Skip to main content

The Mast-Head: Jury of Three

Wed, 10/04/2023 - 17:43

The young woman leaned forward. We were four: Our handler had led us to a tiny basement room until we could make a decision. She had a clipboard and a single communications earpiece. The overhead fluorescent tubes hummed.

It was toward the end of the 2014 Hamptons International Film Festival, and I had been asked to be a juror in the documentary film competition. I had some background in the field to be chosen, but I had been surprised when invited. It had been more than 10 years since I had last worked on a film, having returned to my hometown to run the newspaper.

My fellow jurors were Lilly Hartley, a documentary producer now on the film festival board, and Stephen Whitty, at the time the chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. I felt like the piker in the room, still do. Both Lilly and Stephen have Wikipedia pages, while I do not. Up to this point, we had scarcely spoken. All the films in competition were solid. This was going to be tough.

The film festival was still a young thing in 1998, when I left Manhattan for good. My life on 11th Street had become smaller, in a way, reading the paper, going to work, and thinking mostly about the weekend and if I could make the Cannonball to East Hampton. Plus, I wanted a dog. Keeping a dog in the city had never made sense to me, having grown up out here where a dog’s life included lots of rolling in the grass and long runs on the ocean beach. Getting a hold of a badge and taking in film after film during the festival provided a bit of what I had left behind in the city.

I don’t remember how many entries were in the documentary competition. The full-length winner we settled on was an Italian film about three friends, one on the autism spectrum who had difficulties with prospective partners; the friends set off by car across Europe on a mission to solve them. In truth, it had not been my top choice at first. For me it had been a toss-up between one about educators who try to teach peace in Israel and one about the execution of a Black man in Huntsville, Tex. But, in the end, we were a jury and would have to settle on one of them.

Time seemed to stop, as we talked in the basement room. Then it happened so fast. We selected our winner and could finally go on our way. Walking back to The Star, I thought that I ought to write to the filmmakers who had not won to express my admiration, but I never did. Something else came up, and my little world moved on.


Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.