Recapping Film Festival Highlights

Once again the Hampton International Film Festival (HIFF) proved to be all that it promised. Movie goers enjoyed spending time in the beautiful Hampton towns, attending films, workshops, lectures and “Conversations With” which are discussions with well known names in the film industry. The only problem is that there is not enough time to see all the films and attend the fascinating programs lined up during the festival. But that is the exact point of the scheduling, because there is something for everyone to enjoy and accommodating the thousands that attend the festival spreads out the number of attendees to all of the activities. “HIFF continues to focus on showcasing an entertaining, diverse and provocative slate of films each year.  We are thrilled with the warm embrace of the films in our 24th edition and are thankful to the filmmakers for allowing us to share the films with our audiences,” said David Nugent, HIFF Artistic Director.

Anne Chaisson, HIFF Executive Director adds, “We are proud of the diverse slate of programming from this year’s festival, and are appreciative of all the support of our community, audience members, filmmakers, actors and staff who were part of such an incredible and successful weekend,” and look forward to celebrating our 25th anniversary next year.”

For us, picking which events to attend turns into a family selection process. First we read about the movies offered by visiting the HIFF film site selecting which ones we can fit in our time frame between panels we want to attend.  Among our favorite films are the international ones, which we discovered have endings impossible to guess. For the last few years HIFF has included a segment focused on one particular country, with a number of films representing their talent.  Capturing our interest was a film called GLORY, (“Slava”) which made its US premiere and was a combined production of Bulgaria and Greece. It was “the story of a poor railway worker whose world is turned upside down when he finds a huge pile of cash abandoned on the tracks. He decides to do the honorable thing and turn it over the police, but a careless government propaganda team eager to capitalize on the story sends his life spinning out of control. Set against the backdrop of contemporary Bulgarian society, where corruption and bureaucracy are givens, GLORY is a mysterious journey of one man’s race against time to expose the truth and regain his dignity.” Starring Margita Gosheva and Stefan Denolyubo this simple story line quickly turned into a powerful, edge of your seat thriller waiting for the next turn in this seemingly uncomplicated story. The ending left the audience discussing which way they thought the story turned, which was equal to any Hitchcock mystery we have seen. The next day at another event we had the pleasure of meeting the female star, Margita Gosheva. I had the opportunity to chat with this outgoing and friendly woman visiting the Hamptons for the festival. Clarifying what I thought was the ending, she confirmed it for me, which followed with a brief discussion about an alternative ending and the directors, Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov were absolutely perfect in their choice of the film’s ending. By the way at the conclusion of the festival winners for both audience and jury panel voting are announced and GLORY won for “Best Narrative Feature presented by the Wall Street Journal”. Well deserved!

Another “World Cinema” entry that we saw was Santoalla, which had its North American Premiere and was a combined USA and Spain effort. Based on a true story, “ripped from the headlines” it was about a married couple, Martin and Margo, from Holland that looks to find a simple and quiet life in Northern Spain. They find a home in an isolated village with only one neighboring family. The two families do not get along and the Dutch husband mysteriously disappears. Told in flashbacks through newspaper articles and home films of the Dutch couple, the story unfolds both as a thriller and a peek into the social difference of two families. After some of the HIFF films there is a Q & A session and audience members have a change to talk to the film’s stars, writers or directors about the film we just saw. How did this film come to be made was asked and the reply was simple. The filmmaker had been on vacation in Spain and this story was a headline and he became more curious about the couple and the reason they migrated to Spain and what really happened to Martin when they moved to the village of Santoalla.

This year it was Focus on Norwegian Films as Scandinavian cinema has a history of diverse talents ranging from Ingmar Bergman, Liv Ullmann and more recently films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Brought to HIFF though the Norwegian Consulate General and the Norwegian Film Institute, there were four Norwegian entries included in the lineup. Unfortunately our agenda was so tight that we could not fit any of them in to see, but hopefully they will be brought to audiences soon via other venues.

Variety’s Panel

Another fascinating segment of HIFF is the panel of upcoming new talent. Now partnering with Variety Magazine, each year the festival introduces 10 rising young actors that are appearing either in films currently at the festival or in the process of being released.  The impressive history of these young talents include other HIFF honorees such as Emily Blunt, Blake Lively, Jessica Chastain, Rooney Mara, Ezra Miller, David Oyelowo, Alexander Skarsgard, Lupita Nyong’o, Brie Larson, Oscar Isaac, Tatiana Maslany, and Dane DeHaan,  Attending the panel discussion held at East Hampton’s Nick and Toni’s was Riz Ahmed, appearing in Una, (credits include Nightcrawler), Mahershala Ali, appearing in Moonlight and Gubagude Ko,  (notable credits: House of Cards), Kara HaywardAppearing in: Manchester by the Sea (notable credits: Moonrise Kingdom), Aja Naomi King (notable credits: TV series, How to Get Away With Murder), The Birth of a Nation. Through a lively panel discussion audience members can hear how the actors began in their profession, how it was making their current film and what future projects they have lined up. What continuously impresses me is how these actors are drastically transformed via the magic of the big screen, how their talents change them into unrecognizable characters and when meeting them they are as typical as our next door neighbors.

There were over one hundred films entered in this year’s Hampton International Film Festival. Many of them premiered here on the East End, while many others came via their success at other film festivals around the country and world. This clearly indicates the quality of the entries and why they are worth seeing. For a complete list of films that appeared at HIFF visit their website. Some of these films will be released to American theatres this fall or early next spring. Some may appear on television cable channels or pay stations. For movie viewing pleasure read over the list and be awed, entertained, informed and transported to another world.

Looking forward to next year’s HIFF as it will be its 25th anniversary and exciting programming will surely be planned around this memorable date!  The Montauk Sun would like to thank Frank PR and its team for help in supplying information throughout the festival. For more information about the 2016 Hamptons International Film Festival, go to