Feting the Filmmakers

The 19th annual Hamptons International Film Festival came to town last weekend. Top: Taking a break between films on Saturday night at Guild Hall was a group of festival founders and board members. Bottom, left to right: Michael and Maria Cuomo attended a screening of “Living for 32,” a film she produced. On Sunday night, Penelope Ann Miller gave out awards and received one as a representative for the film “The Artist,” which was the festival’s closing night and Audience Award-winning film. Alexander Skarsgard introduced the Lars von Trier film “Melancholia,” in which he stars. He also sat on a panel and received an award on Sunday morning for being a festival breakthrough performer. Ezra Miller was another busy breakthrough performer at the festival, doing double duty as a representative for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “Another Happy Day.” Morgan McGivern photos

        “It’s a good cause, showing expensive movies to rich people,” said Bill McCuddy, a media critic for forbes.com, who presented the Hamptons International Film Festival awards on Sunday at Guild Hall. Tongue in cheek aside, it was a night for independent filmmakers to receive accolades for their work that might potentially propel it into the mainstream.
    “The Fairy,” directed by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, earned the top prize, the Golden Starfish Narrative Feature Award, which includes over $150,000 in film-related goods and services. Mr. Abel said he had just received a phone call from his mother, and she did not know he was at the awards ceremony. She asked if he was well dressed, and he told the audience “Yes,” as he pointed to his blue shoes. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a picture so she can see you. One, two, three, say fromage; she is French,” he joked. Ms. Gordon added that her mom will be very pleased, too.
    Mr. Abel said “people said they liked the film, and we were very touched.”  As he posed for a photo after the awards ceremony he added, “I like the idea of having a Starfish.”
    “The Artist,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius, won the audience award for best narrative feature. Two supporting actors in the film, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller, were there to accept the award. “I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of this. What a gift,” said Ms. Miller. “It’s a joyous and life-affirming film,” Mr. Cromwell added.
    “The Artist,” about the transition from silent movies to talkies, was shown as the closing film of the festival after the awards ceremony, and after the screening Mr. Cromwell discussed how a black-and-white silent movie could appeal to a modern-day audience. “The film was completely contemporary. It was just set in that time period and style of the 1920s, but it has contemporary human reactions.”
    “It was such an elegant and glamorous time,” said Ms. Miller. “Those costumes, that hairdo, you hold yourself differently. I love the look,” she added. Mr. Hazanavicius played music from that era when shooting the film, according to Ms. Miller, which made it easier to get a feeling for the time period.
    Employing acting techniques from almost a century ago was a challenge. “What’s hard was not being able to critique yourself. You can’t hear what you’re saying; there are no lines. Everything is inside the frame. You have to trust very much the eye of the director,” said Mr. Cromwell. The way it was filmed, he said, “You had to elongate your gesture or they’ll miss it. You have to sustain that intention.” Mr. Cromwell recommended seeing the film two or three times as it is multi-layered and highly nuanced.
    “Hard Times: Lost on Long Island,” directed by Marc Levin, received the audience award for best documentary. “Our economic system isn’t fair, and we decided to look at the people of Long Island. These are people who had the courage to be publicly filmed and step forward.” Given the Occupy Wall Street movement that is under way, Mr. Levin remarked, “The timing is incredible considering what is happening in our country right now. It couldn’t have been more appropriate.”
    “Laura,” directed by Fellipe Barbosa, earned the Golden Starfish Award for best documentary, which came with $3,000. The Kodak Award for best cinematography — $6,000 of film stock — and the Wouter Barendrecht Pioneering Vision Award, a $1,000 prize, went to “Without,” directed by Mark Jackson.
    “The Strange Ones,” directed by Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein, won a juried prize for best short documentary. “This is such a surprise,” said Ms. Wokstein. “It’s an honor to be selected.”
    “Two’s a Crowd,” directed by Jim Isler and Tom Isler, received the audience award for best short.
    “The Bully Project,” directed by Lee Hirsch, won the Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict and Resolution and the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice went to “You’ve Been Trumped,” directed by Anthony Baxter.
    Special jury mentions were given to narrative feature “The Forgiveness of Blood,” directed by Joshua Marston, and “Vodka Factory,” a documentary by Jerzy Sladkowski.
    In presenting the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology to Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson’s “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” Daron Weber, vice president of the foundation, said, “I’m very happy to see two women directors, we need more of them.” The winners of that award had already been announced before the festival.