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Q&A with Jacqui Lofaro, Executive Director of Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival

Mable Yiu

Jacqui Lofaro (Photo by CB Grubbs)

Jacqui Lofaro (Photo by CB Grubbs)

This December marks Hamptons Take 2 Film Festival's (HT2FF) 9th year in the making. Started by documentary filmmaker Jacqui Lofaro, HT2FF brings the documentary film community together at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York every year. The 2016 program schedule was just released today, and while we still have to wait until December 1st for the festival to begin, we had the chance to speak with Jacqui herself to talk about the progression of HT2FF and what some of her favorite documentaries are.  

How and why did you start HT2FF?

A few years ago, along with many other hopeful artists, I submitted a documentary film to a major film festival that didn’t make the cut. There were no sour grapes, but just the motivation I needed to launch an alternative festival; a more inclusive one that offered a ‘second chance’ to filmmakers whose work deserved a screening—a ‘take 2’ as they say in the movie business. And so the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival was born, now 9 years young and running strong. 

How has your background as a documentary filmmaker shaped the format and energy of HT2FF?

I recognize and honor films and filmmakers that deserve a closer look because I know how tough it is for documentary filmmakers to get their films made and even tougher to get them seen on the big screen by live audiences. I know how important perseverance and optimism are. My first documentary “The Empty Chair: Death Penalty Yes or No” took 8 years between production and fundraising to finish. After it received the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Broadcast Journalism award I felt the elation every documentarian experiences with recognition. That energy defines us. We are a festival that champions and celebrates the rich, diverse and challenging world of documentary film. Our mission continues to bring the work of talented filmmakers to new audiences. 

How has the festival changed since it started and what has stayed the same?

In 2008 when I launched the festival we screened 5 films over a half-day. Now we screen anywhere between 25 to 30 films over 4 days, from 10 am to 10 pm. Our mantra is “all docs all day” with a special gala evening honoring a documentary icon. Over the years we have celebrated Richard Leacock, Susan Lacy, the team of Chris Hedgedus, D A Pennebaker and long-time doc champions Barbara Kopple and Stanley Nelson. This year we will honor award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney with our Career Achievement Award. Because of our festival success, we have expanded our calendar and present a “Spring Docs Day,” screening several new and important documentaries coupled with panel discussions. What stays the same is our mission to share the unique art of storytelling through film to an ever-growing community of fans.

Why is the festival held in Sag Harbor?

We decided to focus on a single venue to make it easier for filmgoers to take in as many films as they wanted without having to shuttle between East End hamlets. It has proved to be a winning strategy as many tell us. In addition, Sag Harbor is a unique art center with great shops and restaurants. There is a lot to do between films. And our partnership with the Baron’s Cove, a hotel right in town, welcomes our festival fans for a convenient and comfortable stay.

What is your favorite documentary film?

There is no one film. Every year I fall in love all over again with a new doc. But among my favorites are “My Brother’s Keeper,” “Paris is Burning”, and Nigel Noble’s Academy Award-winning film ”Close Harmony.”

Interested in learning more about HT2FF? Visit their website and read our interview with documentary filmmaker Lana Jokel, whose latest film "A Moment in Time: Hamptons' Artists" is showing at HT2FF's opening night, December 1st. 

By Mable Yiu

Photos courtesy of HT2FF.