Like many film festivals at this time of year, the Hamptons fest will feature lots of films in the awards conversation. The centerpiece films are “Spotlight,” the true story of a Boston Globe investigation involving city politics and the Catholic church, and “Carol,” a 1950s love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, for which the latter won the lead actress award at Cannes.
Artistic director David Nugent says the “centerpiece films are the kind of star-driven and timely films people will be talking about,” adding that he believes this will be a big awards season for Blanchett. But the fest, running Oct. 8-12, has more to offer than awards season contenders — if they are the draw. Nugent hopes attendees will explore the depth of programming, including a new program focused on highlighting films that cover animal rights and environmental issues. One of the selected film for the program is “The Champions,” a docu about the animals that were rescued from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring.
The fest also has many long-standing programs, including the competition portion, which has run since its inaugural year, honoring up-and-coming filmmakers for narrative and documentary features as well as short films. Winners receive cash prizes and goods and services toward making their next film.
And for the fourth consecutive year, the fest will present Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch, which has a long-standing history of celebrating rising stars with past honorees including Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o and Rooney Mara. This year the list includes Bel Powley, breakout star of “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” and Emory Cohen who will romance Saoirse Ronan come November in the Nick Hornby-penned “Brooklyn.”
Another former Actor to Watch, Emily Blunt, will be honored at the festival’s first-ever awards dinner. The new event will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of independent production company Killer Films, present a posthumous tribute to filmmaker Albert Maysles and recognize the work of the festival’s outgoing board chairman, Stuart Match Suna. He will step down after this year’s festival to make way for incoming co-chairmen Alec Baldwin and Randy Mastro.
This year’s festival will also introduce a series of conversations held in honor of late producer and director Gary Winick. Executive director of the festival Anne Chaisson says the conversations will focus on “things that Gary felt were important about filmmaking and film innovation.”
The panels, which are free and open to the public, are set to include one with Jonathan Sehring, head of IFC Films; one with competition filmmakers and another with notable casting directors.
Nugent and Chaisson are well aware of other film festivals, especially since the Sundance selection process surrounds the Hamptons fest. So over the past few years they have reacted by shifting from focusing on emphasizing world premieres, to head in new directions.
“We’re looking at the East Coast and New York premiere of a really good film versus the world premiere of something we don’t feel is as strong,” Nugent says. “We’d rather play the better film.”
Hamptons Intl. Film Festival