A Q&A with Jacqui Lofaro of the Hamptons Take 2 Film Festival

Jacqui Lofaro, founder of the Hamptons Doc Fest. C.B. Grubb photo.
Jacqui Lofaro. C.B. Grubb photo

By Annette Hinkle

The Hamptons Take 2 Film Festival (HT2FF) is back for 2017 and runs Thursday, November 30 to Monday, December 4 at Bay Street Theater. The all documentary festival turns 10 this year, and 25 films will be screened over the course of the five days. Recently festival founder and executive director Jacqui Lofaro — herself a documentary filmmaker — sat down with the Express to talk about how the HT2FF has changed and grown in its first decade. 

Q: What made you want to start the film festival 10 years ago?

My own film, “The Last Fix: An Addict’s Passage from Hell to Hope” didn’t make the cut at the Hamptons Film Festival. I was on the radio with Bonnie Grice and she said why not make your own festival? So I did. We started with four films that first year. As we got more films, word spread and then we really got on the roll of formal submissions.

Q: What will audiences see that is new this year?

We’re five days instead of four. We’ve added a fifth day — Monday is Douglas Elliman Community Day and all the screenings are free. We’ll close the festival that night at 7 p.m. with “Killer Bees” about the Bridgehampton High School basketball team. Lots of people said they didn’t get to see it when it was at the Hamptons Film Festival.

We also have three new awards. For the first time, we’re giving a Breakout Director Award to a director who’s done one or two films. It’s a curated award and this year will go to Catherine Bainbridge who did “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.” (Award and screening on December 2 at 4 p.m.)

The second award is the “Hector Leonardi Art & Inspiration Award” and will go to Richard Kane for “I know a Man … Ashley Bryan,” about a 93-year-old artist in the Cranberry Islands in Maine. We named the award after [artist] Hector Leonardi, and it will go to an art film every year — whether it’s about dance, music or visual art. (Award and screening on December 3 at noon.)

The third award is the “Sloane Shelton Human Rights Award” named for the late actress and sponsored by Jan Buckaloo, her partner. This year it goes to “The Lavender Scare” which is about that time in American history when homosexuals were blasted out of their government jobs. It was during the time of McCarthy and the atomic bomb, and the thinking was that homosexuals could be prone to spying. Josh Howard, the director, is coming out here for the screening, he’s thrilled. (Award and screening on December 3 at 1:30 p.m.)

Q: How would you say the mission of HT2FF differs from other festivals?

We’re all docs all day. People love documentary films. We also come at a time of year when there’s kind of a vacuum and you’re able to do something for yourself. After the Thanksgiving madness and before the Christmas shopping craziness, you have a few days to immerse yourself and just sit in the dark and watch films.

People love the fact they can come to Bay Street, and then there’s Sag Harbor. It’s a festival experience. Come for the day, not just one movie, see two or three and go have dinner. You can see back to back quality films. That’s why I think this works.

Q: In the beginning, some films screened evoked the “Take 2” name of the festival in that they weren’t new, but were being given a second chance to be seen by new audiences. Is that really the focus?

It’s not that they weren’t brand new, but we didn’t have the rules of a lot of festivals. Some festivals have to hold the premiere of a film, if not, you can’t get in. Some of the smaller films only have festivals as an outlet and a lot of these films that were gems didn’t get into tier A festivals.

We have none of those rules. We also don’t take international films, though sometimes a Canadian film slips in. Our submissions keep increasing. It’s hard to get into our festival because there are few slots, the program you see now has gone through a long curating process.

Q: How has the festival evolved in ways that you didn’t envision?

I didn’t think it would get to 10 years. It grew from a tiny festival to a full-fledged festival with all the additions, playbills, and filmmaker Q&As.

What people don’t realize, we function year-round. We do a spring docs program and a Film + Forum program at the Parrish Art Museum and East End libraries with a screening and talk by the filmmakers. The libraries love the programs and we get great cross pollination.

We know the community. I’ve been here, been involved. I’m on the planning board and involved with the League of Women Voters. I listen to people and ask what do you like?

We have a lot of unique films.