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Hamptons International Film Festival: 'Rowdy' talk on local cancer rates

Rowdy Hall in East Hampton.

Rowdy Hall in East Hampton. Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler

Two directors with films that touch on Long Island cancer victims showed up for the first of this year's "Rowdy Talks" series, which take place mornings at Rowdy Hall, the back-alley bar and grill in East Hampton.

Cynthia Wade (the Oscar-winning short "Freeheld") discussed her film "Mondays at Racine," about an Islip salon that holds monthly free sessions for women battling breast cancer. Don Argott talked about his documentary "The Atomic States of America," which investigates problems at Brookhaven National Laboratory and other nuclear sites.

The hour-long discussion, moderated by Yahoo! film critic Thelma Adams, touched on a range of subjects, from radiation leaks to contaminated drinking water to the toll that cancer can take on a marriage. (Wade's film features interviews with at least one couple that split during treatment.)

In the small audience of perhaps two dozen were researchers, activists and people with cancer in their families. "It's not just about drinking water," said one man. "It's about showers and what's in your garden. It's everywhere."

The take-home message seemed to be that the connection between nuclear installations and cancer remains a less-than-urgent issue for most.

"Radiation is a tough thing to capture in a film," said Argot. "There's this idea of running from the invisible. You can get in your car and drive, but where are you going? Where is it?"

Wade said people with cancer don't always have the luxury to take up any bigger causes. "They become completely consumed with fighting their battle," she said. "It's really hard to see the larger picture when you're sick and missing work and fighting for your life." (Mondays  at Racine airs on HBO in 2013.)

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