Following a foggy, rainy week in New York, the weather made a dramatic turn for the best and offered plenty of sunshine in time for the Hamptons International Film Festival weekend.
Screening more than 100 features, docs and shorts over a long holiday weekend, the festival was jam-packed with panels, master classes and conversations, plus—not to be missed—fabulous parties in breathtaking locations.
The following is a selection of documentaries I caught:
Love, Etc., by Jill Andresevic, is a disarming documentary that looks at love across generations and across the five boroughs of New York. The film ranges from first love between teenagers in Soho all the way to long-lasting love between an 80-something couple in Brooklyn. Thrown into the mix is also a couple planning for their wedding day, a divorcee with kids looking for love, and a gay man about to become a single parent as he gets ready to welcome baby twins.
With a great selection of strong characters, Andresevic’s documentary is not only a film about love and all of its facets, it is also a celebration of the city of New York, its many faces, and its endless possibilities.
For her charming piece, Andresevic received the Audience Award.
Shelbyville is a small town in Tennessee whose community has been changing over the past decade. First the Latinos moved into the mixed community and, most recently a group of Somali refugees settled there. In her documentary, Welcome to Shelbyville, Filmmaker Kim Snyder examines how a small community deals with these new arrivals. Over the course of one year—with President Obama’s election and his inauguration as landmarks—she captures the confusion and conflicts within the community while also displaying the courage of a few committed citizens that are determined to challenge and change the fabric of this community—from suspicion, to curiosity.
The film provides a simple motto: meeting the other is a first step to living with another. We learn that it only takes a few courageous people to make a huge difference. Welcome to Shelbyville is truly an encouraging work!
Welcome to Shelbyville has been selected as part of the U.S. State Department’s 2010 American Documentary Showcase, and will be broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens in 2011.
Learning about the other is also the theme of Lisa Gossels’ documentary, My So-Called Enemy. Eight years in the making, her work is a long-term observation of a group of Israeli and Palestinian girls who first met in 2002 at the Building Bridges for Peace summer camp in New Jersey. Besides capturing the girls’ interactions during the weeks at camp, Gossels keeps in touch with some of the girls after camp and, over the years, records their next steps in life. Gently inquiring and never confronting, Gossels shows how the time at summer-camp with the ‘So-Called Enemy’ has impacted and influenced each girl. For her engaging and emotional portrait, Gossels received the Brizzolara Family Conflict & Resolution Film Award at the Festival.
One highly anticipated documentary was Alex Gibney’s investigative documentary Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. Gibney’s documentary works well as a double bill together with Charles Ferguson’s provoking documentary Inside Job, and provides insights into the dirty dynamics between Wall Street financing and politics. And similar to Inside Job, which proposes that the financial crisis was homemade, Client 9 also suggests that Spitzer’s fall from grace, when it was discovered that he was a regular client of a NEW YORK escort service, may have been provoked and pushed by an insider.
Gibney portrays Spitzer as a hard working, highly ambitious and hard hitting fighter—exposing and prosecuting high level executives and financial titans, so one wonders why he so readily caved in and resigned from his position. Client 9 is a tightly knit piece, with just the right mix of titillating tidbits and hard-core politics.
These four documentaries were just a fraction of the overall selection, so the festival and its programmers are to be congratulated for a good harvest! More to look forward to for next year!
For more information on the festival and this year’s award winners, please visit: www.hamptonsfilmfest.org