HIFF31: Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights

Created in 2012, the HamptonsFilm signature program Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights combines animal advocacy, environmental and social justice issues, providing a platform for filmmakers to share meaningful information, stories of inspiration, and tools for creating a safe and humane world for animals. These films seek to arouse in the consciousness of our audiences respect for the dignity and rights of all living beings and to encourage dialogue about how we treat and view animals as a community.

Every year, one of the films in this program receives the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award, accompanied by a cash prize. Raising public awareness about the moral and ethical treatment and the rights of animals, as well as environmental protection, the winning film inspires compassion and compels social change. Given by Zelda Penzel, long time educator, advocate for animal rights, and a volunteer at HIFF since its inception.

HIFF31 is pleased to announce the following three films as part of the Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights signature program.


US Premiere
dir. Jason Goldman (USA, 2023)
Unable to come to terms with the cruel reality of animal agriculture, a former Texas cattle rancher goes vegan and transforms her husband’s beef operation into a farmed animal sanctuary. When their story goes viral, she realizes her true calling: to help farmers transition to plant-based and end their business of animal agriculture. ROWDY GIRL showcases the inspiring work of an animal activist who has been on both sides and proves that there is a common ground between farmers and vegans—a shared mission of compassion and sustainability.


North American Premiere
dir. David Allen (UK, 2023)
Based on Isabella Tree’s best-selling book by the same title, WILDING tells the story of a young couple that bets on nature for the future of their failing, four-hundred-year-old estate. The young couple battles entrenched tradition and dares to place the fate of their farm in the hands of nature. Ripping down the fences, they set the land back to the wild and entrust its recovery to a motley mix of animals both tame and wild. It is the beginning of a grand experiment that will become one of the most significant rewilding experiments in Europe. Wilding is produced by three-time Oscar-winning production company Passion Pictures; partnered with Oscar-nominated and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning HHMI Tangled Bank Studios. The film is directed by five-time Emmy Award-winning David Allen, and photographed by multi-BAFTA & Emmy Award-winning cinematographers Tim Cragg and Simon de Glanville. Wilding’s musical score is composed by Biggi Hilmars and Grammy-nominated Jon Hopkins.


US Premiere
dir. Laura Rindlisbacher (UK, 2023)
Happy is an elephant. But is she also a person? This is the question of the biggest animal rights case of the 21st century. Captured as a baby in Asia, Happy has been living at the Bronx Zoo for more than 40 years. Since 2006, she has been living there alone. A legal team is fighting for her liberty rights. But according to the law, as soon as Happy has a right, she also becomes a legal person. This is the story of a legal case that asks us to rethink our definition of personhood and the interdependence of the animal and human kingdom.

Passes and packages for HIFF31 go on sale September 5. A HamptonsFilm Members pre-sale for individual tickets begins September 23, with individual tickets to the general public on sale September 25. Join today for early ticket access.

The 31st annual Hamptons International Film Festival will take place October 5-12, 2023. HIFF thanks the supporters for this year’s festival, including returning Premiere Sponsor Audi; Signature Sponsors The Macallan and Variety; Supporting Sponsors Naturopathica, Dragon Hemp, Netflix, Silvercup, and Regal Cinemas; as well as official Media Sponsors WNBC, The East Hampton Star, The Purist, and new Signature Sponsor The Atlantic; and long term support from New York State Council on the Arts, and Suffolk County Film Commission.


  1. I am so happy that the rights of animals
    are being brought to light. I have watched many videos of the heartbreaking cruelty brought to our animals in animal agriculture. There is no nutrition in the consumption of pain and death! Unethical, unhealthy and unsustainable = animal agriculture. As Leo Tolstoy, astutely stated, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will always be battlefields.”