High 'Water' at Hamptons

Int'l flair, political potshots highlight festival

Erik Poppe's ex-con drama "Troubled Water" and Megumi Sasaki's art-collector documentary "Herb and Dorothy" each snagged two top feature prizes from jurors and audiences at the Hamptons International Film Festival during the weekend.

The overseas directors and events celebrating Jacqueline Bisset, Bibi Andersson, Fortissimo Films co-chairman Wouter Barendrecht and the 60th anniversary of Israel gave the fest a strong international feel. But it was comments by HIFF Rising Stars program mentor Frances McDormand criticizing Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that stirred up the most conversation.

"Marge Gunderson is a fictional character, and so is Sarah Palin," said McDormand to applause at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theatre on Saturday, likening the "Fargo" character that won her an Oscar to the soundalike Republican nominee.

The fest's expanded worldview was in part a reflection of newly appointed executive director Karen Arikian, the Berlin International Film Festival veteran taking over for longtime HIFF staffer Denise Kassel. This year marked the first foreign-born Industry Toast honoree, Netherlands native Barendrecht, whose Thursday night event brought tributes from host John Cameron Mitchell, Toronto fest director Noah Cowan, Berlin fest director Dieter Kosslick and former Picturehouse chief Bob Berney.

In the Sunday ceremony, the Norwegian/Swedish "Water" took home the $185,000 Golden Starfish prize for a narrative feature along with the audience award, and "Dorothy" took the top $5,000 doc feature prize. Other $5,000 prizes went to Zicherman Family Foundation's screenwriting award winners Alexandru Baciu, Razvan Radulescu and Radu Muntean for their Romanian feature "Boogie" and the Brizzolara Family Award for Films of Conflict and Resolution to Aida Begic's "Snow." For a full list of winners, go to THR.com/film. (partialdiff)