‘Citizen Ashe’ Receives Audience Award at 14th Annual Hamptons Doc Fest

The Zoom Q&A with “Citizen Ashe” directors Rex Miller (top) and Sam Pollard (bottom), led by Hamptons Doc Fest advisory board member and filmmaker Nancy Buirski. The sold-out film about African-American tennis champion Arthur Ashe won the festival’s Audience Award. Photo by CB Grubb.

Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of Hamptons Doc Fest, has announced that the winner of the Siben & Siben Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature is the film “Citizen Ashe” which played on December 4 to a sold-out house at Sag Harbor Cinema. It was also the recipient of the festival’s Human Rights Award.

Directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard, who had unprecedented access to 47 boxes of Ashe’s papers and 33 microcassettes, the 94-minute film details the life and career of tennis champion Arthur Ashe, who was the first African-American to win the men’s singles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, and the first to win induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. He worked for civil rights causes In America and South Africa and also became an AIDS activist in the late 1980’s after contracting HIV through blood transfusions related to heart surgery.

“Citizen Ashe was inspiring on so many levels,” said Lofaro, who presented the Human Rights Award on Zoom to Pollard and Miller. “It presented a multi-faceted view of one of the world’s great tennis stars. The documentary allowed us to experience Arthur Ashe’s quiet humanitarian and civil rights work, including interacting with Nelson Mandela. The two sides of Ashe merged into a much larger biography, one the audience related to and chose to honor.”

At a special program on Saturday, December 4, at Sag Harbor Cinema, Hamptons Doc Fest executive director Jacqui Lofaro, far right, introduced filmmaker and attorney Dawn Porter as the winner of the festival’s Pennebaker Career Achievement Award. Sponsor Lana Jokel, third from left, and Pennebaker’s widow and film partner Chris Hegedus, left, presented Porter with the trophy. Porter’s documentaries include “The Way I See It,” “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer,” “Trapped,” and the series “The Me You Can’t See” with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry. Photo by CB Grubb.

Said award sponsor Siben & Siben: “We are honored to celebrate a great humanitarian and to participate in supporting the Hamptons Doc Fest. As a law firm, we strive to support our clients but to participate in helping strengthen the community’s awareness of the world around us through the documentarians’ eyes is a privilege.”

At the end of the screening on December 4, the two directors participated in a Zoom interview led by HDF Advisory Board member Nancy Buirski, who was the founder/director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and director of several award-winning films involving African-American subjects.

Director Rex Miller revealed his background as a professional tennis player and “the offspring of two tennis fanatics,” as an impetus for making the film. Pollard and Miller said the film opened in New York City in early December, is streaming on many platforms, and will air on CNN before next September’s U.S. Tennis Open.

The 14th annual Hamptons Doc Fest ran December 3-10, with 30 screenings held at the Sag Harbor Cinema and Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.