Around the Island

East End documentary festival kicks off; 10 days of films offered online

Islanders who’ve grown accustomed to hunkering down during the pandemic and now the onset of cold weather have the opportunity to enjoy one of the South Fork’s favorite film festivals without even venturing onto the ferry.

The 13th annual Hamptons Doc Fest has announced that this year’s festival will all be online, expanded from five to 10 days, with a full slate of 35 documentaries running Dec. 4-13.

“We had hoped this year to welcome doc fans in person in December to an expanded Hamptons Doc Fest program at multiple cinemas, but, as with everything in 2020, we are innovating,” said Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of the festival. Ms. Lofaro said the festival will cover a wide range of topics including history, politics, biography, social justice, life challenges, the environment, art, music and dance.

The festival will kick off with an Opening Night film on Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m., “MLK/FBI,” by award-winning director Sam Pollard. Based on newly-discovered and declassified files, this is the first film to uncover the extent of the FBI’s surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other Black activists during the civil rights movement. After the film, there will be a Q&A with Mr. Pollard and Variety’s film awards editor Clayton Davis.

A highlight of the festival is the presentation of the annual Pennebaker Career Achievement Award in honor of D.A. Pennebaker, a long-time Sag Harbor resident and documentary filmmaker who passed away in August 2019. It will be awarded to Frederick Wiseman, director of “City Hall,” his 43rd film, which will be screened at the festival. Previous recipients of the Hamptons Doc Fest’s Career Achievement Award include prestigious directors Richard Leacock, Susan Lacy, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, Barbara Kopple, Stanley Nelson, Alex Gibney, Liz Garbus, Sheila Nevins and Robert Kenner.

Other award-winning films include “Fish and Men,” which exposes the high cost of inexpensive fish in the global seafood economy, and the forces threatening local fishing communities and public health. The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award will be presented by Sam Sabin. Co-directors Darby Duffin and Adam Jones will engage in a Q&A with Bonnie Brady of Montauk, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

Special features of this festival are new “Up Close” video segments “direct from the directors,” which will precede most online screenings so that audiences get to meet the filmmakers first hand.

Here are some highlights from the list of films to be screened:

“In Case of Emergency” (2020, 80 min.): Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Carolyn Jones follows emergency nurses across the United States, shedding light on ERs stretched to the breaking point, dealing with our nation’s biggest public health challenges, such as COVID-19, the opioid crisis, gun violence and lack of insurance.

 “Kubrick by Kubrick” (2020, 73 min.): Directed by Gregory Monro, offers a rare journey into the life and films of the legendary Stanley Kubrick, director of such films as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Shining,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Barry Lyndon,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” the latter completed shortly before his death in 1999. The film includes interviews with many actors such as Jack Nicholson, Marisa Berenson, Peter Sellers, Tom Cruise and Shelley Duvall, speaking about their experiences working with him.

“Zappa” (2020, 127 min.): Billed as an intimate and expansive look into the innovative life of the iconic, iconoclastic and irreverent singer-songwriter and bandleader Frank Zappa, who died in 1993, this film directed by Alex Winter was made with unfettered access to the Zappa family and all archival footage. It was fully crowd-funded through one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns, involving more than 8,000 backers who invested more than $1,200,000 in 30 days to help preserve and digitize Zappa’s private archives, including thousands of hours of unreleased material in the Zappa vault.

Festival passes at $125 and individual film tickets at $12 are available on the Hamptons Doc Fest website at

The website for this virtual film festival also includes a full description of each film, in a downloadable program booklet, and instructions on how you can watch the film on your computer, iPad/tablet or television.