Spotlight on Spotlight Films

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp channels Hunter S. Thompson in a new film “The Rum Diary,” based on Thompson’s first novel set in Puerto Rico.

    While the focus of a film festival might be its opening, centerpiece, and closing films, four days is a long time to fill with programming. The Hamptons International Film Festival will augment these selections with its films in competition, a selection of innovative and well-received international offerings, and with an assortment of “Spotlight” films, typically movies that have a distributor and are due to be released in the next few weeks or months.
    Holly Herrick, a programmer and special programs producer for the festival, said on Monday that while the major studios are spending less time and money on films that are not ready-made franchises, they are also paying attention to ones that march to their own drummer. “Sure, there’s always a ‘Kung Fu Panda 17,’ enough already, but there is still the great stuff out there,” she said.
    These are films made with independent investors, “not produced from day one by the studios, but are getting studio distribution now.” It may be one of the reasons why buying at film festivals has picked up in the past year or so. And the resulting films appear to be very strong.
    In addition to the opening-night film, “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” the centerpiece film, “Like Crazy,” the Southampton opener, “Butter,” and the closing-night film, “The Artist,” a number of the spotlight films bring some intriguing buzz and much anticipation to this year’s event.
    In just the last few days, the festival has picked up some exciting additions. They include “Shame,” the latest offering from the British director Steve McQueen. “It’s a real thrill to be able to show this film,” said Ms. Herrick. It won three awards at the Venice Festival, including best film and best actor for Michael Fassbender. “It’s a film people will be talking about for a long time.” (Friday, Oct. 14, 5 p.m. at Guild Hall, and Oct. 16, 7 p.m. at Sag Harbor.)            The festival also picked up “Deep Blue Sea,” starring Rachel Weisz, about a love triangle in post-World War II England, from a play by Terence Rattigan and directed by Terence Davies. (Friday, Oct. 14, 7:15 p.m. UA2, and Oct. 15, 8 p.m., UA1.) Ms. Herrick said Ms. Weisz’s performance was “stunning.”
    Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” will be shown on Oct. 17 with Shailene Woodley, one of its stars and a festival “breakthrough performer,” in attendance. She plays the daughter of George Clooney in a story about a family trying to sort out its problems on the island of Kauai. (Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m. at Guild Hall)    
    Some other highlights:
    “Melancholia” is the latest film by the Danish director Lars von Trier, who was declared persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival last spring for his incendiary comments about understanding and sympathizing with Adolf Hitler. According to a critic for The Guardian newspaper, while the director has courted controversy both recently and in the past, the film does not. It is said to be “a stunningly realized tale of two sisters coming to terms with an impending apocalypse. It’s his most emotionally honest work in years.” (Friday, Oct. 14, at 6:30 p.m. at UA1, and Oct. 16, noon, at UA2, East Hampton.)
    Wim Wenders, another acclaimed European director of such films as “Wings of Desire” and “The Buena Vista Social Club,” has made his latest film in 3D. It is a documentary that follows the Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble and its director and choreographer, the late Pina Bausch, as they perform some of their most iconic dances, in spaces ranging from a school gym to a water-drenched stage. “Pina in 3D” is the culmination of Mr. Wenders’s and Ms. Bausch’s collaboration. (Oct. 16, 5:30 p.m. at UA2.)
    Ralph Fiennes directs his first film in “Coriolanus,” a strange and particularly violent Shakespeare play set in the present. The film stars Mr. Fiennes, Gerard Butler, and Vanessa Redgrave. The Guardian praised Mr. Fiennes’s traditionalist approach for its “clarity and intelligence.” (Oct. 15, 9 p.m., Sag Harbor, and Oct. 16, 2 p.m. in Montauk.)
    In “The Rum Diary,” Johnny Depp draws on his portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson, 13 years after playing him in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” In this case, his role is “Paul Kemp,” a freelance writer in an early novel of Thompson’s, set in Puerto Rico with the usual complications. Bruce Robinson adapted the novel and directed it for the screen. (Oct. 15, 8:45 p.m. at UA2, and Oct. 16, 8 p.m. at Southampton.)
    “Another Happy Day,” starring Ellen Barkin, Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn, Demi Moore, and another “breakthrough performer,” Ezra Miller, won an award at Sundance for best screenplay. It is about a homecoming and a coming-to-terms with a family’s demons on the eve of a wedding. (Oct. 15, 5:15 p.m., at UA1, and Oct. 16, noon, in Southampton.)
    Martin Donovan, who has had a long and consistent career playing small roles in big pictures and big roles in small ones, is directing his own screenplay in “Collaborator,” in which he also stars. The film won a best-actor award for Mr. Donovan’s co-star David Morse at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic in July. Fans of Mr. Donovan’s performances in Hal Hartley’s early films set on Long Island will find some similarities to Mr. Hartley’s line delivery, according to a review in Variety. (Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in UA4, and Oct. 16, 5:15 p.m., in UA5.)
    “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, deals with a mother’s anguish and ambivalence in the wake of her troubled son’s participation in a school shooting. The film premiered in Cannes and has been generating positive festival buzz ever since. It features Ezra Miller, another “breakthrough performer,” as Kevin. (Friday, Oct. 14, 9:45 p.m. at UA2, and Oct. 15, 6:45 p.m., at UA3.)
    “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a directorial debut for Sean Durkin, has earned good reviews since its premiere at Sundance, where it was also developed. The film focuses on Elizabeth Olsen’s performance as the title character, Martha, who has earned her other names from a cult she joined in the Catskills. The film follows her life there and her escape to her sister’s house, where she begins to understand what has happened to her. (Friday, Oct. 14, 9:30 p.m. at UA1, and Oct. 17, 9 p.m. at UA1.)
    Other films to watch for include starring roles for Orlando Bloom in a suspenseful medical drama called “The Good Doctor” (next Thursday at 4:45 p.m. at UA2), Emily Watson in “Oranges and Sunshine” (Oct. 15, 3:45 p.m. in Southampton, and Oct. 16, 6:45 p.m. at UA3), Lauren Ambrose in “Think of Me” (Oct. 15, 9:30 p.m. at UA3, and Oct. 16, 8 p.m. at UA4), and Ethan Hawke and Kristen Scott Thomas in “The Woman in the Fifth” (Friday, Oct. 14, 9:30 p.m. in Southampton, and Oct. 16, 2:30 p.m at UA1). Still more films may be added before the festival begins; they will be posted on the Web site hamptonsfilmfest.org. The cost for Spotlight films is $27.