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“Rocks 4 Sale” will be one of the featured films as part of the Hamptons Doc Fest’s inaugrual program “Shorts and Breakfast Bites.” (Photo courtesy of Hamptons Doc Fest)

“In feature films the director is God. In documentary films, God is the director.”

So said infamous horror film director Alfred Hitchcock, and whether you believe in God or not, the sentiment rings true, even in our own tiny little pocket of the world here on the South Fork.  

The annual Hamptons Doc Fest hits Sag Harbor this week, slated to show 30 documentary films starting this Thursday, November 30, continuing through Saturday, December 6. Now in its 16th year, the 2023 Doc Fest line-up of films includes ranging subject matters covering the arts, nature, science, history, journalism and human rights, while simultaneously honoring several filmmakers and producers.

Filmmaker MATTHEW HEINEMAN will be awarded the Pennebaker Career Achievement Award on Saturday night at Bay Street. (Photo credit: Michael Ori)

“Our 16th festival promises you more of the power of quality storytelling,” says Jacqui Lofaro, executive director of Doc Fest. “As the only all-documentary film festival on the East End of Long Island, we elevate filmmakers who shine a light on the arts, the environment and human rights… makes us think and feel and connects us with wider ideas and concepts.”

With Sag Harbor Cinema and Bay Street Theater serving as venues, the seven-day festival opens Thursday night with In the Company of Rose at the cinema at 8 p.m., followed by a Q&A featuring the film’s Tony Award-winning director James Lapine and a cocktail reception. Closing night is December 6, with a screening of Frank Marshall’s Rather, about legendary newscaster Dan Rather, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street. There’ll be at least three films shown each day throughout the festival, plus a new program for this year — “Shorts & Breakfast Bites” — on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. at Bay Street. According to a press release, the two-morning event pairs a well-curated program of short films with coffee/tea, bagels and other breakfast treats. “Who doesn’t love the indulgence of a morning in the theater, seeing interesting films, complete with breakfast, Lofaro says. “It is the perfect indulgence.”

To check out the festival’s week-long schedule click here. To see a brief synopsis of each film click here.

Festival highlights will include a special award gala set for Saturday, December 2, at 6:30 p.m. at Bay Street Theater with a cocktail/buffet reception. Following the reception Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman will receive this year’s Pennebaker Achievement Award, “for tackling difficult and often hard-to-access subjects while addressing great social truths.” The award is honor of D.A. Pennebaker, a long-time Sag Harbor resident and pioneer documentary filmmaker. The gala ends with a screening of Heineman’s latest film American Symphony.

“Rather” is the closing film for this year’s Hamptons Doc Fest, screening at 7 p.m. at Bay Street Theater. (Photo courtesy of Hamptons Doc Fest)

There will be a handful of other awards and receptions throughout the week beginning with Call Me Dancer, this year’s Art & Inspiration Award recipient. The film screens Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the cinema, followed by a Q&A with co-director and professional ballet dancer Leslie Shampaine. Producer, philanthropist and Artemis Rising Foundation CEO and founder Regina K. Scully will be honored on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with a screening of Obsessed with Light followed by a reception at the cinema. On Sunday, December 3, the late filmmaker Nancy Buirski will posthumously receive the Legacy Award, while the film The Loving Story screens at 2 p.m. at the cinema. 999: The Forgotten Girls of the Holocaust, this year’s Human Rights Award recipient, screens at Bay Street at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5, while Deep Rising, this year’s Environmental Award recipient screens at Bay Street at 4: 30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6.

Also on December 6, Bay Street Theater hosts the Young Voices Program, a hands-on workshop designed for middle and high school age students led award-winning filmmaker Roger Sherman. There’ll also be a screening of the short film Rocks 4 Sale. General admission for each film is $15 per person, except for the Impact Award film, which is $25. To attend the Pennebaker Award gala, tickets are $60 per person. For a festival pass, which includes admission to all films, plus the Pennebaker Award evening, it’s $300.