The Hamptons International Film Festival has long been a haven for thriving indie and mass-market films. The HIFF hands out multiple awards every year, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology, the Kodak Award for cinematography and various audience awards as well. Perhaps most prestigious are the Golden Starfish awards, presented in the past to many performers and films that have gone on to Oscar glory.
The Golden Starfish Awards are open to both foreign and domestic films, and often include a cash prize, along with gifts from various sponsors. It’s interesting to put U.S. and international films together in one category without forcing some kind of division, like the Academy Awards does. It promotes the concept of film as a worldwide communal art form.
The Misfortunates, which took home Cannes honors in 2009 was a winner of three Golden Starfish Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Screenplay and Cinematography. The year before, Troubled Water (which made its U.S. debut at the festival) won the Golden Starfish, while the documentary feature Herb and Dorothy (also making its U.S. debut at the HIFF in 2008) took home a prize as well. The HIFF’s Golden Starfish seems to have a tendency to go to powerful films about societal issues, a nice change of pace from typical awards-season fluff.
Richard Gere will be receiving a Golden Starfish Award, presented by Hamptons favorite Alec Baldwin, for Lifetime Achievement In Acting. Previous recipients of this honor include Vanessa Redgrave, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen and Alec Baldwin himself. Baldwin, who is serving as Honorary Chairman of the festival, will host “A Conversation With Richard Gere” as well, which is a hot ticket at the festival, as both are Hollywood icons. Gere, the star of such films as The Mothman Prophecies, An Officer And A Gentleman and Pretty Woman. Gere also starred in the film Days of Heaven, directed by Terrence Malick, which will also be screened at the festival.
Also receiving a Golden Starfish Award is Ann Roth, legendary costume designer on such films as The Birdcage, Julie/Julia and The Hours. Roth, who has four Academy Award nominations to her credit, also has been nominated for her work on Broadway, nominated four times as well (including the recent smash, The Book of Mormon). Three Emmy award nominations (recently, for her work on Mildred Pierce) add to a career more than worthy of a Golden Starfish. To further celebrate Roth’s career, an exhibition of her various sketches and material will be on display.
As if the HIFF needed more buzz, it’s always fun to speculate what may or may not be taking home the Golden Starfish Awards this year. Dead Man’s Burden looks to be a beautiful entry in the pantheon of western cinema. The family drama Kuma promises to be an interesting take on a modern Turkish family living in Vienna. The Almost Man, a Norwegian comedy, might end up stealing the Golden Starfish, with the performances both touching and genuine.
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is in the running for the documentary portion of the Golden Starfish and tells the story of a young musical prodigy stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). A story of triumph and courage, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is a must-see at the HIFF this year. Colombianos is also in the documentary category, the story of two brothers dealing with substance abuse issues. This debut film from director Tora Martens is a slow burn, but is also a well-told story.
The HIFF is always an exciting time of year in the Hamptons and in the world of cinema. With multiple awards and ceremonies to keep track of, including the prestigious Golden Starfish, this is going to be a weekend to savor.