Unlike many festivals, which morph into very different shapes as they grow, the Hamptons Film Festival, which kicks off its 25th edition today, has remained nearly as consistent as Atlantic Ocean waves crashing on the sand.
Its approach has been shaped by its seasonal timing—early autumn, when days are sunny and crisp and awards season is just taking shape—and its location just 100 miles from New York City and in the hedge-bordered back yard of tastemakers and Oscar voters. It doesn’t strain to measure itself by world premieres and exclusives, though there are plenty. The emphasis instead is on a well-curated slate and a handful of concentrated days of cinephilia along the dunes.
“The goal all along has been to create something that’s cemented on the calendar and looked forward to every year and we’ve achieved that,” executive director Anne Chaisson told Deadline.
“From the first conversations between Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, it was clear the caliber of artists in the community we would be able to tap into,” said David Nugent, HFF’s artistic director. Spielberg, whose HBO portrait will be screening during the festival, has had numerous of his films shown at HFF and once served on its board, which is now co-chaired by Alec Baldwin and also includes notable names like Darren Star and longtime New Line co-head Michael Lynne.
Nugent noted that the past seven Best Picture Oscar winners have screened at the festival. Over its quarter-century run, it has helped launch titles like Open Water, which world-premiered at the Hamptons before charming Sundance and going on to $55 million in worldwide box office; and Short Term 12, an indie breakout developed in the festival’s lab.
This year’s slate features 11 world premieres out of 65 total features, which include the U.S. premiere of I, Tonya, on closing night, with Margo Robbie attending, and similar platforms for The Shape of Water (with Richard Jenkins) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (with Sam Rockwell). An “anatomy of a scene” event for Get Out will feature director Jordan Peele and producer Jason Blum. A new annual award will be inaugurated in Hamptons resident Dick Cavett’s name, and lifetime achievement honors given to Julie Andrews. The opening night film is a world premiere documentary, Itzhak, about violin master Itzhak Perlman, who, naturally, has a home in the Hamptons.