Pictured Above: A Still from “Of Fish & Men,” which will be screened as part of this year’s virtual Hamptons Doc Fest.

The Hamptons Doc Fest is hoping this year’s virtual programming, made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic, will expand the audience for its unique glimpse at the work being done by some of the best documentary filmmakers around.

The festival, now in its 13th year, is expanding this year from five to 10 days, Dec. 4 through Dec. 13, with a slate of 35 documentaries available for attendees to watch on their own schedule.

“We had hoped this year to welcome doc fans in person in December to an expanded Hamptons Doc Fest program at multiple cinemas, but, as with everything in 2020, we are innovating,” says Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of the festival. “Therefore, we are pleased to have you join us for our first-ever online festival, with 35 films to be watched at home, with family and friends, at your convenience, over an expanded 10-day festival.”

This year’s festival program highlights opening night film “MLK/FBI”

This year’s Opening Night film on Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. is “MLK/FBI,” directed by Sam Pollard. This film, based on newly-discovered and declassified files, is the first to uncover the extent of the FBI’s surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Black activists during the Civil Rights Movement. After the film, there will be a Q&A between Mr. Pollard and Variety’s film awards editor, Clayton Davis.

Director Frederick Wiseman will receive this year’s Pennebaker Career Achievement Award in honor of D.A. Pennebaker, a longtime Sag Harbor resident and documentary filmmaker who passed away in August of 2019. 

Mr. Wiseman’s “City Hall,” his 43rd film, a 272 minute marathon about city government in Boston, will be screened at the festival.

The film follows city government employees as they work to provide necessary civil services including police, fire, sanitation, veterans affairs, elder support, parks, professional licensing, and records of births, deaths and marriages. 

“I made ‘City Hall’ to illustrate why government is necessary for people to successfully live together,” said Mr. Wiseman.

His films have spanned a range of topics that include a state hospital for the criminally insane, a high school, welfare center, juvenile court, a boxing gym, Central Park, a racetrack, ballet companies in New York and Paris, and a Parisian cabaret theater. 

Before the screening of the more than four-hour film, Ms. Lofaro will present the award online to Wiseman, followed by his pre-recorded acceptance speech, followed by a short career overview of Wiseman’s work by Josh Siegel, curator of the Department of Film at MOMA.

Unlike the other films in the festival, which will be available Dec. 5 through Dec. 13, “City Hall” will only be available Dec. 5 through Dec. 8, and will be available for 72 hours after festival-goers press ‘play.’

This year’s Art and Inspiration Award, sponsored by the The Tee & Charles Addams Foundation, will be presented to “United We Sing,” about a choral group from the University of Rochester that travels to Africa to sing with and bond with a group of orphans of the AIDS epidemic in rural Kenya. The award will be presented by Kevin Miserocchi, director of the Tee & Charles Adams Foundation. The film will be followed by a Q&A moderated by Michael Lawrence, Director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Society with the film’s director Dan Petracca and executive producers Aaron Sperber and Ross Pedersen. 

“Through the Night” explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a childcare provider, whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center. This film will receive the Robin L. Long Human Rights Award, and will be accompanied by a Q&A with director Loira Limbal. 

“Fish and Men,” which exposes the high cost of inexpensive fish in the global seafood economy, and the forces threatening local fishing communities and public health, will receive The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award, presented by Sam Sabin. 

Co-directors Darby Duffin and Adam Jones will take part in a Q&A with Bonnie Brady of Montauk, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

A still from “In Case of Emergency,” to be screened at this year’s festival.

Co-directors Darby Duffin and Adam Jones will take part in a Q&A with Bonnie Brady of Montauk, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

Films that make up the festival cover a wide range of social and cultural topics, from the tale of a Romanian family living in the wilderness of the Vacaresti Delta in “Acasa My Home” to two stories of music in communist China: Richard Nixon’s recruitment of the Philadelphia Orchestra to visit China in “Beethoven in Beijing” and “Behind the Strings,” the story of a Chinese string quartet that fled to the west at the close of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, to an inside look at our health care system as seen through an emergency room in “In Case of Emergency” to portraits of cultural icons including murdered Washington Post journalist Jamaal Khashoggi, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and composer and counterculture hero Frank Zappa.

“Our lineup is vibrant and diverse, and we hope you will find it as entertaining and enlightening as we do, as it covers a wide range of topics including history, politics, biography, social justice, life challenges, the environment, and art, music and dance,” said Ms. Lofaro.

Special features of this festival are new “Up Close” video segments “direct from the directors,” which will precede most online screenings, allowing audiences to get an intimate look at the filmmakers’ visions. 

There is also a series of short documentaries on topics ranging from the construction of the Apollo Lunar Module by Grumman in Calverton to the lives of female Syrian refugees to aging with spirit and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s handbags.

Access to the films can be pre-purchased, and all films (with the exception of “City Hall,” above) will be available to be unlocked from Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. through Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m. The Opening Night Film, “MLK/FBI,” is the only film that will be available on Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. If you’re buying tickets during the festival, click the “Stream Now” button that appears on the confirmation page after purchase. 

Festival passes at $125 and individual film tickets at $12 were available starting November 10 on the Hamptons Doc Fest website at www.hamptonsdocfest.com.

The website includes a full description of each film, in a downloadable program booklet, and instructions on how you can watch the films on your computer, iPad/tablet or television.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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