The seventh annual Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival (HT2FF) kicks off Thursday, December 4, and runs through Sunday, December 7, at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. The Opening Night Film is the New York premiere of “The Big Beat,” directed by local resident Joe Lauro, a filmmaker of music documentaries, chronicles the life of the legendary rhythm and blues singer-songwriter, Antoine “Fats” Domino, from his childhood roots in the music mecca of New Orleans to his defining partnership with pioneer music producer Dave Bartholomew. Beautifully told through interviews and archival footage, the film celebrates a man whose musical style and sensibility influenced many artists of the 60’s and 70’s and landed him on the Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
During the day Thursday, December 4, the festival features a special “Focus on Locals” Day, highlighting other home-grown documentary filmmaking talent on Long Island. Other films at “Focus on Locals” Day include a special Young Voices Program of short docs from students at Hayground School; a segment of three films including a film on a Westbury boxing gym, “A Fighting Chance on L.I;” and “Welcome to Soldier Ride” by directors Matthew Hindra and Nicholas Kraus, a moving documentary about the coast-to-coast bicycle rides, first by Chris Carney of the Stephen Talkhouse bar in Amagansett and now by war veteran amputees across the country, in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Friday night showcases the festival’s Spotlight Film, “The 50 Year Argument” directed by Martin Scorsese and co-directed by David Tedechi. The film is a hop-scotching journey through the history of the New York Review of Books, which marked its 50th anniversary in 2013. Anchored by the old world charm of its editor, Robert Silvers, the film is a celebratory love letter to a New York institution. Participating in the Q&A will also be Jason Epstein, co-founder of the NY Review of Books.
Also screening that day are “Basta” directed by Gary Bergeron, about three victims of the Catholic clergy abuse scandal in Boston, who traveled to the Vatican in search of help and hope; Future Voices—a segment including four student films from New York City media arts centers; “Here One Day,” an emotionally candid film about a woman coping with mental illness, by director Kathy Leichter; and Emerging Voices— two films presented in collaboration with the MFA program at the New York School of Visual Arts Social Documentary Film Department and introduced by documentary filmmaker and SVA professor Deborah Dickson: “When People Die They Sing Songs,” about a Holocaust survivor in music therapy, by director Olga Lvoff; and “Follow Me to Masdar: The First Carbon-Free City” directed by John Paul Redmond.
On Saturday night, December 6, HT2FF will honor two-time Academy Award-winning documentarian Barbara Kopple with a Lifetime Achievement Award at a Gala; and also a screening of Kopple’s 1976 Academy Award-winning documentary “Harlan County USA” about the 1973 Brookside coal miner’s strike in Kentucky. Kopple’s work over four decades has consistently embraced issues of social responsibility and change, as also seen in her Academy Award-winning film “American Dream,” which examines the Hormel Foods strike in Austin, Minnesota in 1985-86. She was the first woman to win two Oscars in the Best Documentary Feature category, and “Harlan County USA” was placed on the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1990 and designated an American Film Classic. She more recently examined the lives of the three Hemingway sisters in “Running From Crazy.”
Other Saturday films include the Best Shorts Program of four short films; the art film “Imber’s Left Hand” by Oceanside-raised director Richard Kane, about painter John Imber, who was diagnosed with ALS; a two-film segment including Eva won Schweinitz’ “A Film Is a Film Is a Film,” followed by the New York premiere of “Bending the Light” by director Michael Apted (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”) about the artisans who create camera lenses and the photographers who use them; and “Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq” directed by Nancy Buirski, a film about the great ballerina who inspired both Jerome Robbins and became George Balanchine’s wife and muse, but who contracted polio at the age of 27 and never danced again.
The festival concludes on Sunday, December 7, with the Closing Night Film, the Filmmaker’s Choice Award, which this year goes to Wendy Keys of Southampton, director of the documentary “Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight.” The film is a warm and insightful view of the iconic American graphic designer of the “I Love NY” campaign and the founder of New York Magazine. Ms. Keys has a long history as both an administrator and programmer at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, 1966-2008.
Other films that day include “Men of Cloth” directed by Vicki Vasilopoulos, about three Italian master tailors in the twilight of their careers; “112 Weddings” by Doug Block (“51 Birch Street”), a wedding filmmaker who tracks down and interviews years later, some of his favorite couples; “Ballet 422” by Jody Lee Lipes, about New York City Ballet dancer Justin Peck’s creation of the 422nd new ballet, Paz de la Jolla, for the NYC Ballet; and “TWA Flight 800” directed by Kristina Borjesson, about the team of investigators who come forward to uncover what really happened when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, in 1996.