic team has worked for water safety for decades through Hampton Lifeguard Training programs, junior lifeguard training and by Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad. Big John has been doing this for more than six decades and shows no signs of stopping, as he and his team work to ensure the safety of locals and tourists alike at the eastern end of Long Island.
Both men were at the screening and spoke a bit after the film. After seeing this vitally important water safety film I truly believe it should be shown throughout the country to any community that is near or surrounded by water. The training, dedication and caring by both father and son deserves all the praise that can be given to these two amazing men and those they’ve trained over the years. In fact, the whole large Ryan family and extended relatives have all been party of this journey of water safety. Directed by Ross Kauffman, it is a must see film.
During HIFF the Suffolk Country Film Commission hosted a reception at the East Hampton Library where County Executive, Steven Bellone and Commission Members were in attendance, along with filmmakers and VVH-TV and Video Voice owners, Greg and Ernie Schimizzi. Video Voice has produced more than 300 motion pictures with distributed worldwide. Their website is: www.wvvh.com For the Suffolk County Film Commission, visit www.suffolkcountyfilmcommission.com.
New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT)
A Sunday morning brunch, held on the grounds of Mulford Farm, East Hampton, started the day for us. Hosted by the New York Women in Film and Television, it was the kickoff event where the newly appointed Board of Directors President, Jamie Zelermyer, gave welcoming remarks to the more than 200 attendees. Ms. Zelermyer has served on the NYWIFT board for four years, most recently as Vice President of Special Events. Later that afternoon the NYWIFT shorts program entry, Women Calling the Shots, was showcased at the East Hampton Theatre. Community Engagement Director, Katie Chambers related this is the 17th year of participation showing outstanding achievements by female filmmakers. The seven entries in this shorts series ranged from documentary or narratives, with each under twenty minutes in length. For more information, visit www.nywift.org.
Not easy to list and describe the films we see each year at HIFF, but typically one stands out above the rest for a multitude of reasons. This year our choice is The Aeronauts, shown as a Spotlight screening, which typically means it will go on to commercial success. In its East Coast premiere at HIFF, the film again teams up two stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones that have amazing on screen, believable chemistry together. (In The Theory of Everything, Redmayne played the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and Ms. Jones his wife.)
In The Aeronauts, based on real life adventurers, Redmayne portrays scientist James Glaisher, and Jones, a dare devil woman pilot, Amelia Wren. The majority of filming takes place in a real hot air balloon where the onscreen characters “find themselves in an epic fight for survival while attempting to make discoveries in a hot air balloon.” Before the film began, the audience was able to hear in person comments on stage by film’s director, Tom Harper and Screenwriter Jack Thorne in a brief Q&A with David Nugent, HIFF Artistic Director. It gave listeners a chance to hear the harrowing details of the actor’s experience in the air riding a balloon created for the movie. Insider tidbits about various scenes adds to the pleasure of then seeing the film right after hearing those with firsthand knowledge of the story.
Beautifully photographed, this adventure film starts in 1886, the Victorian age, where scientist Glaisher wants to prove that flying into the stratosphere might be a way to predict weather forecasts that would aide in safe ship navigation, crop planting and a host of other applications. As a member of the Association for the Advancement of Science, he wanted to fly and investigate the upper atmosphere. Glaisher embarked on a journey not every man would dare to endeavor. Back then this idea was totally foreign to his academic colleagues that one would think they could “know when rain would fall.” At the time this fantastic voyage was embarked upon, airplanes had not even been invented! Mind you, this flight was done without any of the equipment pilots have today that guard against oxygen deprivation at those heights.
What happens when Glaisher, a noted astronomer and meteorologist and aeronaut, takes flight with young, wealthy widow, Amelia Wren, and they soar higher above earth than ever accomplished before? Several edge of your seat moments, fantastic acting and terrific photography makes this a film one to watch for awards down the line. Don’t miss it. Take a peek at the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm4VnwCtQO8.
Acknowledgement: I’d like to thank FrankPR owners Clare Anne Darragh and Lina Plath and their team for their help, assistance and information throughout the five days of HIFF. With hundreds of films in the Festival and press representatives from around the world and country attending this event, their task of supplying updates and schedules was vital in keeping information current for journalists and reporters. Their tireless efforts and friendliness was truly appreciated! – EM