Pictured Above: A still from Laurie Anderson & Hsin-Chien Huang’s virtual reality project, “To The Moon.”

Now in its 27th season, the Hamptons International Film Festival’s Signature Programs are rounding out into a robust series of films on issues of great social, environmental and cultural importance.

In addition to its longstanding “Films of Conflict & Resolution” series, the festival has added sections on “Air, Land & Sea,” “Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights” and on “Views from Long Island” in recent years. 

“Our signature programs have become a hallmark of the annual film festival,” said Anne Chaisson, Executive Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival. “Highlighting the issues and causes that are most important to our community are of paramount importance to us. We are thrilled that audiences will get to hear from experts at post screening Q&A’s about the problems they face on a day-to-day basis.” 

For the second year, the festival is also exploring the boundaries of virtual reality, with a piece called “To The Moon” by Laurie Anderson & Hsin-Chien Huang, a 15-minute progra which uses ideas from mythology to take viewers from Earth to the surface of the Moon.

The program has traveled to the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals and was in residence at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium this summer during the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

“I want to walk into a work of art, get lost in it,” Ms. Anderson recently told CNN. “Every artist from the beginning of time has wanted you to come into that world. Virtual reality offers you that in a way that is unique.

When visitors land on the moon, they start seeing constellations of things that have been lost, from things in nature like a polar bear, to the idea of democracy.

“All these things that we think are so stable are so fragile and can be lost,” said Ms. Anderson. “So you’re flying around in this free world, a combinations of hallucinations and reality that ends up being a very mysterious thing, very much like the moon itself.”

A scene from “Conscience Point,” about the Shinnecock Nation’s fight for their sacred lands.

Getting Local

The highlights of this year’s Views from Long Island series include the world premiere of “Conscience Point,” directed by Treva Wurmfeld, which documents the Shinnecock Nation’s fight for ownership in the Hamptons, following the work of long-time Shinnecock activist Becky Hill-Genia in her attempt to preserve Shinnecock sacred land and push forward legislation to protect ancestral grave sites.

The film comes to a head in the summer of 2018, as the U.S. Open golf tournament unfolds at the ultra-exclusive Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which was carved out of a Shinnecock burial site.

Ms. Wurmfeld first met Ms. Hill-Genia in 2014.

“I was immediately struck by the contrast Becky’s experience of place had with the hundreds of thousands who visit the Hamptons and think of it as a place to go to the beach and rub shoulders with celebrities. This reality check was immense for me and it was because of this first encounter that I suddenly realized, not only did I want to make a film about Becky but that the Hamptons was a hot bed of critical issues we all should be more conscious of,” she said in her director’s statement. “I want this film to contribute to a larger wave of filmmaking questioning power dynamics and privilege, agency and oppression. Becky has experience and expertise that need to be shared – she is an inspiration to me and I believe she will be to others as well.”

Also in the Views from Long Island section is “3 Days 2 Nights,” a documentary about a 1974 small plane crash about Mark and Andy Godfrey, who went on a family ski vacation to Aspen, CO in 1974 when the plane they were traveling on crashed, taking the lives of their parents, brother and sister. Mark and Andy, who were 11 and 8 years old at the time of the crash, survived 3 days and 2 nights in the frigid mountains near Aspen. Now nearly forty years later, they embark on a road trip to retrace the flight of their prop plane, finding themselves forced to confront a trauma that has haunted them their entire lives.

The Views From Long Island program is supported by the Suffolk County Film Commission, and one Suffolk County Next Exposure Grant is awarded to a feature film in the section. The grant is given to a high quality, original director-driven, low budget independent film that has completed 50 percent of principal photography within Suffolk County.

A scene from “The Hottest August,” a portrait of New York City as its inhabitants react to climate change.

Protecting the Earth

The recently added “Air, Land & Sea” program will present Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s “Earth,” which examines the tremendous impacts of human activity—looking at seven locations across the globe that have hugely transformed the planet through human behavior. This program also plays host to the World Premiere of  Anthony Baxter’s “Flint,” a spotlight on the economic depression and the water treatment disaster in Flint, Michigan, narrated by Alec Baldwin.

The section will also include director Brett Story’s “The Hottest August,” a nuanced portrait of New York City as its inhabitants react to climate change, with excerpts from the writings of Zadie Smith, Karl Marx and Annie Dillard. 

A scene from director Hans Pool’s “Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World,” the story of several civilians who came together as a collective of “citizen investigative journalists” dedicated to combating the spread of misinformation.

Dispatches from Conflicts

The Films of Conflict & Resolution series, the first of the festival’s signature series, which launched in 2000, includes Director Hans Pool’s “Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World,” the story of several civilians who came together as a collective of “citizen investigative journalists” dedicated to combating the spread of misinformation; director Feras Fayyad’s “The Cave,” which returns to the filmmaker’s war-ravaged home country of Syria after his Academy Award-nominated “Last Men in Aleppo;” 26-year-old female Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateab’s “For Sama,” which documents the story of her life over five years during the uprising in Aleppo; “Hearts & Bones,” in which war photographer Daniel Fisher (Hugo Weaving) returns home to Sydney from his latest assignment to begin preparations for an upcoming retrospective of his work; and “The Human Factor,” the East Coast premiere of director Dror Moreh’s documentary of the intricacies of the volatile Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

“We had a great time selecting these films and could not be more excited to share them with our audience,” said David Nugent, Artistic Director of HIFF. “We have some truly moving, fascinating and provocative titles to screen. These selections will thrill viewers and ignite thoughtful and passionate conversations throughout the Festival.”

More information on these and all programs at the Hamptons International Film Festival is online at hamptonsfilmfest.org.

— Beth Young

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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