Hamptons International Film Festival 2012: Documentary Overview

Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, this year’s Hamptons International Film Festival is bigger than usual, drawing audiences to the storied Long Island townships that are home to some of the wealthiest people in the country. Among these are members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, which the festival has capitalized on – among its many offerings one can usually find some of the eventual frontrunners for the Oscars, viewed by Academy members at the five-day event, which begins this Thursday and runs through next Monday, October 8. Sadly, my schedule prevents me from attending this year, but I wanted to point out some of the highlights below.

Out of its nearly 100 feature presentations, the Hamptons includes an impressive forty documentaries, included in the World Cinema Documentaries and Golden Starfish Award Documentary Compeition sections, as well as the coveted Opening Night slot. The latter this year goes to Liz Garbus’ LOVE, MARILYN, based on recently-discovered writings by Marilyn Monroe, which was well-received at both Telluride and Toronto.

I’ve seen four of the five competition titles: Annie Eastman’s SXSW audience award winner, BAY OF ALL SAINTS, about life in the water slums of Bahia, Brazil; Tora Mårtens’ COLOMBIANOS, the story of two brothers confronting addiction and its impact on their family; Carlo Guillermo Proto’s EL HUASO, about the director’s father, contemplating suicide over fear that he’s developing Alzheimer’s; and TC Johnstone’s look at reconciliation in Rwanda through professional cycling, RISING FROM ASHES (pictured). I’ve not had a chance to see Jesse Vile’s JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET, about the musician, stricken with ALS just as he was poised to go on a major tour at the age of 20.

Of the 34 docs screening in the out-of-competition World Cinema Documentary section, I’ve already previously written about nearly a third of them out of other festivals. Among the remaining are a number of premieres, and out of these, I’d draw particular attention to the following: Neil Barsky’s KOCH (pictured), an engrossing and candid portrait of the controversial former NYC mayor; Greg Ammon’s 59 MIDDLE LANE, following the director in his search for his biological parents years after the highly publicized murder of his adoptive father in the Hamptons; Jyllian Gunther’s THE NEW PUBLIC, a profile of the growing pains of an ambitious new alternative Bed-Stuy high school; and the latest installment in Michael Apted’s groundbreaking septennial series, 56 UP.

I’m also curious about Alan Ssali Hofmanis and Ben Barenholtz’s WAKALIWOOD: THE DOCUMENTARY, expanding the sub-genre of docs about passionate filmmakers in the developing world with a look at a man who makes action films in the slums of Uganda; Stephanie Riggs’ THE STANDBYS, profiling three Broadway aspirants who wait in the wings for a shot at stardom – if the main cast member can’t go on; Peter Baxter’s WILD IN THE STREETS (pictured), which promises the spectacle of an entire British community literally facing off in a medieval version of soccer that spans their entire town; and Jesse James Miller’s THE GOOD SON: THE LIFE OF RAY “BOOM BOOM” MANCINI, in which the boxing legend is confronted by the son of the opponent he accidentally killed in the ring in 1982.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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