Monday, October 04, 2010



One of my favorite programs at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) each year is the Breakthrough Performers Program, run by Lina Todd, which recognizes a small number of extremely good young actors whose films are showing at HIFF.

Maryam Hassouni Anamaria Marinca & Hannah Herzsprung
Breakthrough Performers / Shooting Stars 2008
With Lina Todd
Photo by Eric Roffman

For the audience it is a chance to meet some actors at an early stage in their career, actors who have a real good shot at becoming huge stars. For the actors it is a chance to meet each other, to be mentored by distinguished talents in the American film industry, and to be introduced to American audiences.

In addition to seeing their breakthrough film (or films, sometimes an actor has more than one film at the Festival), there is the opportunity to speak with them informally at parties (and sometimes formally at interviews). There is also a panel presentation at which they talk about themselves, discuss filmmaking, and answer questions from the audience.
Rajendra Roy in 2009
At HIFF to moderate the Breakthrough Performers Panel
Photo by Eric Roffman

The program began as Rising Stars in 2002, when the Festival honored some new young film actors. Beginning in 2008, the program partnered with the European Shooting Stars program and invited several European actors to join the Rising Stars, calling the joint program, Breakthrough Performers. The program is run by Lina Todd. In its early years, the program was championed by Rajendra Roy, the Programmer for the Festival (who is currently Film Curator at the Museum of Modern Art -- MOMA). Rajendra returned last year to the Hamptons for the Festival, and chaired the Breakthrough Performers Panel.

The Festival this year has a very distinguished group of European Shooting Stars and International Rising Stars:


Frieda Pinto from India (Miral)
Brittany Robertson from the US (The Family Tree, Cherry)
Jessica Chastain from the US (The Debt)

Noomi Rapace, the Swedish Actress who played The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was chosen as a Rising Star, but will not be able to come because of conflicts in her shooting schedule: she's currently working on the Sherlock Holmes sequel and Clean Out with Timothy Dalton.


Zrinka Cvitesic from Croatia (On The Path)
Anais Demoustier from France (Sweet Evil)
Pihla Viitala from Finland (Bad Family)


Freida Pinto

Frieda Pinto (1984-10-18, 26 next week -- 5'6") was the object of desire in Slumdog Millionaire. She appears at HIFF in Miral by distinguished artist/director Julian Schnabel. She will soon be seen in Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Britt Robertson

Brittany (or Britt) Robertson (1990-04-18, 20 -- 5'3") is current playing Lux in Life Unexpected on CW. She was earlier seen in Swingtown on TV and, in films, was in Dan in Real Life and will soon be in Wes Craven's Scream 4. At HIFF 2010 she'll be seen in two films, Cherry, and The Family Tree.

Jessica Chastain (1977-03-29, 33 (according to WIKI) -- or 1981-03-29, 29 (IMDB) -- 5'4") has appeared on TV in ER, Law & Order and Veronica Mars. She is soon to be seen in Wilde Salome (as Salome) directed by Al Pacino. She will also be seen in Coriolanus, directed by Ralph Fiennes, and The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. She also joins an all-star cast in The Help. At HIFF 2010, she'll be seen in John Madden's The Debt as Young Rachel Singer.

The European Shooting Stars are chosen by a complex and super-selective process. 32 European countries are eligible to nominate a young star that has had an important and commercially successful film in the last year; then a jury selects 10 Shooting Stars who are announced at the Berlin Film Festival. The Shooting Stars receive many opportunities throughout the year to promote the films they have done; and they are given a statuette, the Maria. I am told that when Oscar and Maria stand next to each other, they make a nice looking couple!

Zrinka Cvitesic

Zrinka Cvitesic (1979-07-18, 31) from Croatia has acted in Theater, TV and Films. She is also a dancer, and won the Croatian version of Dancing With The Stars. She has won Best Actress Awards in her films Man Without A Moustache, and On The Path, the film being shown at HIFF.

Anais Demoustier

Anais Demoustier (1987-09-29, 23) -- from France appeared with Isabelle Huppert in Michael Haneke's The Time of the Wolf. She appears in Sweet Evil at HIFF 2010

Pihla Viitala

Pihla Viitala (1982-09-30, 26 -- 5'7") from Finland appeared in Tears of April, shown at HIFF in 2009, opposite Samuli Vauramo, a 2009 Shooting Star and Breakthrough Performer. She speaks English, Swedish, French and her native Finnish. She will be seen in Bad Family at HIFF 2010.

On The Path, Bad Family, and Sweet Evil are all "edgy" European films that deal in taboos and "politically incorrect" territory.

Over the years, the Rising Stars Program has spotlighted many important actors, including Emmy Rossum, Kate and Rooney Mara, Taylor Kitsch, Emily Blunt, Elizabeth Reaser, and Elizabeth Moss.

Hannah Herzsprung is the one actor distinguished by being selected first as a Rising Star (in 2007) and then returning the next year as a Shooting Star (in 2008).

Here is a list of the participants in the Breakthrough Performers Program at the Hamptons International Film Festival since it began in 2002. (I've tried to get all the years, participants and spellings correct... but do add a comment if you can correct an error in this list!)

In 2002, when the program started, James Coburn was the first Mentor and Rajendra Roy was the HIFF Program Director.

2002 –
Jordan Bridges
Jacqueline Kim
Ryan Locke
Andrea Navedo
Susan May Pratt

2003 –
Dean Wareham
Savannah Haske
Elizabeth Moss
Mylika Davis

2004 –
Mark Weber
Norman Reedus
Vinessa Shaw
Aaron Stanford
Eugenia Yuan

2005 –
Emily Blunt
Eugene Byrd
Florian Lukas
Jake Muxworthy
Kip Pardue
Elizabeth Reaser

2006 --
Carmen Chaplin
Dagmara Dominczyk
Matt Davis
Mido Hamada
Noah Fleiss

2007 --
Jess Weixler (Teeth)
Hannah Herzsprung (Four Minutes)
Egbert-Jan Weeber (Vivere)
Blake Lively (Elvis and Anabelle)

2008 –
Kate Mara (Stone Of Destiny),
Taylor Kitsch (Gospel Hill), and
Jake Abel (Flash Of Genius) from North America and

Maryam Hassouni (Dunya And Desie),
Anamaria Marinca (Boogie)
Hannah Herzsprung (Werther)

2009 –
Emmy Rossum (Dare)
Rooney Mara (Dare and Tanner Hall)
Zach Gilford and Emma Stone were selected, but were unable to attend

Alba Rohrwacher (Due partite --in English, The Ladies Get Their Say) from Italy
Cyron Melville (Love and Rage) from Denmark.
Samuli Vauramo (Tears of April)

2010 –
Freida Pinto (Miral)
Brittany Robertson (The Family Tree, Cherry)
Jessica Chastain (The Debt)

Zrinka Cvitešić from Croatia (On the Path)
Anaïs Demoustier (Sweet Evil) from France
Pihla Viitala (Bad Family) from Finland

The Shooting Stars program, with a long history, has had many very distinguished members. The actors known to an American audience, though, are primarily from the UK, Germany and France. Shooting Stars is a program of the European Film Promotion Network (EFP), and it can only be hoped that they will succeed in promoting films from all over Europe (the other 29 countries!) in the US.

In addition to those who've come to the US for the Breakthrough Performers Program, who are having terrific starts to their careers, here are some of the most famous participants in the Shooting Stars Program:

Moritz Bleibtreu - Germany - 1999
Sarah Bolger - Ireland - 2009
Daniel Bruhl - Germany - 2003
Daniel Craig - UK - 2000
Cecile de France - France - 2003
Nina Hoss - Germany - 2000
David Kross - Germany - 2009
Carey Mulligan - UK - 2009
Franke Potente - Germany - 1998
Ludivine Sagnier France - 2001
Rachel Weisz - UK - 1998

We should point out, though, that there are many exciting young actors in indie and studio films at HIFF that are not part of the Breakthrough Performers Program.

Some actors to watch that have not been in the Breakthrough Performer Program are:

Ashley Springer
At HIFF with DARE in 2009
Photo by Eric Roffman

Ashley Springer, terrific in 2009's Dare and in 2007's Teeth, both of which had other cast members in the Breakthrough Performers Program, though he was not. He's very intelligent, funny, and good looking, in addition to being an excellent actor, and game: in Teeth he was one of the unfortunate victims of Jess Weixler's "teeth".

Supermodel/Actress Xenia Siamas, smart, beautiful, entrepreneurial and supremely talented. Highly sought after as a model, she is doing more and more films. She played a drug addict in the 2006 Push with Chazz Palminteri. She has a featured role in Casino Jack at HIFF this year, as a stewardess, and is in development and pre-production with several film projects for next year. Watch for her!

Robin Singer
Photo by Ramsey Fendall

Lovely Robin Singer has a starring role in the three character drama Kisses, Chloe: a man, a woman, and another woman, alone, together, in a house by the sea in the Hamptons (a perfect film for HIFF)!

Here are some links:

Here are some older stories about participants in the Breakthrough Performers Program:

(Rooney was one of last year's Breakthrough Performers at HIFF 2009; these are some pix I took there.)

(Emmy Rossum was a Breakthrough Performer at HIFF 2009, and she had a starring role in the film, Dare. This is a video interview I did with her. Emmy is currently taping Shameless, a new TV series for Showtime.)


(Hannah Herzsprung, one of the finest and most popular young actresses in German was in the Breakthrough Performers Program in both 2007 and 2008. This story and others about her from the Festival have been enduringly popular. Each time one of her films opens, or she comes into attention, QPORIT gets a huge flood of traffic (largely but not entirely from Germany and Europe) for stories that mention her. Most recently this just happened again a few weeks ago.)

(Jess Weixler was one of the 2007 Breakthrough Performers.)

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