Protecting our communities and the environment

Karen Arikian on The Automat, Joan Churchill, Saul Bellow, farming and environmental films

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Isabella Rossellini has a connection to two Hamptons Doc Fest selections: Roger Sherman’s The Soul Of A Farmer and Stina Gardell’s Movie Man: “She is Stig Björkman’s very good friend over many many years.”
Isabella Rossellini has a connection to two Hamptons Doc Fest selections: Roger Sherman’s The Soul Of A Farmer and Stina Gardell’s Movie Man: “She is Stig Björkman’s very good friend over many many years.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

In the second instalment with Artistic Director Karen Arikian we discussed Lisa Hurwitz’s The Automat; Lifetime Achievement Award honouree at the 12th edition of DOC NYC Joan Churchill and her short Shoot From The Heart with Haskell Wexler, Chris Hegedus, and DA Pennebaker; Asaf Galay’s The Adventures Of Saul Bellow; Tasha Van Zandt’s After Antarctica (recipient of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award); Dom Aprile’s Farming Long Island; Roger Sherman’s The Soul Of A Farmer with a connection to Isabella Rossellini, who is in Stina Gardell’s Movie Man, starring Stig Björkman, director of the Opening Night film Joyce Carol Oates: A Body In The Service Of Mind; Pamela Tanner Boll and Lindsay Richardson’s To Which We Belong, and Hamptons Doc Fest Founder and Executive Director Jacqui Lofaro’s wise decision to have select films available online to view, after the in-cinema screening portion of the festival is over.

Karen Arikian on Lisa Hurwitz’s The Automat: “It’s such a humorous and lighthearted look at something that was an essential part of life at the time.”
Karen Arikian on Lisa Hurwitz’s The Automat: “It’s such a humorous and lighthearted look at something that was an essential part of life at the time.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The Closing Night selection is Max Lowe’s Torn: “On Oct. 5, 1999, renowned mountain climber Alex Lowe was tragically lost alongside cameraman and fellow climber David Bridges in a deadly avalanche on the slopes of the Tibetan mountain, Shishapangma.” Torn is part of the Saunders Community Day of free screenings which also include Elizabeth Unger’s Tigre Gente, Jeff Daniels’ Television Event, and Gudjon Ragnarsson’s Raise the Bar.

From New York, Karen Arikian joined me on Zoom for an in-depth conversation on the 14th edition of Hamptons Doc Fest.

AKT: I am sure that The Automat is going to resonate very well with your audience too.

KA: Yes, I love The Automat. It’s such a humorous and lighthearted look at something that was an essential part of life at the time. Everybody knew about it. I was with my grandmother a Chuck full o’Nuts girl. We went there because it was a little bit after the Horn & Hardart days. Lisa [Hurwitz] did a beautiful job, we’re really happy to have her out there with us at the festival.

AKT: You mentioned the local component. There are a few films about farming, specifically Long Island farming. There is [Dom Aprile’s] Farming Long Island and a short called Soul of a Farmer [directed by Roger Sherman], with which Isabella Rossellini is connected! Tell me about those!

Karen Arikian on Tasha Van Zandt’s After Antarctica (recipient of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award): “The horrible problems surrounding climate change, are reflected in the Antarctica film”
Karen Arikian on Tasha Van Zandt’s After Antarctica (recipient of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award): “The horrible problems surrounding climate change, are reflected in the Antarctica film”

KA: Yes, we also have another film, [Pamela Tanner Boll and Lindsay Richardson’s] To Which We Belong, is a more global look at farming. Out East on Long Island is revered for its natural beauty and the people who love out there do a lot to make sure that the area is not overbuilt, that the soil is protected. Isabella Rossellini, funny enough, she is also a part of another film, Movie Man. She is Stig Björkman’s very good friend over many many years. She’s coming out to the festival as well to support his work.

I think the local issues of farming and environment and preservation, the horrible problems surrounding climate change, are reflected in the Antarctica film, After Antarctica, which is receiving our Environmental Award. Those are really important issues to the communities out there and we try to always reflect what’s going on in our community. They’re important and fun films, told from different perspectives.

AKT: I saw that in the same program of shorts in which you present Soul of a Farmer, you also show Joan Churchill’s Shoot From the Heart. It’s lovely. I recently watched it at DOC NYC.

KA: It’s charming and Chris Hegedus is also part of the film. We were lucky we connected on that film towards the end of the selection. We’re so happy because it’s almost the perfect film to have in our festival. Unfortunately Joan was supposed to come but I believe because of the changing situation with COVID and everything, I’m not sure if she’s going to make it. We’re thrilled to have the film, just to give people a little bit of a perspective on how Pennebaker, actually, looked at the world. In that short piece, there’s a few very seminal statements by Penny. It’s a delight for us.

Karen Arikian on Roger Sherman’s The Soul Of A Farmer: “We try to always reflect what’s going on in our community.”
Karen Arikian on Roger Sherman’s The Soul Of A Farmer: “We try to always reflect what’s going on in our community.”

AKT: Very personal and lovely.

KA: Yes, and Joan Churchill is also amazing in that as well, standing up for what she believes in as a filmmaker. She made a delightful fly-on-the wall of that evening.

AKT: Last year everything was online for your festival?

KA: Yes, and it was very successful and that’s part of the reason why we chose this year to do a selection of films also virtually online. We saw that our reach was so much greater and we were able to engage many more people than in the community. That was an eyeopener for us, so our Founder and Executive Director, Jacqui Lofaro, decided early on we’re going to keep one of those elements, with about eight films.

AKT: That’s a very good decision.

KA: Yeah, I’m happy about that too.

AKT: There is one film that I am very curious about that I haven’t seen and that’s [Asaf Galay’s] The Adventures of Saul Bellow.

KA: It’s a beautifully shot film, a portrait of a very complex man. And at times controversial man who had an amazing talent. That was a film that brought a lot of discussion up in our screening sessions. Our audience is a very literary audience and we felt it was a great match for us. It’s beautifully made and a good look at who this man was.

Read what Karen Arikian had to say on the Hamptons Doc Fest Awards and the recipients, plus Stina Gardell’s Movie Man star and director of the Opening Night film, Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind, Stig Björkman.

Joyce Carol Oates: A Body In The Service Of Mind screened on Friday, December 3 at 7:00pm followed by a Q&A with Stig Björkman and Stina Gardell at the Sag Harbor Cinema.

Karen Arikian on Asaf Galay’s The Adventures Of Saul Bellow: “It’s a beautifully shot film, a portrait of a very complex man.”
Karen Arikian on Asaf Galay’s The Adventures Of Saul Bellow: “It’s a beautifully shot film, a portrait of a very complex man.”

Movie Man screens on Saturday, December 4 at 2:30pm followed by a Q&A with Stig Björkman, Stina Gardell and special guest Isabella Rossellini at the Sag Harbor Cinema.

To Which We Belong screens on Monday, December 6 at 5:00pm followed by a Q&A with Lindsay Richardson and Pamela Tanner Boll at the Bay Street Theater.

Farming Long Island screens on Tuesday, December 7 at 12:00pm followed by a Q&A with Dom Aprile at the Bay Street Theater.

After Antarctica screens on Tuesday, December 7 at 7:30pm followed by a Q&A on Zoom with the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Environmental Award recipient Tasha Van Zandt at the Bay Street Theater.

Shoot From The Heart and The Soul Of A Farmer screen in the Shorts Program 2 on Thursday, December 9 at 6:00pm followed by a Q&A with Roger Sherman and subject Patty Gentry at the Bay Street Theater.

Saunders Community Day of free screenings is held on Friday, December 10 at the Bay Street Theater - Tigre Gente screens at 12:00pm; Television Event screens at 2:30pm followed with a Jeff Daniels Q&A; Raise the Bar screens at 5:00pm followed with the producer Margret Jonasdottir and coach Brynjar Karl Sigurôsson Q&A, and Torn closes the in-cinema portion of Hamptons Doc Fest at 8:00pm.

Hamptons Doc Fest in cinemas (Sag Harbor Cinema, Bay Street Theater) runs from Friday, December 3 through Friday December 10. Select films are screening online in the US from December 11 through December 18.

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