Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Hamptons International Film Festival Diaries
East Hampton: A Playground for Film Lovers

by Kathleen Carroll

Oct. 21, 1996

East Hampton, the scene of the Hamptons International Film Festival, seemed like a perfect weekend destination last Friday. The weather was glorious. The trees were still showing off their full dress wardrobe of vibrant colors.

At a festival party, actor Roy Scheider showed off his permanent tan by wearing a lavender sweater. Scheider was discussing his latest role as a member of the Hamptons jury. "I understand what critics go through," the actor sheepishly admitted. "It's really difficult seeing so many films at once and trying to be fair to each one of them."

Anjelica Huston wore a business-like dark suit while being interviewed as the surprise guest of "A Conversation With...," a special event of this festival. Huston has been a familiar face on this year's festival circuit since Cannes, where she first introduced her debut film as a director, "Bastard Out of Carolina." In the film, Huston demonstrates the true horror of child abuse with such graphic intensity that one can't bear to look at the screen. The scenes so disturbed Ted Turner he balked at showing the film on Turner Broadcasting. It is currently scheduled to be aired on Showtime but it is definitely worthy of a theatrical release.

During the interview Huston poignantly described what it was like to be the child of that dashing craggy-faced genius of a director, John Huston. "Life with my father was really an adventure in itself," said Huston. But with her father gallivanting from one exotic movie location to another, Huston's childhood in Ireland was also lonely. "When he was away the house would become very quiet," Huston recalled. "The light would be gone and we missed him terribly."

Life with her stepfather is pure torment for Bone Boatwright, the child victim in "Bastard Out of Carolina." Jena Malone's pale, forlorn-looking face expresses every reaction of the bewildered Bone who maintains a heartbreakingly stoic silence in the face of unspeakable acts of sexual and physical abuse. She instantly brings to mind another equally indelible performance by a child actress - that of Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"The Quiet Room," another featured attraction at the Hamptons, also presents a child's view of her parents. The unnamed 7-year-old girl, who thinks Barbies are "weird" despite her huge collection of the dolls, is refusing to speak because her mother and father are "cutting each other up. The viewer is privy to her private thoughts, however, and Australian director Rolf de Heer displays remarkable originality in finding the right words to capture his tender young heroine's innermost feelings. "You're hurting my heart," she says as she listens to her parents angry exchanges.

The Hamptons Festival stopped being child's play when the Northeaster of '96 struck with a vengeance on Saturday. The wind threatened to blow down a huge party tent that morning. Inside, the guests were too busy trying to avoid the puddles to listen to such distinguished panelists as director Steve Soderbergh discuss the trials of independent filmmaking.

However, the drenching rainstorm did not deter all of the festival guests, for, later that evening, writer-actor-director Spalding Gray was racing back and forth across a dance floor, and Jeff Dowd, a producer's rep who was on hand for the festival screening of Michael Shoob's "Driven," turned to everyone at 3 in the morning to announce that he was, in effect, going to walk on water. Dowd stripped to his Calvins with the full intention of walking across a plastic-covered swimming pool until his host put a stop to his stunt. So, you see, it's true what they say: the film business attracts people who simply don't want to grow up.

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