"How To Change The World"
“How To Change The World,” the story of Greenpeace, is one headline film of the Hamptons International Film Festival’s new Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights series

The Hamptons International Film Festival has long had a feature series on films of Conflict and Resolution, telling tales of social strife from throughout the world, but this year they’re also unveiling a new “Signature Series,” which highlights films that showcase Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights.

According to festival organizers, the new program “provides a platform for filmmakers to share meaningful information, stories of inspiration, and tools for creating a safe and humane world for animals.”

“These films seek to arouse in the consciousness of our audiences respect for the dignity and rights of all living beings and to encourage dialogue about how we treat and view animals as a community,” they added.

Also in store for festival-goers is a section titled “Views from Long Island,” comprised of films which were shot mostly in Suffolk County.

Compassion & Justice

This year kicks off the Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights series with a small collection of narrative and documentary films, along with the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” award, which has been a part of the festival for the past three years.

This year, the films include “The Champions,” the story of the folks who adopted Mchael Vick’s pit bulls from a life of dog fighting, and “How to Change the World,” the story of Greenpeace.

A still from "The Champions"
A still from “The Champions”

“The Champions” is the work of first-time filmmaker Darcy Dennett, who follows the handful of men and women stepped in to give the fighting dogs a second chance, despite pressure from animal welfare organizations to euthanize the animals. The film also explores the stigma surrounding this misunderstood breed, the exploitation of animals for the sake of entertainment, and the way society is too quick to forgive its star athletes.

Jerry Rothwell’s “How to Change the World”  tells the story of how, in 1971, a group of journalists, scientists and hippies set sail on a mission to prevent American atomic tests on an Alaskan Island. Transformed by the experience, this small grassroots band of activists launched the start of the Greenpeace movement.

The View from Long Island

This year’s festival also includes a series titled “Views From Long Island,” a series of four feature films and one short film directed by filmmakers from Long Island. The series is sponsored by the Suffolk County Film Commission, and one $3,000 Suffolk County Next Exposure Grant will be awarded to a film in the series.

Fifty percent of the principal photography in the series was done in Suffolk County.

The series includes the world premiere of director Marc Levin’s “Class Divide,” a look into the modern effects of gentrification in West Chelsea seen through the eyes of students from both sides of the street. On one side of the intersection of 10th Avenue and 26th Street sits Avenues, a world-class private school with a $50,000 per year price tag; on the other side sits the Elliott-Chelsea public housing projects, home to thousands of low-income and underemployed residents.

The series also includes the New York premiere of Ron Davis’s “Harry & Snowman,” the story of Harry deLeyer, a horse trainer and riding instructor at the exclusive Knox School in St. James. His career took a new turn when he paid $80 for an Amish plow horse named Snowman, bound for the glue factory. With the odds against them, Harry and Snowman went on to break show jumping records, becoming household names in the late 1950s after winning the Triple Crown.

The series also includes the New York Premiere of Alexandra Shiva’s “How to Dance in Ohio,” which follows a group of young people with autism as they attempt to overcome their fears and prepare for  a spring formal dance. Finding a date, getting dressed up, and going to a school dance can be difficult for any teenager. For many living with autism, the idea of going to a spring formal is even more intimidating, considering the need to navigate social cues they don’t understand.

The series also includes Robert Edwards’ “When I Live My Life Over Again,” the story of a young woman who heads to the wintry, desolate Hamptons for some self-reflection and reinvention, where she attempts to help revitalize her father’s career as a famed romantic crooner.

 Conflict & Resolution

This year’s Films of Conflict & Resolution series continues to put the spotlight on the dangers facing many who live in harsh corners of the world.

The five feature films and three shorts in the series travel from Rwanda to Yugoslavia to Pakistan to tell stories, both large and small, of people living in the heart of conflict.

A still from "Uncondemned"
A still from “Uncondemned”

The series includes the world premiere of Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel’s “The Uncondemned,” the story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a war crime, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none. Up until that point, rape had not been considered a war crime and was committed with impunity.

With her directorial debut, “The Armor of Light,” Abigail Disney presents a candid portrait of an evangelical minister who questions whether someone can be both pro-life and pro-gun. Reverend Rob Schenck was forced to reconsider his position on gun control after meeting Lucy McBath, a fellow Christian and gun control activist, whose son, Jordan Davis, was shot in Florida. The two embarked on a courageous journey, taking on both the NRA and the church.

More than two decades after president Robert Mugabe’s corrupt dictatorship began, international pressure forced Zimbabwe to assemble a bipartisan committee to begin writing the country’s first democratic constitution. Director Camilla Nielsson’s “Democrats” balances the clash of personalities of the committee against the backdrop of Mugabe’s regime.

Academy Award-winner Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, “He Named Me Malala,” is a candid look into the life of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala was rushed to the hospital after being attacked by the Taliban on Oct. 9, 2012. With the entire world rallied behind her, Malala recovered and co-founded The Malala Fund, to empower girls worldwide by giving them access to education.

The inter-ethnic wars that tore apart Yugoslavia loom large in the background of Dalibor Matanić’s latest film,The High Sun,” winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Although never shown on screen, the tumult of the conflict seeps through and disrupts the lives of three young couples, in stories that mirror the turmoil and healing process of a nation at war with itself, in this three-decade spanning tryptic.

The Hamptons International Film Festival runs from this Thursday, Oct. 8, through next Monday, Oct. 12. Tickets for individual films range from $15 to $35 and multi-film passes are also available. More information is online here.

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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