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INTERVIEW: Jacqui Lofaro On The 2019 Hamptons Doc Fest, The Many Local Ties Of This Year's Festival, And More

Nicole Barylski

From Thursday, December 5 through Monday, December 9, Hamptons Doc Fest will once again present a myriad of captivating documentaries at Bay Street, as well as at Southampton Arts Center - for the first time.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Jacqui Lofaro, Hamptons Doc Fest Founder and Executive Director, about this year's features.

There's a lot to look forward to in this year's Hamptons Doc Fest. Could you please discuss the 2019 iteration's programming?

JL: It's 31 films. We have one shorts program with two films in it. That's on Monday.

The Opening Night Film is Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack. We're really excited about that because the two filmmakers will be there, as well as Audrey. Terrie Sultan from the Parish will be doing the Q&A. Audrey is in their collection and she's in many collections. The image on our program that we've been promoting is a drawing by Audrey. It's the Art Muse - very striking, I think. That should be great. The two filmmakers, Deborah Shaffer and Rachel Reichman, will be there. It's getting the Art & Inspiration award as well.

The Closing Night Film is a first time filmmaker John Breen, 3 Days 2 Nights. It's a very riveting film. It's just a fascinating film. What I also love about it, that some people may not know, is that his wife is Zoe Pennebaker, D. A. Pennebaker's daughter. So, she'll be there and we're serving her popcorn. She has a popcorn company and we'll have it on the Douglas Elliman Free Community Day.

The Spotlight Film on Friday, we're co presenting with the Sag Harbor Cinema and that is Citizen K. That's Alex Gibney's new film. Alex will be there to do a Q&A. We're very happy because we have about 80 or 85 percent of the filmmakers or producers coming. Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan is doing that interview.

It seems like this year's Festival has a lot of local ties.

JL: It does. There's Audrey Flack, Seat 20D, which is the story of Suse Lowenstein in Montauk. Her son was killed in the Pan Am flight. She's actually in my documentary from way back that I did on the death penalty. I interviewed her and her husband. Crafting An Echo - Kris Liem is the editor. She has a place out here.

The next big one that's really terrific is Gay Chorus Deep South,, and that's receiving the Sloan Shelton Human Rights Award. I've seen it now three or four times and I cry each time. But it's very compelling. It's about the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and they go on a tour to the American Deep South, because they decide what is the point of staying in San Francisco? We're speaking to the choir. Let's go speak to the people who have a prejudice and a bias against us. And so they do that. I tell you, it's an experience and a journey and courage.

Now this year you expanded to Southampton Arts Center. Why did you feel the timing was right to add a second location?

JL: During the year we screened a couple of films at the Southampton Arts Center. We did the Breslin film, and there were people there who we had never seen before. I know a lot of the people who come to Bay Street; they're all familiar faces. We had a conversation about it and thought maybe we're not reaching that demographic, and the demographic further west. So, it's an experiment. We're doing Saturday and Sunday screenings, not repeats, they're all new films, and we'll see how it goes. We're excited about it. I just love the facility there. That theater is, I think, just a gem.

What programming will be offered there?

JL: On Saturday, at noon, which is the first film, we're screening At The Heart Of Gold: Inside The USA Gymnastics Scandal. The Judge, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who presided over the trial and sentenced Larry Nassar, is coming. She's going to be doing a Q&A. That's a fabulous one. That's followed by King Bibi, about Bibi Netanyahu. What could be more relevant? It's a terrific documentary. Then we're doing The War Room at 4 p.m., as a continuation of our tribute to Pennebaker.

Then, on Sunday at the Southampton Arts Center, at noon is 17 Blocks, a very tough, tough going but riveting film about a family that's poor and they filmed themselves over the years. They live 17 blocks from the Capitol in Washington, DC. It' going to be an MTV documentary. So we kind of have a nice connection to Sheila Nevins, because we honored her last year. Sheila's running the new MTV documentary programming. Then, at two o'clock, Hollywood's Second World War, which is a marvel of archival footage. At four o'clock, The Disappearance of My Mother, which is sort of half an international film in Italian, but it's a very unusual film. It's something that I really loved. It premiered at Sundance. The seven o'clock film, The Dog Doc, the filmmaker is coming for that, Cindy Meehl. It's about a miracle worker vet, Dr. Marty Goldstein, and he has this treatment for animals that is pretty innovative and he gets extraordinary results. I saw the film first at Tribeca and I thought it would be perfect for here. It's a really terrific program in Southampton and we'll see what happens.

Who will this year's Festival honor?

JL: We're doing a Pennebaker tribute at the gala. That should be very special because there are a couple of people who are speaking about Pennebaker, including Lana Jokel, who 50 years ago got her start in documentary filmmaking at Pennebaker's studio. Chris Hegedus will be there and the entire Pennebaker family is coming, which is thrilling. It's exciting, and it's sad for us to do a festival without him being there. He always came. He sat in his regular seat, and we're going to reserve that seat for him anyway. He'll be with us in spirit. So, the inaugural Pennebaker award, which is a beautiful, beautiful art deco glass trophy we'll present to Chris Hegedus of Pennebaker Hegedus Films. We're going to show Daybreak Express, which is Pennebaker's first film in 1953. It's five minutes. It's about the Daybreak Express train that goes uptown and it's set to Duke Ellington music. It's lovely. Then the official honoree is Robbie Kenner, who is a long time documentary filmmaker. We're going to be screening Food, Inc., which was an Academy nominated film for him. He's also done Command and Control, which we screened in 2017. We've shown several of his films. Merchants of Doubt got the Audience Award. So, we'll give that award to Robbie and what we're doing is his dear friend and cinematographer Don Lenzer, who lives in East Hampton, we'll be having a conversation with him before Food, Inc., because we know it's a long night and we want people to experience Robbie and all his talent. So, about nine o'clock or so we'll screen Food, Inc.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

JL: I'm always so proud of the Free Community Day on Monday. We have wonderful films and the shorts program is sold out. It's reserved out - you don't have to pay for it, but you have to reserve a seat. It's primarily driven by Jane Martin, a local. Her film is called What is Love? There are many people on the East End of Long Island who are in it because she's interviewing them, asking them what is love, what does love mean to you? It's partnered with the other short, Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If You're a Girl). This is shortlisted for an Academy Award. It's a delightfully charming film that will touch your heart.

Very Ralph, Susan Lacy's film on Ralph Lauren, is playing on Sunday. And then Mirra Bank, who is our Filmmakers Choice Award, she's screening No Fear No Favor, and it's a premiere. She's thrilled about it and we're thrilled about it. It's also receiving the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award.

The films really run the gamut, which is why programming is always such a challenge for us because there's so many really good films. But to put together a good program that we think audiences will like is always a challenge and so far we've been successful. This is our twelfth year.

Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Southampton Arts Center is located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. For tickets, visit www.hamptonsdocfest.com.

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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