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INTERVIEW: Executive Director Anne Chaisson On The 2019 Hamptons International Film Festival Programming, Breakthrough Artists, Honorees, And More

Nicole Barylski

Anne Chaisson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sara Colangelo, and David Nugent at last year's The Kindergarten Teacher screening. (Photo: Getty)

Hamptons International Film Festival is gearing up for another spectacular five-day fête that will feature highly anticipated films like The Irishman, Just Mercy, Western Stars, Marriage Story, Knives Out, and many, many more.

We chatted with Anne Chaisson, the Festival's Executive Director, to learn more about the 2019 HIFF.

Tell us a little bit about the Festival's 27th iteration.

AC: You can expect more of the same exciting and challenging and eye-opening movies that we've been doing all these years, bringing specially curated movies from around the globe that our audiences love and eat up. So, we're very, very happy about that.

Our signature Conflict & Resolution program is over 20 years old now. Highlighting areas of war and conflict and what people are trying to do to resolve those issues. There's the Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights section. We give an award to a film that's giving voice to the voiceless. Kifaru [Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights] is about a team of caretakers in the Sudan who are trying to save the last male northern white rhino and the journey to make that happen. It's devastating, of course, but also eye-opening and hopeful and galvanizing for those who care about what happened. Millions of animals are going extinct every year. Watson [Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights] is about the guy who actually was one of the founders of Greenpeace, Paul Watson. He was pretty much at the forefront of the headline catching, sort of questionable antics that Greenpeace was doing and he eventually got kicked out, and then started his own thing called the Sea Shepherd. He's a lifelong defender of the oceans, and also the animals that live in the ocean, the wildlife. It's pretty tough to watch. It definitely covers all the issues that we're facing with the ocean today. But, it's really talking about what his particular organization has been doing for decades to combat it, but it is really amazing to see. We tend to find the great films that the cinematography and the storytelling feel narrative in scope, not necessarily just watching straight on documentary, even though they are both documentaries.

Maiden won the Audience Award for our SummerDocs series and we're showing it again at 11 a.m. on Monday. Tracy Edwards, the woman who is the subject of the documentary, she's the captain of the all female sailing team that went around the world, she is going to be here, again. She loved the Hamptons so much. She was so thrilled that the film won the Audience Award. But, there's a huge sailing community who all supported it back in June when we showed it, so I'm hoping that whole community will know that it's showing at Bay Street at 11 a.m. on Monday, and will come and see it again. It's such a great movie.

Also, in Views From Long Island, we have a shorts section, which has Waterproof, the story of the Ryan family that started the Ocean Rescue initiative in Amagansett, but now is all over the Town of East Hampton. It's modeled around the country, the program that they started. We're really excited about that and then we're pairing it with two very short films that were made as part of our educational initiative, HIFF Junior. One was a film that was made during film camp that we did this summer, and one is a pilot program that was started with the Montauk Public School for fifth graders, where they made documentaries. We're showcasing one by a female director, Daisy Pitches, who did a film about women's role in the success of World War II. One of her relatives was one of those people, which is really adorable. So, that's going to be an exciting, fun, very local highlight for us to showcase. We've never had short films by kids in the main program. I know we're going to have a lot of people really, especially the kids, excited to see that.

Are there any new programs this year?

AC: There aren't any new programs, per se. The newest thing that happened with us is who we choose as our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and now the Dick Cavett Award and since Dick Cavett has local ties with Toni Ross, an artist, entrepreneur, restaurant entrepreneur, and philanthropist, that is going to be a huge deal for us on Opening Night. Then, Brian De Palma, of course, legendary director with Alec Baldwin.

Year after year, a plethora of films screened at HIFF go on to receive Academy Award nominations, so what have you seen so far that's impressed you and what are you most excited to see at the Festival?

AC: I've seen a lot. I can't say I've seen everything. We're always reticent to choose a film specifically just because you don't want to get sidetracked, but let me say this, the films this year are either complete tearjerkers or films that educate you on something thoroughly that you really didn't understand or know about, or they're sort of white knuckled, hold on to the armrest because it's so thrilling.

One of those films is The Aeronauts. It's with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. It's set in the 1800s, clearly before there were airplanes. Hot air balloons were the only "machines" that could go high up in the air with humans on them. It's the story of a female air balloon pilot who is asked to take a budding scientist up higher than any human has ever gone because he is trying to create the science of meteorology. While it sounds incredibly erudite and heady and scientific, it is a thrill ride. I've never seen cinematography like this. I've never had to look away so much. It is so good and fun, and such amazing acting. I think everyone should see it.

Ford V Ferrari is pretty crazy, too.

Brian De Palma, Alfre Woodard, Camila Morrone, Aldis Hodge, and Lulu Wang are among this year's honorees. Could you speak about their work and why HIFF selected this group?

AC: Brian De Palma goes without being said, legendary director. He is one of Alec's favorite directors of all time and he was thrilled to be able to ask him to do this and accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. So, his canon is revered and talked about everywhere. That's one we knew was a slam dunk.

Alfre Woodard has had a pretty long, critically acclaimed career, with films like 12 Years a Slave, she was in Star Trek. She's been in so much TV and had so many Emmy nominations. She was in HBO's Mandela. She played Winnie Mandela. She was in True Blood, the Lifetime remake of Steel Magnolias. Her canon is so large and I think people don't realize all the things that she's done. She's even one of the voices in The Lion King that recently came out. But, the movie Clemency came out at Sundance this year and won a bunch of awards. I think it is her best performance to date. We're really lucky to be able to have her here to talk about that, because I'm pretty sure she'll be nominated for a bunch of awards for this performance.

The Breakthrough Artists, similarly Aldis Hodge, also another breakthrough artist for his work in Clemency. He's been in a bunch of other things, but this, I think, is going to throw him into another category.

Mickey and the Bear, we love Camila Morrone. We had the writer and director, Annabelle Attanasio in our Screenwriters Lab. We helped develop that project and it came out at South by Southwest this year. It got so much attention and it's such a big deal. I think Annabelle is certainly a director to watch and Camilla's performance was incredible.

Lulu Wang's feature film, The Farewell, has gotten so much attention. It's been a highlight of the summer season for independent fairs, because it is such a wonderful story about an Asian American family, but also about the Asian culture and then what happens and what do we do when the matriarch or patriarch of our family is diagnosed with an illness and how people deal with it - for good or for bad.

It's diverse, with two actors and a director. But, I feel like their careers are certainly going to have a trajectory worth watching. So, it'll be good to hear from them.

What talent will be attending this year's Festival?

AC: Well, everyone we just spoke about, of course. Many of the directors are coming. We have a couple of surprises that are going to happen, but we definitely will have someone here for every Centerpiece, for Opening Night. The Closing Night Film, Waves, will have a lot of talent here.

Hamptons International Film Festival recently announced their new parent company, HamptonsFilm. How will that impact programming?

AC: Well, it's actually highlighting what programming we've been doing all year. We've been around for 27 years and we've always had an educational initiative. We've also had our Screenwriters Lab for 18 or 19 years, we've been doing our SummerDocs for 11. And we started the sort of weekly screening series three years ago, during our 25th anniversary. We wanted to lead up to the anniversary showing one film from each year, which is how we sort of dipped our toes into that. We partnered with the Southampton Arts Center, Bay Street and Guild Hall. So many people were showing up for the films, old films that they may or may not have ever seen on the screen or hadn't seen since then, and it was really popular. So, we decided to grab as many dates as we could and do it year-round. We don't have a brick and mortar, so we rely on our beautiful and wonderful gracious partners to make that happen.

But, we've rented some spaces and put films up at places like Gurney's, and then we mostly partner with Guild Hall, do as many dates on Saturdays at 6 p.m. We're coming up with some even more interesting, more experiential style spaces, as we intend to do the program for 2020.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

AC: The Hamptons International Film Festival name is not going anywhere. HamptonsFilm is the home of our annual Film Festival. We need people to understand that we are here all year. I live here, David has a house out here, many of our board members live here year-round.

We've been here forever, 27 years. Since 1992.

The 27th annual Hamptons International Film Festival will take place Columbus Day Weekend (October 10 through October 14).

For more information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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