HIFF 2015: Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights

Virunga, winner of the 2014 Zelda Penzel Award (and Academy Award nominee).

Still from VIRUNGA, winner of the 2014 Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Prize (and Academy Award nominee).

In the 21st century, billions of animals continue to be exploited for our food, clothing, labor, research and entertainment. They are denied their basic right to life and fundamental protections against violence and cruelty.

Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights is a new Hamptons International Film Festival Signature Program that explores this important movement on film. Bringing together animal advocacy, environmental and social justice issues, our Animal Rights program provides 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.

In 2015, the HIFF Animal Rights program will consist of a small collection of narrative and/or documentary films within the theme screened at the Festival, presented by the Best Friends Animal Society

In addition, the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award will be presented at the HIFF Awards Ceremony in October. Past winners of this award, which has been part of our awards ceremony for the past three years, include VIRUNGA (Oscar® Nominee), EMPTYING THE SKIES, and HBO’s ONE NATION, UNDER DOG.

Best-Friends-Animal-Society-100Presented by Best Friends Animal Society, with support from:
Zelda Penzel
Dorothy Frankel
Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
Billy Rose Foundation
John Bradham
Lynette Penzell
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Sony & Maurice Schotland Foundation, Inc.
Dr. Deborah Tanzer
Treeline Treenut Cheese

HIFF 2015: Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights


The Champions

World Premiere | USA
Director: Darcy Dennett
THE CHAMPIONS is the powerful story of the brave individuals who rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted the pit-bulls from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s violent dog-fighting ring. Despite tremendous pressure from animal welfare organizations to euthanize these animals, a handful of men and women stepped in to give the dogs a second chance. With her inspiring documentary, first time filmmaker Darcy Dennett proves the power of resilience and addresses a variety of important issues, including the unfair stigma surrounding this misunderstood breed, the exploitation of animals for the sake of entertainment, and the way society is too quick to forgive its star athletes.


Director Darcy Dennett and special guests will convene for a post-screening panel discussion on 10/10. Tickets include access to panel.

Darcy Dennett—director of THE CHAMPIONS
Francis Battista—Co-founder of Best Friends Society
Paul Fiaccone—Subject of THE CHAMPIONS
Rebecca Huss—Professor of Law at Valparaiso University (she was also the Guardian/Special Master overseeing the dogs in the Michael Vick case)
Panel Moderator: Jerry Cimisi


Directed by Jerry Rothwell
In 1971, a group of journalists, scientists, and hippies set sail on a mission to prevent American atomic tests on an Alaskan Island. Transformed by the experience, this small grassroots band of activists launched the start of the Greenpeace movement. Young, media-savvy, and with cameras in hand, they campaigned against the whaling industry and made front-page news. Compiling never before seen footage into a thrilling and high-energy film, Jerry Rothwell’s HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD chronicles the rise of Greenpeace, their dynamic personalities, and the internal ideological debates about the mission of the organization.


France | Directed by John Banana
Short Film | 7 minutes
What happens when a little girl decides to save the food she refused to eat?


How can you help? HIFF welcomes donors at various levels to support this new film movement and continue to shed light on and showcase stories that embody this crucial issue of our time. Learn more!