HIFF Celebrates Montauk, Fishing and the Environment

Writer/Director Emily Anderson with Tom Marmorowski


by Debbie Tuma         photos courtesy of Emily Anderson

             For their 26th year, over the Columbus Day Weekend in October, the Hamptons International Film Festival featured, as usual, many kinds of movies, including world cinema documentaries, narratives, films of conflict resolution, spotlight films, short films, student films, and films made right here on Long Island. This year, the festival took place at theaters in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southampton and Westhampton Beach.

Tom Marmorowski

In the latter category, called, “Views From Long Island,” there was even a short, 12-minute narrative film that was shot in Montauk. Called, “Only the Wind is Listening” this was the world premiere, set against the backdrop of a cold and snowy Montauk winter. Writer/Director Emily Anderson lives in Montauk, and based her movie on a common theme in Montauk—the off-season loneliness that persists when most of the people leave in the winter, and businesses shut down. It stars two lonely single people—a writer, played by Jennifer Ferrin, and a fisherman, played by Tom Marmorowski of Montauk, whose lives intertwine. The film takes place in the coldest months of December, January and

Jennifer Ferrin

February, and shows beautiful shots of the vacant dunes, the frigid waters, the boarded up businesses, and the barren docks and streets of Montauk during that time of year. Some other Montaukers, including Tom Phillips and Asa Gosman, are also in the film.

This film, produced by Jon Gaynes, won an award from the Suffolk County Film Commission for “Best Short Narrative” at the festival, and Emily Anderson was awarded a grant. She appeared on stage during the filming to discuss her film with the audience. A writer and designer, of England, Anderson plans to use the funds to make another film in Montauk, about a walk in the woods.

It seems like more film crews are discovering the year-round beauty of Montauk, because yet another, feature-length film, called “Return to Montauk,” was also filmed there. The movie’s well-known director, Volker Schlondorff, attended the brunch for “Women in Film and Television,” which was held at the Mulford Farm in East Hampton, during the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Schlondorff, who lives in Napeague, said he decided to base his movie in Montauk, to capture the beauty and base his characters there. It is about two lovers, reuniting in Montauk. He showed his new movie on October 13 at Guild Hall in East Hampton, as part of the film series and fundraising efforts to rebuild the Sag Harbor Cinema, which burned down 2 years ago.

The “Women in Film and Television” Brunch has been held for several years at the Hamptons Film Festival, and each year they honor women for their achievements in the visual arts. This year, they explained to the audience that there are more women than ever in the TV and film business. This is an international organization, with chapters all over including NYC. Men in this field and others also came to the Sunday brunch, including Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Phil Berdolt, who sets up movie shoots in his many parks.

“We want to encourage people to come in and film in our parks, which brings us business,” he said. “We have so many parks in Suffolk County that would make great set locations, whether outside or inside, at golf courses or historic homes.”

And yet another “Views From Long Island” movie in the HFF was “The Last Race,” about the Riverhead Race Track, which is actually the only remaining stock car racing track on Long Island. Director/Producer Michael Dweck, who attended his East Coast Premiere in East Hampton Movie Theater, explained that Long Island is the birthplace of American stock car racing, and that there used to be 40 tracks here, starting in the 1940’s when there was much rural land, But due to development and growth on the island over the years, the land and tracks have slowly vanished. His film shows the life and struggles of the owners, Barbara and Jim Cromarty, now in their 80’s, to keep their passion for racing alive on Route 58 in Riverhead, which is being inundated with shopping malls and big box stores. With this track now worth over $10 million, they are trying to keep everything from being paved over.

Dweck, who grew up in Freeport, Long Island, saw that track paved over, so he started photographing all the race tracks he could. “This film is about all the working class people who spent their lives working on their cars so they could have a little trophy,” he said. “It represents a slice of life on Long Island.”

Another significant movie in the 2018 Hamptons Film Festival, which all fishermen in Montauk should see, was a riveting documentary called, “The Ghost Fleet.” Most Long Island fishermen know about the global problem of overfishing by other countries, but they may not know that Thailand is one of the worst culprits. In addition, there are horrendous conditions aboard some of the fishing fleets of Thailand, where young Thai fishermen are forced to work as slaves. Once they get on these huge ships, they are not allowed to leave, and are worked to the bone, under brutal conditions of starvation and torture, and some of them are kept working around the clock for years at a time, unless they manage to jump off the ship and swim to some island. They are forced to leave their families and some of them never see their families again, or they manage to escape and start new families in an unknown land. They fish the islands of Indonesia, and the coast of West Africa and Europe as well.

The documentary, produced by Vulcan Films of Seattle, owned by the late Paul Allen of Microsoft, focuses on the work of one Thai woman who is trying to change this horrible practice of enslaving the men. Patima Tungpuchayakul, Director of the Labour Rights Protection Network, and her crew, go out and try to rescue these male slaves from their captors, and bring them home. Unbelievably, so far they have searched the seas and surrounding islands, to successfully rescue over 4,000 men from this horrific fate.

Following the showing of this film, director Shannon Service and producer Jon  Bowermaster, of Oceans 8 Films, talked and answered questions from the audience. The movie crew, including director Jeff Waldren, traveled around the Thailand area to film this movie, and met with Patima and the slaves. Their goal is to bring this fishing plight to light and have “slave-free” fish. When people asked what they could do to help, they said to ask where the fish you eat come from, and also to donate to Patima’s organization by finding out more at www.theghostfleet.com

Kudos to HFF Artistic Director David Nugent for selecting these and hundreds of other great films for this festival, and to Co-Chairmen Alec Baldwin and Randy Mastro, and Executive Director Anne Chaisson, for creating this festival.

We look forward to next October when this international festival brings new films, more business, and movie stars from around the world to the Hamptons.