by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
The weather couldn’t have been nicer for this year’s Hampton International Film Festival (HIFF) held Columbus holiday weekend. The air was crisp, sunny and the surrounding East End scenery starting to exhibit the beautiful autumn colors. The area was once again “a buzz’ with chatter about which films wanted to be seen from over one hundred to select from on the extensive list. Movie interest is a personal choice and even talking to friends attending the festival, their check list varied. Some people want to see films about global problems and the concerns of people around the world. Often we heard people lean toward more politically slanted topics, following current news cycles and issue at hand in our country for over a decade. Then there are others that want to view documentaries that delve deeper into subjects that hold an interest for them, whether it is animal rights, environmental issues or diseases and medical research advancements. Some people go to the movies “simply to be entertained.” These movie goers
want to be distracted from sad events, “message” films or seeing the tragedies that go on around the world. Not that this means they are insensitive or ignoring the plight of others, but just want lighter moments that a “warm and fuzzy” film offers. Think back to some films over the years that have brought joy, happiness and a sense of feeling good as you emerged from the theatre. It seems over the years it would be difficult to name any on one hand that comes to mind. Besides the films, awards, brunches, parties and receptions take place during the five days. Alan Alda received the newly created Dick Cavett Artistic Champion Award for lifelong advocate for artistic achievements and contributions to the industry.
The Opening Night Film is always a welcome entry and typically one of the stars of the movie attends HIFF. Maggie Gyllenhaal, lead actor of The Kindergarten Teacher, was on the Red Carpet and the next day in the Bay Street Theatre at “A Conversation with” series. In person she is tall, slim and stunningly attractive and had a pleasant, friendly demeanor about her which is always nice to see. It amazes me how an actor is cast in a film what hair and makeup can do to convert the actor into a totally opposite character. In this film Ms. Gyllenhaal plays a quiet, unhappy kindergarten teacher ignored by her family. She discovers what she feels is a talent in one of her pupils, turning towards obsession to bring it to light to others. The Favourite, a second film we saw, from Ireland/UK/USA is an 18th century piece about the instability of Queen Anne during the days when England was at war with France. Two young women of the court vie to be her companion to garner court status. They have the Queen’s ear and are devious in their tactics to win her favor. Acting was superb and believable by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz as the three leads. The costumes for this production were dazzling and beautifully done and enhanced the storyline of the period. A Q & A after the film had moderator, Anne Chaisson, HIFF Executive Director, and the film’s costume designer, Sandy Powell, talk about the design process, where the ideas come from and how the ornate dresses were created.
When we attend HIFF we try to include a Scandinavian film or two, and we did so again this year. Usually these films have complex plots, hard to guess endings and characters that are thought provoking. The characters either conjure sympathy for them or have the viewer despise the antics they portray and root for the underdog. In the Narrative Competition at HIFF, Border (Grans) a Swedish/Denmark contribution provided all of this and more! The story was about a reclusive customs border officer and a unique talent she had for uncovering those travelers carrying illegal substances. One day a mysterious man comes through her border station and the story travels in a direction the audience had no way of suspecting! This film won a prize at Cannes and is Sweden’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Its write up describes it as “straddling the line between romance, fantasy and horror as the lead actor, the border guard, struggles to find her place in the world”. The two actors, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff won the HIFF best actor award for this film. We’ve never seen a film like this before and as the audiences exited the theatre all were smiling, shaking their heads, yet saying, I never expected that, or this was something totally different from what I thought it was about!”And we are still discussing this film with friends that joined us that day!
In its East Coast premiere, a Spotlight Film, we saw A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike, portraying a real life war correspondent, photojournalist Marie Colvin. This film showed what it’s like being in a war torn area and the dangers journalists put themselves through to bring a story to the world, “giving a voice to the voiceless”. Watching how these journalists live, the harrowing, on the edge of life and death scenarios they go through is unbelievable and at times hard to watch. When viewing nightly TV news, it’s difficult to imagine the environment a reporter faces being in a dangerous conflict zone to capture a story. A fascinating Q & A was held after the film, with David Nugent, Artistic Director, as moderator and the film’s Director Matthew Heineman, actors Rosemund Pike and Jamie Dornan (depicting Colvin’s photographer) in attendance. Miss Pike related how she prepared for the role and described how that watched hours of actual video footage of reports Marie Colvin made during her career. Ms Pike was touchingly emotional in describing what it was like portraying such a courageous and fearless woman.
Time is fleeting and the list is long for seeing all the films we had wanted to attend. Many of them will either be commercially distributed, on cable television or presented by Netflix, so the opportunity to see the ones we missed is numerous. There are also workshops, brunches, like a well attended brunch hosted each year by NYWIFT (New York Women in Film & Television), Conversations With all to enhance the movie going activities and festival. To see the film list and read about them you can visit www.hamptonsfilmfest.org If you missed this year’s HIFF make your plans for the Columbus Day weekend event 2019! The Montauk Sun would like to thank FrankPR partners, Clare Anne Darragh and Lina Plath and their entire team for all their assistance during the Film Festival. Their help in providing information about scheduling, events and time changes with daily emails and notices was invaluable, as it is each year.