Virtual Hamptons Doc Fest to open with Martin Luther King film
Like pretty much every other live annual event, this year's Hamptons Doc Fest has gone virtual, but that doesn't mean it's been scaled back. In fact, the 13th annual festival, which runs Friday through Dec. 13, has been expanded from five to 10 days and is reaching out to what could be its broadest audience yet.
"We're not limited to the local geographic area. We can essentially reach across the country," said Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of the Hamptons Doc Fest. "That certainly is one of the opportunities."
While the decision to hold a festival this year was fraught with technical challenges that required additional staff, Lofaro said there was no shortage of entries to choose from.
"The submissions from filmmakers ... [were] very robust. They didn’t have the usual film festival circuit to go through, and we’re a later festival, so we received a lot of entries," she said.
Among them is Sam Pollard's "MLK/FBI," Friday's opener at 7 p.m. which looks at the FBI's surveillance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Black activists during the Civil Rights movement. The film be streamed through Dec. 13, along with the other documentaries which premiere on Saturday.
Another high-profile feature is "City Hall," a four-hour-plus film about Boston's city government directed by Frederick Wiseman, the recipient of this year's Pennebaker Career Achievement Award name for documentarian and Sag Harbor resident D.A. Pennebaker. Wiseman's taped acceptance speech follows the screening.
Naturally, Long Island plays a role in several of the films. "Barney’s Wall: Portrait of a Game Changer" chronicles Grove Press publisher and longtime Hamptonite Barney Rosset, who created a mural as a visual memoir of his life and political activism.
Another with local ties is the short "A Long Walk to the Moon," which looks at former Grumman engineers who were involved in the construction of the Lunar Module for the Apollo program.
Other highlights include "United We Sing," about a choral group from the University of Rochester who bond with AIDS orphans in Africa; "Through the Night," which deals with two mothers and a child care provider whose paths cross at a 24-hour day care center; and "Fish and Men" about forces threatening local fishing communities and public health.
Many of the screenings will be followed by prerecorded Q & As with the filmmakers. "Up Close" video segments with the directors that precede most films are "a special treat" new to the festival this year, Lofaro said.
Tickets for individual films are $12 and can be purchased at hamptonsdocfest.com. Festival passes are also available for $125.
"We've also instituted a help hotline if people need help watching the films," Lofaro said. "We realize this is not like coming into the theater, finding a seat and just watching. Hopefully next year, it will be that way."