16th Annual Hamptons Doc Fest Will Screen 30 Films - 27 East

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16th Annual Hamptons Doc Fest Will Screen 30 Films

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This year’s Hamptons Doc Fest's Pennebaker Career Achievement Award honoree is Matthew Heineman. COURTESY HDF

This year’s Hamptons Doc Fest's Pennebaker Career Achievement Award honoree is Matthew Heineman. COURTESY HDF

authorStaff Writer on Nov 6, 2023

Hamptons Doc Fest celebrates its 16th year with an enlarged seven-day festival of 30 enlightening documentary films screening November 30 to December 6 in Sag Harbor, at both the Sag Harbor Cinema and Bay Street Theater.

“Our 2023 documentary program promises you the power and experience of quality storytelling that surprises us, makes us think and feel, and connects us with wider ideas and concepts,” says Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of Hamptons Doc Fest. “Plus the festival provides us as always with a festive, celebratory opening to the holiday season.”

The Opening Night Film at Sag Harbor Cinema on November 30, will feature director James Lapine’s “In the Company of Rose” about the life of Rose Styron, widow of novelist William Styron, while Frank Marshall’s “Rather” about CBS newscaster Dan Rather closes the festival at Bay Street Theater on December 6.

The line-up in between includes films about artists, musicians, dancers, fashion and photography, nature and the environment, biography, history and human rights.

“Among the many award-winning films and talented filmmakers we have invited to our festival,” states the festival’s artistic director Karen Arikian, “we are honored to recognize the stellar career of Matt Heineman with our Pennebaker Career Achievement Award; Artemis Rising Foundation with our Impact Award to Regina K. Scully; and new this year, our Legacy Award, given posthumously to filmmaker Nancy Buirski. We are also thrilled to be showing Wim Wenders’s “Anselm” — shot in 3D — about artist Anselm Kiefer, as well as to warmly welcome master filmmaker James Ivory with his film ‘A Cooler Climate.’”

An annual tradition, the festival also presents its Young Voices Program to hundreds of local middle and high school students on December 6 at Bay Street Theater, where award-winning filmmaker Roger Sherman will conduct a hands-on workshop after the screening of a short film “Rocks 4 Sale!”

Hamptons Doc Fest Awards


On Saturday, December 2, at Bay Street Theater, Hamptons Doc Fest presents the prestigious Pennebaker Career Achievement Award to Matthew Heineman for “tackling difficult and often hard-to-access subjects while addressing great social truths.”

The Awards Gala starts at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail/buffet reception followed by the award presentation at 8 p.m. and the screening of Heineman’s latest film “American Symphony” (2023, 100 min.). The award, sponsored by filmmaker Lana Jokel, will be presented by Jokel and Chris Hegedus, Pennebaker’s partner and co-filmmaker.

Heineman, though only 40 years old, is already an Academy Award-nominated and nine-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, who takes on large subjects — such as the war in Afghanistan (“Retrograde”), the drug war in Mexico (“Cartel Land”), ISIS in Syria (“City of Ghosts”), COVID-19 (“The First Wave”) and the problems with healthcare (“Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare”). Heineman says you can “speak great social truths through the power of the documentary film.”

Among his many honors, “Cartel Land” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2016 and won the Director’s Guild of America’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary Award. Heineman also received the Director’s Guild Award for “City of Ghosts,” becoming one of only three people to receive the prestigious honor twice.

The subject of the Heineman’s new film “American Symphony” is composer and instrumentalist Jon Batiste, the former bandleader and musical director for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” who is also an 11-time Grammy-nominated and Album-of-the-Year winner in 2022 for his album We Are.

The documentary, which is considered a frontrunner for an Oscar nomination, follows Batiste as he prepares his original composition, “American Symphony,” for its premiere at Carnegie Hall at the same time his wife, writer Suleika Jaouad, is undergoing medical treatment for her rare form of leukemia.

The Pennebaker Award is named in honor of the late documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, a long-time Sag Harbor resident and pioneer in non-fiction film. Previous recipients of the award include Richard Leacock, Susan Lacy, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, Barbara Kopple, Stanley Nelson, Alex Gibney, Liz Garbus, Sheila Nevins, Robert Kenner, Frederick Wiseman, Dawn Porter and Sam Pollard.

Receiving this year’s Art & Inspiration Award and also honored as a HDF Spotlight Film is “Call Me Dancer” (2023, 84 min.), which will be shown at the Sag Harbor Cinema on Thursday, November 30, at 5:30 p.m., followed by a live Q&A with its co-director Leslie Shampaine, a professional ballet dancer.

In this heart-warming, joyful film about the power of dance, co-directed by Shampaine and Pip Gilmour, Manish Chauhan, a young street dancer in Mumbai, India, yearns to become a professional dancer. He goes against his parents’ wishes and secretly attends an inner-city dance school in Mumbai, where he meets Yehuda, a curmudgeonly 70-year old Israeli teacher. Together they transform each other’s lives in this film, featuring music by Indian singers and composers.

Recipient of this year’s Impact Award is Regina K. Scully, the founder of the Artemis Rising Foundation, dedicated to media projects that transform culture, for the film “Obsessed with Light” (2023, 90 min.). Co-presented with New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), the film, directed by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, will be screened at the Sag Harbor Cinema on Friday, December 1, at 7:30 p.m., followed by a live Q&A with NYWIFT executive director Cynthia Lopez and the two directors. A cocktail reception follows.

The film reveals the life of Loïe Fuller, a wildly original dancer, who combined dance, light and fabric, and was also an inventor who over a century ago pioneered and patented the creative use of electric lighting for the stage, used by rock stars of today.

The Hamptons Doc Fest’s first Legacy Award will be awarded posthumously to Nancy Buirski, a beloved documentary film festival director and filmmaker who died on August 29. The award will be presented by her co-HDF advisory board members Susan Margolin and Chris Hegedus to Buirski’s sister, Judith Cohen, at a tribute on Sunday, December 3, 2 p.m. at the Sag Harbor Cinema, where her film “The Loving Story” (77 min.) will also be shown.

Buirski had established the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina in 1998 and later went on to direct six award-winning feature documentaries, including a trilogy exploring racial justice (“The Loving Story,” “The Rape of Racy Taylor,” “A Crime on the Bayou”) and most recently ,“Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy” in 2022.

“The Loving Story” recounts the story of Mildred and Richard Loving’s quest as an interracial couple to marry in the state of Virginia, leading to a historic Supreme Court decision outlawing anti-miscegenation laws.

Receiving this year’s HDF Human Rights Award will be director and East End resident Heather Dune Macadam for her film “999: The Forgotten Girls of the Holocaust” (2023, 99 min.). It will be screened at Bay Street Theater on Tuesday, December 5, at 8 p.m., followed by a live Q&A with Macadam, who is also the author of the critically-acclaimed book on which the film is based — “999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Transport to Auschwitz,” which has been translated into 19 languages.

The film recounts the untold story of the first official Jewish prisoners of Auschwitz —999 teenage Jewish girls whom the Nazis ordered the Slovak government to send to Auschwitz in the spring of 1942 as a slave labor force.

“Deep Rising” (2023, 93 min.) is this year’s winner of the HDF Environmental Award, to be screened on Wednesday, December 6, 4:30 p.m. at Bay Street Theater. Directed by Matthew Rytz, a visual anthropologist by training, the film represents a gripping tale of geopolitical, scientific and corporate intrigue that exposes the International Seabed Authority, a secretive organization that greenlights the massive extraction of metals from the deep seabed floor, thus destroying this last pristine environment for profit.

Opening Night Film


The Hamptons Doc Fest’s Opening Night Film, screening on Thursday, November 30, 8 p.m. at Sag Harbor Cinema, is “In the Company of Rose” (2023, 85 min.), which will be followed by a live Q&A with Tony Award-winning director James Lapine, a Zoom Q&A with Rose Styron, and also a cocktail reception.

Over six years of interviews on Martha’s Vineyard with Rose Styron, the widow of American novelist William Styron (“Lie Down in Darkness,” “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” “Sophie’s Choice”), James Lapine records the story of her complex life as a poet, journalist and human rights activist during their 53-year marriage, and the many events they hosted in their home with Martha’s Vineyard luminaries including the Kennedys, Clintons, Leonard Bernstein, Philip Roth, Arthur Miller and James Baldwin.

Some of Lapine’s many achievements include three Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical for “Into the Woods,” “Falsettos” and “Passion”; his direction of the Broadway play “Sunday in the Park with George”; and his documentary on Stephen Sondheim, “Six by Sondheim,” which won a Peabody Award.

Closing Night Film


Honored as the Hamptons Doc Fest’s Closing Night Film on Wednesday, December 6, 7 p.m. at Bay Street Theater will be “Rather” (2023, 95 min.) a documentary about journalist Dan Rather’s over 60-year career, covering some of the most seminal events in 20th century history, such as the Vietnam War, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now 92, Rather can reflect on his decades of service, and without the pressure of deadlines, look to the future of democracy and a dedication to the truth. Following the film will be a Zoom Q&A with his grandson Martin Rather, who is a participant in the film.

Director Frank Marshall and his wife Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg are creators of the production company Amblin Entertainment. Marshall is one of the few creatives to have received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (EGOT).

Tickets and passes for films are available at hamptonsdocfest.com. No tickets will be sold at the theater box offices, though a limited number may be purchased by credit card at the festival table in the theater lobby prior to a film, if available. A festival pass is $300 and includes admission to all films and events at both venues. Tickets to the Opening Night Film and the Impact Award, both including a reception at Sag Harbor Cinema, are $25. The Pennebaker Gala at Bay Street Theater is $60. A new feature this year, Shorts & Breakfast Bites, on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Bay Street Theater at 10 a.m. are $15 each. Tickets to individual films at both venues are $15.

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