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Hamptons Life

Oct 6, 2009 12:41 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Jurors at Film Festival hope to be astonished and inspired

Oct 6, 2009 12:41 PM

The judges in this year’s Golden Starfish Award competition at the Hamptons International Film Festival are hoping to be inspired and astonished by the five narrative feature films vying for the festival’s top prize.

This year, the three jurors will be New York Press film critic Armond White, who was recently named chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, Parrish Art Museum Executive Director Terrie Sultan and noted director, producer and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, who has a home in East Hampton.

The Golden Starfish Award for a narrative feature film includes $166,000 in in-kind services.

The five entries are from filmmakers who span the globe, from the Danish director Martin Pieter Zandvliet’s “Applause,” which follows the life of an alcoholic actress struggling to regain custody of her sons, to Israeli director Keren Yedaya’s “Jaffa,” which chronicles the family drama of a Jewish girl who falls in love with an Arab man, to Belgian director Felix van Groeningen’s coming-of-age tale, “The Misfortunates.”

“A Rational Solution,” from Swedish director Jorgen Bergmark, tells the story of a man whose solution to having an affair with his best friend’s wife is to have both families move in together. And “Ajami,” an Israeli/German collaboration between directors Scandar Copti and Yaran Shan, is a crime drama set in a Jaffa neighborhood teeming with conflict.

The films will face tough criticism. Mr. White, who has established a reputation as a harsh critic, said that he’s looking to be nothing less than blown away by the entries.

“I am no contrarian; everyone else is a conformist,” he said of his methodology as a critic. “I go to the Orson Welles dictum: ‘astonish me.’ If I’m not astonished, I think my time has been wasted. That’s not asking too much.”

This is Mr. White’s first year as a judge at HIFF, though he has served on juries at the Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival. He will also participate in a panel discussion and reception for the New York Film Critics Circle’s 75th anniversary at the festival on Saturday, October 10 at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church Session House in East Hampton.

Mr. White said that the awards given out by the 31 members of the Film Critics Circle at the end of the year should rightly be judged among the most prestigious in the country.

“We ought to be the best. We’re not a late coming group,” he said. “Other groups just give out awards, but we work all year long reviewing films and only give out awards at the end of the process.”

A longtime cinephile, Ms. Sultan is a newcomer to judging film, though she has served on many fine arts juries.

“The Parrish has had a fairly long-standing relationship with HIFF and it had been a venue,” she said. “This year they talked to us about doing a reception after one of the films to be shown in Southampton. I love film and I told them how important moving pictures are to understanding the visual arts.”

Ms. Sultan, like Mr. White, has not yet seen the films, and she said that she plans to go see them at the theater rather than watching screeners and will discuss them with her fellow judges before making a final decision.

“I’m drawn to narratives that touch on important psychological or social issues. I look to be inspired or to be caused to think about things in a different way,” she said. “I go in with an open mind. I read a lot of film criticism anyway, which is part of my interest in how these mediums cross over from one to another.”

The Parrish will help play a role in the commingling of mediums on Saturday, October 10, when the museum hosts a reception after the 2 p.m. screening of “Con Artist,” a documentary about the work of visual artist Mark Kostabi, at the Southampton United Artists Theater.

“Mark Kostabi is a very interesting artist. He plays with the difference between popular culture and high art, and how those boundaries can be brought down,” Ms. Sultan said, adding that the film focuses on Mr. Kostabi’s creation of Kostabi World, a studio in Chelsea where teams of artists work on collaborative projects.

“It’s a contemporary take on Andy Warhol’s factory,” she said. “Mark will be here, as well as the director. It seemed like a natural collaboration.”

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