When the 16th edition of the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival kicks off Oct. 15 with two new execs at the helm, changes will be more subtle than pronounced. The event has always touted global cinema as one of its key strengths, but its local charm cannot be underestimated.
As usual, venues will be spread across South and East Hampton and out to Montauk, attractively less crowded in the off-season. The small-town feel and gorgeous landscape are conducive to impromptu meetings among producers, directors and industry execs.
“It’s a very unique festival and it has a very fresh feel to it and a family feel to it because it’s not big,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker. In 2000, Sony Classics successfully launched “Pollock” from the fest, as the artist had local ties.
David Nugent, who has succeeded Rajendra Roy as programming director — while Karen Arikian has taken over for Denise Kassel as exec director — is taking an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. “Denise and Raj really brought this fest to a level of prominence,” says Nugent.
Distinguishing the Hamptons fest from another local fest, Woodstock, Nugent says, “They do more American films, music documentaries; we do a lot more strong and varied foreign films.”
The new leaders’ pedigrees would appear to bear this out. Nugent was programming director at the Newport Intl. Film Fest, while Arikian worked at the Berlinale as co-director of the European Film Market. She also was a longtime programming consultant and occasional producer in the Euro film biz with Gotham indie ties as a former director of the Independent Feature Project.
“Karen I have known for over 20 years,” says Barker. “She speaks several languages, and she’s incredibly film savvy .”
Arikian’s short-term goals include beefing up the fest’s international profile and hosting year-round panels and workshops for filmmakers.
The fest’s Rising Stars program, modeled after Berlin’s Shooting Stars , will for the first time feature three international thesps, including Romanian standout Anamaria Marinca, the friend in “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”
“I’m programming to people who live on a part of Long Island that’s pretty far east and may not have the exposure to art cinema that one gets in New York City,” Nugent says.
Uncommon in larger fests, local community involvement is part of the Hamptons fest’s appeal, Arikian says. “People open their homes to filmmakers. It’s a special way of treating filmmakers.”
All told, about 100 films will screen, two-thirds of which are feature-length docs and narrative films. The number of submissions jumped from 1,500 last year to 2,000, a rise Nugent attributes to a longer submission period, e-blasts sent via IFP, and the increasing pool of films being made.
“Synecdoche, New York” arrives via Cannes, while “The Brothers Bloom” and “Two Lovers” will make their American debuts, with a hoped-for appearance from “Lovers” star Gwyneth Paltrow, who summers in the Hamptons.
The fest is often seen as a launching pad for foreign language films; about a half dozen in as many years have gone on to win Academy Awards or Golden Globes.
What: Hamptons Intl. Film Fest
When: Oct. 15-19
Where: United Artists Theaters, East Hampton; Southampton Regal Cinema, Southampton; Montauk Movie, Montauk; Bay Street Theater, Sag Harbor
Honorees include Rising Stars Kate Mara, Jack Huston and Jake Abel; Shooting Stars Hannah Herzsprung, Maryam Hassouni and Anamaria Marinca
Events include Cinematography Master Class with Ellen Kuras; Conversation With Frances McDormand
Panels include Israel at 60; Films of Conflict and Resolution; View From Long Island
Toppers: Exec director Karen Arikian, director of programming David Nugent