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A Week of Award-Winning Docs

Mon, 11/27/2023 - 15:15
Wim Wenders's 3-D film features Anselm Kiefer's art, his creative process, and his fascination with myth and history.

Hamptons Doc Fest, now in its 16th year, has grown from four documentaries to 30, presented over seven days. This year's event will begin Thursday, with screenings at both the Sag Harbor Cinema and the 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,” said 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 festival's Pennebaker Career Achievement Award, first presented in 2011 to Richard Leacock, will be given to Matthew Heineman on Saturday by Lana Jokel, a filmmaker and the award's sponsor, and Chris Hegedus, Pennebaker's partner and co-filmmaker.

Mr. Heineman is an Academy Award-nominated and nine-time Emmy Award-winning director, whose subjects have included the war in Afghanistan ("Retrograde"), the drug war in Mexico ("Cartel Land"), ISIS in Syria ("City of Ghosts"), and Covid ("The First Wave").

The awards ceremony will begin at 6:30 with a cocktail-buffet reception, followed by the presentation at 8, and the screening of "American Symphony," Mr. Heineman's latest film. Its subject is Jon Batiste, the former bandleader and musical director of "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert."

The film follows Mr. Batiste as he is preparing his original composition, "American Symphony," for its premiere at Carnegie Hall at the same time that his wife is undergoing treatment for a rare form of leukemia. Variety called it "quite possibly one of the best love stories seen on film in over two decades."

As previously announced, the opening night film, to be screened at 8 on Thursday, is "In the Company of Rose," for which James Lapine, the director, conducted six years of interviews with Rose Styron, the widow of the writer William Styron. The film tells the story of her life as a poet, journalist, and human rights activist, with coverage of many of the events the Styrons hosted on Martha's Vineyard with the Kennedys, the Clintons, Leonard Bernstein, James Baldwin, and other luminaries. 

A new honor, the festival's first Posthumous Legacy Award, will be given in memory of Nancy Buirski, who died on Aug. 29. A filmmaker and the founder of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina, Buirski directed six award-winning documentaries.

Her film "The Loving Story," which illuminates the quest of an interracial couple to marry in Virginia -- a pursuit that led to a Supreme Court decision outlawing anti-miscegenation laws -- will be shown on Sunday, when the filmmaker's sister Judith Cohen will accept the award.

Heather Dune Macadam will receive the festival's Human Rights Award for her film "999: The Forgotten Girls of the Holocaust," which tells the little-known story of 999 teenaged girls who were the first official Jewish prisoners sent to Auschwitz. 

This year's Human Impact Award will be received by Regina K. Scully, the founder of the Artemis Rising Foundation, for the film "Obsessed With Light," which the foundation co-produced. Directed by Sabine Krayenbuhl and Zeva Oelbaum, the film recalls the life of an early 20th-century original, Loie Fuller, a pioneer of modern dance who revolutionized the visual culture of the time.

"Deep Rising," a film by Matthew Rytz that exposes the International Seabed Authority, a secretive organization that greenlights the extraction of metals from the deep seabed floor, is the winner of the Environmental Award.

The Art and Inspiration Award will be given to "Call Me Dancer," a film by Leslie Shampaine, a retired ballet dancer, and Pip Gilmour, which tells the story of Manish Chauhan, a young street dancer in Mumbai, India, whose dream is to become a professional ballet dancer despite the disapproval of his parents.

Dan Rather, who over his 60-year career as a journalist covered major events including the Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassination, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, is the subject of "Rather," which will close the festival on Wednesday. Directed by Frank Marshall, the film includes the 92-year-old's reflections on his decades on the 20th century's front lines, and on the future of democracy.

James Ivory, as part of Merchant Ivory Productions with Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, has earned seven Academy Awards, including, most recently, the best adapted screenplay Oscar in 2018 for "Call Me By Your Name." Now in his mid-90s, Mr. Ivory's "A Cooler Climate" takes stock of his long career.

Two acclaimed artists come together in Wim Wenders's "Anselm," a 3-D portrait of Anselm Kiefer's five decades of creating monumental paintings and sculpture, his move from Germany to France, and his fascination with myth and history. Mr. Wenders's films include "Buena Vista Social Club," "Wings of Desire," and "Paris, Texas," for which he won BAFTA's best-direction award.

Few docs are more timely than "Mourning in Lod," Hilla Medalia's film that explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of three people whose fates are linked in a cycle of violence in the city of Lod.

Shere Hite rose to fame with her 1976 best-selling book, "The Hite Report," which examined female sexuality. Nicole Newnham's "The Disappearance of Shere Hite" ponders why Hite vanished from public view decades before her death in 2020.

Antonia Singla, once considered the world's best flamenco dancer, also disappeared without a trace at the height of her fame. In "La Singla," the director Paloma Zapata tracks down the dancer to find out why.

In addition to 23 features, the festival will include two programs of short documentaries. Many of the filmmakers will participate in question-and-answer sessions after their films are shown. 

Tickets are $15, $25 for the opening night and tribute films; $60 for the Pennebaker Award program. A festival pass is $300. The festival's website is the place to go for tickets and the complete schedule.

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