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A new signature film program devoted to animal rights, called Compassion, Justice and Animal Rights will debut at the 2015 Hamptons International Film Festival.  The new program will provide a platform for filmmakers to share meaningful information, stories of inspiration, and tools for creating a safe and humane world for animals.  Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights will explore this important movement on film, bringing together animal advocacy, environmental and social justice issues.

The Animal Rights platform will look to awaken respect for the dignity and rights of living beings, and will allow filmmakers to share information and tools to create a safe and humane world.

“Billions of animals continue to be abused every day and denied their basic right to life and protection against violence and cruelty,” said David Nugent, HIFF Artistic Director. “This new signature program will allow the Festival to join the important film movement that brings justice to animals, an effort that has been increasing impact and visibility worldwide.”

In 2015, the HIFF Animal Rights program will consist of a small collection of narrative and/or documentary films within the theme screened at the Festival, a private reception, and the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Prize, which will be awarded to one of these films at the HIFF Awards Ceremony in October. Past winners of this award, which has been part of our awards ceremony for the past three years, include Virunga (Oscar® Nominee), Emptying the Skies, and HBO’s One Nation, Under Dog.

This year’s Animal Rights lineup will include the world premiere of the documentary THE CHAMPIONS, directed by Darcy Dennett.  The Champions is an inspirational story about the pit-bulls rescued from the brutal fighting ring of Atlanta Falcon’s star quarterback Michael Vick, and those who risked it all to save them, despite pressure from PETA and The Humane Society to euthanize the dogs. A story of second-chances, redemption and hope, this uplifting documentary takes us on a journey about much more than just dogs—about prejudice, being misunderstood, the power of resilience, and the significance of the relationship we as humans have with animals.

Gary Winick

The festival also announced today that the popular Festival conversations held at Rowdy Hall (the series formerly known as the Rowdy Talks) has been renamed the Winick Talks at Rowdy Hall, in honor of the late film director and producer Gary Winick (pictured above on the set of “Charlotte’s Web”).

Gary Winick, who was a longtime fan and supporter of the Hamptons International Film Festival—he considered the Hamptons his second home—won the HIFF Audience Award in 1999 for his drama The Tic Code, starring Gregory Hines, Polly Draper, and Chris Marquette. As a director, Winick’s other films included Tadpole, 13 Going on 30, andLetters to Juliet; his producing credits include Tape and Chelsea Walls. He passed away in 2011.

The Gary Winick Memorial Fund, which was established to help young filmmakers hone their craft and further the art of cinema, will support the Winick Talks at Rowdy Hall. The fund previously created scholarships at the American Film Institute and Tufts University, both schools Winick attended.

The Winick Talks at Rowdy Hall will take place three mornings in a row (October 9-11) at the East Hampton restaurant, featuring guest artists in moderated conversation, with audience participation. Topics and speakers will be announced soon. The events are free, and the public is invited to attend; coffee and light breakfast will be served.

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