A Brief History of the Hamptons International Film Festival

A Brief History of the Hamptons International Film Festival

The Hamptons International Film Festival celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this fall. The East Hamptons, New York festival runs from October 5 through October 9. It will screen several international and upcoming films that can be previewed at venues throughout Long Island. The event will feature some of the greatest filmmakers and will offer several awards totaling more than $200,000. The event typically attracts more than 18,000 visitors including many locals and features hundreds of films from over twenty countries.

Here is a history of the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) and its influence on cinema.


The Hamptons International Film Festival began in the fall of 1993 and is held every mid-October in East Hamptons, New York. The HIFF also holds several events throughout the year in support of new and independent films, screenwriters and artists. The purpose of the festival’s foundation was to showcase independent international films. Films presented include shorts, documentaries and narrative films. The event showcases new filmmakers and encourages social and politically conscious art. Events include interviews by celebrities of celebrities. The 1993 HIFF featured a conversation between Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsesi. Aside from film previews and awards the Hamptons International Film Festival has featured “Breakthrough Performers” which has included Emily Blunt and Blake Lively”, “A Conversation with…” featuring directors, screenwriters and actors, and a “Conflict and Resolution” program featuring films that explore global, social and political issues. The HIFF also hosts a “Screenwriters Lab” in East Hampton every spring. This event helps pair new writers with established writers as mentors.

Predictor of Academy Award

Since its inception the Hamptons International Film Festival has often been considered a predictor of the Academy Award winners. Several winners of the HIFF have gone on to earn nominations and awards at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards. It may be because the HIFF is partnered with “Variety” and also holds a “10 Actors to Watch” showcase. Successful films include “12 Years a Slave”, “127 Hours”, “Argo”, “Moonlight”, “Black Swan”, “Elf”, “The Wrestler” and “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Intimacy and Social Awareness and Encouraging New Artists

The focus of the Hamptons International Film Festival has always been to encourage and introduce new artists to the public. The HIFF features films and events surrounding global, social and political issues and encourages these independent films. Unlike other film festivals like Cannes or Sundance, the Hamptons International Film Festival has always had a more intimate feel. It brings the East Hampton community together and while hosting to the public has a more relaxed environment with intimate events including screenings, awards and celebrity guest appearances.


As the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Hamptons International Festival unfolds it will celebrate its history as well as the new films and artists that are presented. This year’s co-chair Alec Baldwin will interview Julie Andrews, the recipient of 2017’s HIFF Lifetime Achievement award. Dick Cavett will be honored with the Artistic Champion award. Celebrity guest speakers include Rob Reiner, Patrick Stewart and Annette Benning. Opening night will feature the documentary “Itzhak” at the Guild House with East Hampton resident Itzhak Perlman’s appearance. Socially and politically conscious film to be shown at the Hamptons Film Festival include the AIDS drama “After Louie” with Alan Cummings and the presidential election documentary “11/8/16”. Local artists have always been featured at the HIFF. This year includes “Killer Bees” about Bridgehampton’s high school basketball team and the comedy “Wanderland” about a Hamptons house sitter. All eyes will be on the Hamptons International Film Festival to find new artists, poignant documentaries and shorts, and maybe an Academy Award winner.

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