Ten years ago, Jacqui Lofaro had her finger on a quickening pulse.
She just didn’t know it yet.
The documentary industry was on the cusp of a golden age, catapulting itself from an undeservedly stigmatized snooze-fest to a buzzword—with an assist from podcasts, mini-series produced by Netflix and HBO, and events like her Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival.
“The doc world used to be much smaller, primarily because the only way you got to see docs was the handful of documentary films that had theatrical release, or you could see them on the film festival circuit,” Ms. Lofaro recalled. “Now, the climate has changed dramatically with all the different platforms you have that are interested in documentaries. You have some of those big players—some of them bigger than the Hollywood studios now—funding production for documentary series.
“The world has changed, indeed, and we’re happier for it.”
On Thursday, November 30, the festival will start its celebration of a decade-long tenure and the hundreds of films it’s screened to, oftentimes, standing-room-only audiences at Bay Street Theater, year after year. For the first time in its history, the festival has grown into a five-day affair, with more than two dozen films on the docket.
“I’m excited about it, and I want the community to be excited about it, and this is our 10th year, which is pretty amazing,” Ms. Lofaro said. “It’s not that we’ve lasted, but that we’ve grown and hung in because we really believe in the documentary as a genre that people love.”
Longtime documentarian Lana Jokel is no stranger to HT2FF, and her most recent film, “The Way It Goes—Nathan Slate Joseph” will kick off Friday evening’s lineup with an intimate portrait of the prolific East End painter/sculptor who, Ms. Jokel assumes, will do most of the talking during the Q&A that follows.
“The film became a much more expanded version of what I originally was going to make. He’s in his mid-70s, so he has a history of his life, and because he has a sense of humor and he also talks non-stop,” Ms. Jokel said. “I remember saying to him, ‘Nathan, you can’t talk on and on and on because on film, I have to edit it! Keep it to the point.’”
That was not the only directive from Ms. Jokel. She would agree to the project under one condition: that the artist let her cut his long, white, messy beard on camera.
“He looked like a weird Jewish Santa Claus,” she scoffed. “His partner, Julie Keyes, said, ‘Oh forget it, you can’t touch that.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you cut it while he’s asleep at night so he won’t know?’ She said, ‘Are you kidding? He’ll kill me!’”
Ms. Jokel assumed that was the end of the discussion.
“In December 2016, we were all in St. Moritz for the wedding of Alexandra Fairweather,” she recalled. “At breakfast one morning, the topic of making a film on Nathan came up, and so when he asked me, I said, ‘Are you ready to say goodbye to that beard?’ So he thought some more and he said, ‘Yes, okay.’”
As to whether the trim is an improvement, Friday’s audience can be the judge, though Ms. Jokel has already made up her mind—“He does look a lot better!” she said with a laugh. “Everybody says that.
“He’s a really fun character,” she continued. “The film is about his work, which is steel and metal sheets cut up and bent and twisted and soldered, and he pours pigment on them and uses acid, and then he puts them outside to let nature work. And then he cuts them into pieces or shapes them into sculpture.
“His work is very interesting. I mean, really. It’s not just painting or sculpture. It’s neither, and both, so to speak.”
As far as subjects go, Mr. Joseph is among good company, including Steven Spielberg in Friday night’s Spotlight film, “Spielberg,” a 2-and-a-half-hour odyssey that explores the director’s life and work through interviews and archival footage.
“There’s nothing unintentional in Steven,” explained the film’s director, Susan Lacy. “He really knows his craft. He knows every aspect of making films. He could almost do everybody’s job because he’s self-taught. That’s the thing that overwhelmed me the most: he’s almost like an idiot savant when it comes to filmmaking. He picked up a camera when he was 10 and it just came naturally to him. Never had a lesson. He didn’t even know film.”
Throughout the documentary, Spielberg often shies away from discussing the inspiration behind his features—“I think a lot of artists feel if you try to talk about inspiration, I think they’re afraid the magic will go away,” Ms. Lacy said—though many of the filmmakers participating in talkbacks during HT2FF will undoubtedly tackle the question.
“Ninety-eight percent of our films have a Q&A afterward,” Ms. Lofaro said. “On Saturday night, we will honor director Liz Garbus and show her film, ‘Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech,’ which I don’t think a lot of people have seen. Her father, Martin Garbus, who is a First Amendment lawyer, will be there that evening to do the Q&A with her.”
The festival will conclude with its inaugural Community Day of free screenings, sponsored by Douglas Elliman, Ms. Lofaro said.
“We’re going to keep going uphill. We’re five days now, and we’re just thrilled that it has captured an audience,” she said. “People say to me, ‘We look forward to it all year long.’ Each year, the audiences grow, and there is a real need for this genre. That is, and will continue to be, our specialty: all docs, all day.”
The 10th annual Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival will open with screenings on Thursday, November 30, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. The festival continues on Friday, December 1, from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, December 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, December 3, from noon to 8 p.m., and Monday, December 4, from 2 to 7 p.m. A gala honoring filmmaker Liz Garbus will be held on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 per screening, or $13 for seniors, $25 for Friday and Sunday night Spotlight films, $50 for the gala, and $150 for all screenings and events. For a full schedule and more information, call 631-725-9500, or visit ht2ff.com.