Film Fest Opens With a Film Called 'Loving'

Nancy Buirski and Jeff Nichols joined David Nugent, right, on the stage after the screening. Jennifer Landes

The Hamptons International Film Festival opened Thursday night, with Alec Baldwin and Randy Mastro debuting as its new co-chairmen. The two took over after the end of last year’s festival from Stuart Match Suna, who is chairman emeritus.

They welcomed the audience to the opening night screening of “Loving,” a film by Jeff Nichols that recreates the real story of a couple whose lawsuit resulted in the overturning of laws around the country against interracial marriage. Prior to the screening, Mr. Nichols was presented with the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice.

Mr. Nichols joined David Nugent, the festival’s artistic director on the stage after the screening for a brief discussion him and Nancy Buirski, who is a producer of the film and who made “The Loving Story,” the documentary about Richard and Mildred Loving’s case that inspired Mr. Nichols.

At c/o the Maidstone earlier in the day, Mr. Nichols said Ms. Buirski’s documentary raised a question that he wanted to answer. When she asked the Lovings' attorney, Bernard Cohen, how they found out about the Supreme Court's decision, he said he probably called them.

“I was struck by that,” he said. “How did that phone call happen? Where were they?” The questions led him to the discovery that they were in hiding at the time in Virginia, where they were living illegally after a judge had banned them from the state for 25 years.

“They were under the constant threat of arrest or worse and why was that?” He said that galvanized his approach, which tries to fill in the blanks based on all of the available research, but with a psychological focus.

Although the Lovings were not politically motivated in their quest, Mr. Nichols said November's election was on his mind. The next president will control the direction of the Supreme Court. “I want the audience to make those connections. To not make them would be a missed opportunity.”  

He said the Lovings and their story “reach out to us through time and talk to us about how to have these debates . . . and to show us their human dimension throughout the process. Human beings are at the center of all of those issues.”

The extended HIFF group of board members and family members gathered with Jeff Nichols and Nancy Buirski, fourth and third from the right, before the "Loving" screening.Morgan McGivern
Mark Rabinowitz gave Mr. Nichols the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice.Jennifer Landes