The Kindergarten Teacher | Maggie Gyllenhaal

In late August, Clayton crafted an exposé on the ten most important film festivals of the award season. The Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) just cracked his list, joining other highly regarded galas such as Telluride and Toronto. The festival, now in its 26th year, is helmed by Executive Director, Anne Chaisson (in her seventh term in that position), and has esteemed members of the Academy on its board, including Alec Baldwin.

The fest ensues in the East Hamptons, appropriating theater venues in the Long Island area of New York for five days: October 4th-8th. The festival was founded as a “celebration of independent films… to provide a forum for independent filmmakers with differing global perspectives.”

Outside of the annual festival run, the organization takes part in additional screenings and events – including their yearly Screenwriters Lab – the remainder of the year. HIFF is widely known for its Breakthrough Performers program (which helps advertise emerging talent) as well as showcasing short films as they qualify for a run at the Academy Awards.

Each year, the festival wraps with its Golden Starfish awards for Narrative Feature Film, Documentary Feature, and Short Film, as well as a slew of sponsored and audience awards. Since its inception in 1993, several HIFF films have gone on to receive Academy Awards. Recently, the festival has picked up steam in this regard. Some eventual Best Picture winners out of HIFF include “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), “The King’s Speech” (2010), “The Artist” (2011), “Argo” (2012), “12 Years a Slave” (2013), and “Birdman” (2014).

This year, their lineup is packed with strong contenders for several major Oscar categories, most notably Picture and Foreign Language Film. The last three winners of the latter category played HIFF, and this year eleven countries (and counting) have brought their official entries to Long Island. These include “Border” (Sweden), “Capernaum” (Lebanon), “Cold War” (Poland), “Roma” (Mexico), and “Shoplifters” (Japan). The quintet makes up my current predictions for the Foreign Language nominees, so this is quite an impressive haul.

HIFF will host the world premieres of five films, most notably, “The Panama Papers,” a documentary from Alex Winter. Winter speaks to the journalists who helped expose the documents that revealed the use of secretive offshore companies to enable widespread tax evasion and money laundering and led to the incrimination of 12 world leaders and over 130 politicians, public officials, and celebrities.

Additional titles we will be screening include the U.S. premiere of Peter Hedges’ “Ben is Back,” as well as Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” George Tillman Jr.’s “The Hate U Give,” Yorgos Lanthimos“The Favourite,” Marielle Hellers “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, Steve McQueen’s “Widows,” and Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy.”

Director Sara Colangelo opens the festival with her new film, “The Kindergarten Teacher.” Maggie Gyllenhaal, who stars in the title role, is attending as one of the three Conversations that accentuate the event.

Emilio Estevez presents the Spotlight Film, “The Public,” and the Saturday Centerpiece is Damien Chazelle’s epic man-on-the-moon venture, “First Man.” The two directors make up the rest of the Conversations trio.

Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased” is set as the closing night film for the festival. HIFF announced that Bob Balaban, Bill Camp, Jamie Dornan, Peter Hedges, Matthew Heineman, Matthew Broderick, Alessandro Nivola, Rosamund Pike, George Tillman Jr., and Dolly Wells are also planning to attend.

Artist Paton Miller’s oil on canvas, “Out of Shinnecock” (above), is a work inspired by the fishing trade that dominates the East End of the Hamptons and was selected as the cover art for this year’s festival poster.

Hamptons International Film Festival runs from October 4-8. Yours truly will be heading east just in time for opening night.

Be sure to check out the Official Oscar Predictions Page to see where the films rank among the contenders!