HamptonsFilm’s Anne Chaisson & David Nugent

She’s the Executive Director, he’s the Artistic Director. Together (and apart) they watch a LOT of movies to prepare for the Hamptons International Film Festival. They rarely have a moment to sit down together as the opening night approaches. We wrangled the pair for a discussion on who’s coming and what we can expect in a world just heading back to the movies. 

How do you sleep the night before the festival opening?

Anne Chaisson: Not well at all. (Laughs.) There are so many details, some to be concerned about and some to be excited about — having wonderful people come to visit and having the audience come to see all these great movies. So it’s more nervous jitters from excitement.

David Nugent: I do alright the night before. It’s during the festival when I don’t sleep as well. I’m just on a kind of buzzed-up high during the festival. I can’t turn it off when I get into bed at night.

No drive-ins this year. It’s all “in person.” How difficult was that decision?

AC: Obviously everything about this and last year is incredibly difficult. We analyzed everything every which way you possibly can. But early on, when we saw the (Covid) numbers were coming down, we always thought, “If the doors are open, we’re going to be in person.” So we had about eight separate plans and kept moving back and forth until we said “let’s go for it.” So here we are.

DN: You’ve got to plan these things months in advance. Which is hard during a time period where things are changing so rapidly. So we more or less decided this in early June.

AC: We had to tell filmmakers and sponsors what to expect. So we went for it knowing that if we all went on lockdown that would obviously change everything.

Anne, what kinds of movies do you like that David isn’t a fan of?

AC: (Laughs.) I don’t know what he’s not a fan of necessarily. I am partial to dark comedies. As a film producer, I did a couple of those. I also like romantic dramas and comedies. So this year, for example, I like “Cyrano” and “Julia,” even though it’s a documentary. It is romantic and very funny.

DN: You can’t have either one of our jobs and have a whole subset of movies you’re disdainful of. So if they’re well made I’m into those movies as well. A nice one this year is “The Lost Daughter,” which we both like and falls a little bit into Anne’s categories. It’s Maggie Gyllenhaal in her directorial debut. It makes some sinister choices, which I appreciated and it has a compelling storyline.

AC: We need to add one more we both loved and it’s the French movie ‘Petite Maman.’ It’s heartwarming and melancholy. It’s a story of a mother and daughter. It blew me away. There wasn’t a dry eye in that house when I saw it in Telluride.

DN: It was in Berlin when I saw it.

So do you two both see everything? Or do you divide the list of contenders up?

AC: We wish it worked that way. We both go to festivals.

DN: Yeah, I see more than Anne by virtue of the fact that it’s my job, ultimately, to select the films. Anne weighs in a lot on that as well. But she has a lot of other things to do that preclude her from watching as many as I do.

AC: I weigh in on the opening, closing, centerpiece, that kind of stuff. We do try to be together on those and talk them through.

So who is coming in person this year?

DN: Maggie Gyllenhaal is coming along with Dagmara Dominiczyk who is one of our former “rising stars” from before I worked at this festival. Bob Balaban is coming, Selma Blair, Clifton Collins Jr., Josh O’Conner, Odessa Young, Kelcey Edwards to name just some we know at this point. And Jimmy Chin who made “Free Solo” and has a new movie “The Rescue.” It’s all subject to change in a regular year, so even more so this year.

AC: Matthew Heineman who directed our opening night film “The First Wave” is also coming.

That’s a brave choice because it’s about first responders and reminds us all about the pandemic. For some people, it will be their first time back in a theater.

AC: We were concerned for all the reasons you’re talking about; how will people feel about it, what’s the theme of the festival, I felt that this year was a coming together for a glimpse into a bit of normalcy, not a triumphant return. There was no outbreak at Telluride, no outbreak at Lollapalooza, shockingly. And our poster artist Toni Ross did a piece called “Finding Beauty In A Dark Place” so when “First Wave” was first mentioned it hadn’t played anywhere. We wanted to see it.

DN: Matt Heineman is a festival alum, he did “Private War” with Jamie Dornan and Rosamund Pike, but he’s better known as an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker. He spent three months in New York City hospitals and filmed. It’s an extraordinary film. It doesn’t shy away from the trauma. And it’s the world premiere.

AC: It acknowledges what we’ve all collectively been through. Your humanity is never more present than when you’re watching this movie. And you come out with gratitude and hope.

When the festival is over you two can go to any movie. But you have to pick the one you think the other person will want to see. What is it?

AC: (Laughs.) This is like “Sophie’s Choice,” it’s too hard. Hmmm. I would take David to “The Red Shoes,” which is something I haven’t seen on the big screen in a long time.

DN: I know Anne has seen this eight hundred million times but I will go to “Grease” with her. It never gets old for Anne. And I haven’t seen it in years. We’ll dress up and go on rollerskates.

AC: He would be so annoyed because I would be singing so loudly.

The 29th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival runs October 7 to 13. All attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination status. Masks are required at all screenings. Tickets are available at HamptonsFilmFest.org.

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