Unmasking the Hamptons

Kopple to document area's residents, dispel myths

The glitzy masses who migrate each summer to the South Fork of Long Island may never have heard of Barbara Kopple’s Oscar-winning documentaries of blue-collar struggle, “Harlan County USA” and “American Dream.” But they’re sure to take a keen interest in her latest venture, an as yet untitled documentary of a season in the Hamptons — the summer of the Lizzie Grubman affair — set to air on ABC on Memorial Day.

The SoHo-based documentarian calls the pic a kaleidoscope of life. She trained her camera on everyone from Shinnecock Indians, and farmers and fishermen who live there year-round to the celebrities, writers and artists who’ve adopted the wide, sandy beaches, wheat fields and pricey restaurants and estates as their summer playground.

Kopple has shot footage of socialites like the Hilton sisters and ubiquitous Hamptons magazine publisher Jason Binn and covered parties like the July 7 “Legally Blonde” preem in Southampton, all the while seeking to capture the particular charms of the coastal landscape.

“People think New York is just about New York City and its streets and cement,” says Kopple, who wrapped her filming just after Labor Day weekend.

Kopple’s timing was uncanny. Threading its way through her story is an event that catapulted the Hamptons into the national news — Lizzie Grubman’s swath of destruction outside the Conscience Point nightclub July 7. And shortly before Labor Day, local residents were rocked by news that restaurateur and community pillar Jeff Salaway died in a car accident.

While such events stirred up community tensions and emotions, Kopple maintains she was careful not to skew them with a political spin of her own.

“It’s more about telling a story than taking a side,” she says.

“I think (the Hamptons) is a place there are a lot of misconceptions about,” she adds. “Hopefully, the film will take the time to look at people and surprise an audience with who they are and what they do and make you look at things differently.”

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