On Saturday, August 10th, my esteemed fellow film buff and social media guru, Twitter’s @ladivaflaca and I headed off to Easthampton for the annual Hamptons Film Festival. Grabbing our press passes at The Maidstone in East Hampton, we excitedly took in the world premiere of Harry Benson: Shoot First, a remarkably entertaining documentary about the prolific photographer who famously snapped the Beatles during their inaugural trip to the United States.
The film is a beautiful chronicle of famous moments captured by the incorrigible, wonderfully likeable and charming Benson, who photographed some of the most iconic people in modern history. From Muhammad Ali to Michael Jackson, Benson intimately befriended and photographed even the most reclusive celebrities. Benson, at the Q&A following the film, shared that one of his most enjoyable photo shoots was with the mysterious Bobby Fischer.
The HIFF Award for Best Documentary Feature Film went to Missing People directed by David Shapiro. This riveting documentary chronicles Martina Batan’s investigation into her young brother’s unsolved murder. Batan is the director of a prominent art gallery in New York and researches and collects works from New Orleans artist, Roy Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s artworks are famous for their graphic content depicting African American culture in pre-Katrina New Orleans. The story is motivated by Martina’s need for closure and her deep obsession with Ferdinand’s work.
The honorable mention for a documentary feature was Ilinca Calugareanu’s Chuck Norris VS Communism. Calugareanu, a London-based Romanian director and editor, showcases a story about escapism during a deep cultural blackout. This captivating documentary sheds a light on Romania in the 1980s when Western films were smuggled into unlicensed “video nights”. Most of the films were dubbed by the same person, Irina Nistor, who became one of the most recognizable voices in pre-revolution Romania. Calugareanu’s film shares a touching story on how the power of film created a cultural awakening to an suppressed nation.
Other HIFF 2015 winners include:
HIFF Award for Best Narrative Feature was Rams, Directed by: Grímur Hákonarson - a film about two brothers who live side by side but who have not spoken to each other for forty years.
Honorable mention went to Embrace Of The Serpent, Directed by Ciro Guerra - story about an Amazonian shaman and his journey with an American and German scientist in the search of the yakruna, a sacred plant in the Amazon.
In the Narrative Short Film category, “Over” a mystery by Jörn Threlfall took the prize and Honorable mention went to Eva Riley’s “Patriot”, a story about an 11-year-old girl whose father runs a far right group in London.
For a full list of awards and categories at the festival, click HERE.