HIFF Will Screen Hit Art House Films Locally This Winter

Beginning with “Maria by Callas” and "Shoplifters"
“Shoplifters,” Japan’s submission for best foreign language film at the 2019 Academy Awards, is the story of a group of society’s castoffs who become a family in the face of adversity.

The Hamptons International Film Festival’s Now Showing series, launched last winter to bring to the South Fork notable films currently in theaters elsewhere, will return with a series of screenings, starting on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Guild Hall with “Maria by Callas,” a documentary by Tom Volf. 

Callas, who died in 1977 at the age of 53, was one of the most celebrated opera singers of the modern era. With access to archival material, interviews, unpublished letters, rare live footage, and personal Super 8-millimeter films, Mr. Volf tells the singer’s story entirely in her own words. One result is that Callas’s reputation as a tempestuous diva is shown to have no basis in fact.

“We know that filmgoers out east are some of the most passionate opera fans there are,” Anne Chaisson, the executive director of the film festival, said, “and to see — and hear! — from Maria Callas in her own voice is a rare treat. It was a huge hit during this year’s festival and worthy of a view from those who missed it.”

Now on view in theaters, “Maria by Callas” was called “an excellent introduction to Callas’s artistry” by Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times, who added that the documentary “revitalizes history through primary sources, to illuminating, at times enthralling, effect.” It will also be shown on Dec. 29 at 6 p.m.

The opera diva Maria Callas in a still used in a documentary about her life that will be screened on Saturday and Dec. 29 at Guild Hall

The second in the series, “Shoplifters,” which will be shown at Guild Hall on Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is Japan’s submission for best foreign language film at the 2019 Academy Awards. It is the story of a group of society’s castoffs, united by loyalty and their poverty, who survive by petty stealing and grifting.

“ ‘Shoplifters’ is directed by one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, Hirokazu Kore-eda, who also wrote and edited the film,” said Ms. Chaisson. “It has received accolades and awards from around the world. It is a beautiful tale of a family that forms in the face of adversity. Variety even compared it to ‘Oliver Twist.’ It’s truly a must-see film.”

The Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan has called the filmmaker “a master of unforced intimacy” and described “Shoplifters” as “delicate, poignant, and unexpectedly powerful.” 

Ms. Chaisson noted that two years ago the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary with a screening of a film from each year at various venues from January through October. “We realized that there was an extremely enthusiastic audience for independent and foreign films all year long. That revelation spurred the creation of Now Showing.”

“These films are currently in theaters and would not have made it out to the East End without our close relationship with the distributors who exhibit them. The goal is to make sure that these films and filmmakers get to our appreciative audiences so everyone gets the benefit of experiencing new voices in film.”

Tickets to all Now Showing screenings are $15, $10 for film festival and Guild Hall members. Subsequent programs at Guild Hall, whose titles have yet to be announced, will take place on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, 16, and 23. The series will continue throughout the year at various venues.