Hamptons Film Festival Director on Why the Summer Enclave Lures A-Listers in the Fall

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The United Artists Theatre in East Hampton, N.Y.; Hamptons International Film Festival exec director Anne Chaisson (inset)

Edward Norton will be honored at the Oct. 6-10 fest, which this year will screen Alex Gibney's upcoming A&E series 'The Killing Season' alongside such awards hopefuls as 'La La Land' for its "Oscar-voting film crowd."

The 24th annual Hamptons International Film Festival, set to run Thursday through Monday, will pack 140 films into five days, including the East Coast premiere of Loving (with director Jeff Nichols in attendance), several darlings of other festivals (La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea) and a "Views From Long Island" section. Edward Norton will pick up a career achievement award and participate in a program that also includes talks with Holly Hunter and Aaron Eckhart, who have films at the festival (Strange Weather and Bleed for This, respectively). About 25,000 attendees will view films on 10 screens at a mix of commercial multiplexes and local arts centers around the south fork of Long Island. "It's a holiday weekend, so it's a huge draw for people who have second homes here," says executive director Anne Chaisson. "It's a gorgeous time of year, so there's not a ton of arm-twisting." She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about her festival's local flavor and unique challenges as well as this year's slate.

Does it matter to you that a film like La La Land has played at so many festivals?

Absolutely not. We have an enthusiastic film crowd. We have an Oscar-voting film crowd. It makes sense for the films to play with us. We're sort of the next stop after Toronto.

Edward Norton doesn't have a film at the fest. Why honor him now?

Edward is a New York guy — he was here for the first time with The Illusionist with Jessica Biel — and he has been coming out ever since. He's a surfer. He fell in love with the Hamptons. And he happens to be good friends with our chairman, Alec Baldwin.

And there's a TV show on the schedule.

We're doing a prescreening of [Alex Gibney's] upcoming A&E series The Killing Season, which is about the Gilgo Beach murders that happened on the south shore of Long Island [in the 1990s and 2000s]. Two years ago, we did sneak peeks of [Showtime's] The Affair, which makes sense because it was shot on Montauk.

What other film people will be there to participate in audience Q&As that accompany the film showings?

I think we have about 80 filmmakers coming. [Writer/director] Mike Mills is coming with 20th Century Women. Katherine Dieckmann with Strange Weather. Sour Grapes, a movie about a wine heist, those directors [Reuben Atlas and Jerry Rothwell]. I'm pretty sure almost all the competition directors are coming. We fly them in from all over the world. Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, who have Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing documentary. We're doing a focus on Norway and three of those filmmakers are coming. Robin Swicord, who did Wakefield with Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner. We have a documentary from Alan Alda's daughter Beatrice. She's going to be here. Riz Ahmed is coming, the star of The Night Of. He's in a film called Una.

One of your themes is films about “Conflict and Resolution.” Unfortunately a theme like "conflict" is very timely right now ...

Yes. But we started it 18 years ago. One of our board members said we ought to do a section about war-torn regions. We were able to find enough films to do a program around the Bosnian war pretty soon after it happened.

In 2015 you talked about having venues from West Hampton all the way to Montauk. Now the festival seems more concentrated.

Well, as things go in the ever-changing Hamptons, where everything is being gentrified, the theater in Montauk has become a SoulCycle.

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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