‘First Reformed’ in New Sag Cinema Winter Series

Paul Schrader will discuss his work after the screening
In “First Reformed,” the suicide of an environmental activist leads his pastor (Ethan Hawke) to an E.P.A. Superfund site, where he eventually scatters his congregant’s ashes.

For those who missed Paul Schrader’s award-wining film “First Reformed” when it played in East Hampton, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is providing a second chance on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Guild Hall when the center launches Present Tense, a new winter series.

Mr. Schrader, who wrote “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and whose 23 directorial credits include “Blue Collar” and “American Gigolo,” will discuss his work with Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, the head of the cinema’s programming committee, after the screening.

A spiritual thriller, “First Reformed” stars Ethan Hawke as Ernst Toller, a solitary pastor at a small Dutch Reformed church with a dwindling congregation in upstate New York. When a pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) asks the pastor to counsel her husband, who is a radical environmentalist, Toller is forced to face his own tormented past and despairing future. The cast also includes Cedric Kyles, a.k.a. Cedric the Entertainer, who oversees a thriving megachurch nearby.

The New York Film Critics Circle and the Gotham Independent Film Awards honored Mr. Schrader for best screenplay and Mr. Hawke as best actor. Mr. Hawke also took the best actor award from the National Society of Film Critics.   

On reading the script for “First Reformed,” Mr. Hawke saw similarities to the screenplay for “Taxi Driver,” which Mr. Schrader wrote for Martin Scorsese in 1976. “It’s the same voice and tone, with some of the same themes,” said Mr. Hawke on the film’s website. “The questioning and the seeking are the same. The theme of loneliness is universal in his writing.”

The Present Tense series is “an adventurous mix of new releases, classics, documentaries, and rarely screened subversive comedies that speak in a variety of ways and styles to our present political and cultural time,” according to Ms. Vallan. Subsequent screenings will take place at various East End venues.

Other titles in the series will include “The Second Civil War,” Joe Dante’s prophetic 1997 satire about border closings and a wave of anti-immigration fever gripping the U.S.; “Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed,” a 2004 documentary about Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman; “Gabriel Over the White House,” a 1933 film starring Walter Huston as a weak president transformed into an all-powerful dictator after a near-fatal car crash, and “Little Murders,” Jules Feiffer’s adaptation of his play about random violence and the romance between two neurotic New Yorkers.

Tickets to “First Reformed” are $15 online and at the door. Other titles, screening dates, and guest presenters will be announced at a future date.