On Monday, December 9, East Hampton artist and filmmaker Jane Martin’s film “What Is Love?” premieres as part of the Hamptons Doc Fest’s top shorts program at 6 PM at the Bay Street Theater.
The 34-minute film, part of a seven-part series that Martin has planned, asks a question that seems almost impossible to answer. But in that half-hour, there are over 90 participants, not identified by name, but with familiar faces like Nancy Atlas, Alec Baldwin, Rodney Yee, Edie Windsor, and Mercedes Ruehl.
Martin calls the film “a meditation on love,” and said simply, when asked where the idea came from, it was out of “heartbreak.”
According to a press release, “‘What is Love?’ is a documentary about love and its many meanings. Love is a word we all use, but rarely stop and try to define. ‘What Is Love?’ asks this question of people from all walks of life, ages, sexualities, and cultures. They speak from the depths of years of experience, from the freshness of youth, from the battlegrounds and successes of love.”
“Drawn from a broad demographic the characters can be seen as landscapes, each with their own eccentricities and appeal,” the statement continues. “Humorous, touching, searching, surprising. . . their answers weave an intricate thread through our human experience.”
Apparently, Martin is not alone in trying to find the answer to this ageless question. “Six months into production, we discovered that ‘What is Love?’ was the most Googled question of 2011, 2012, and 2014,” she said. “This is a film for anyone who has ever loved.”
Not a straight set of interviews, the film is interspersed with creative graphics using love graffiti and images shot in different parts of the world.
The piece’s director, producer, and co-editor Martin has had success in this genre before. Her first documentary “Silent Sentries,” an ode to New York City, was broadcast primetime on four PBS stations nationally, including numerous times on Channel 13 in NYC. It also premiered at festivals in France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Portugal, as well as in the United States.
Also on the team are co-editor Alex Mankiewicz who, yes, is related to the filmmaking family — as in Joe, and cinematographer Nate Best of Montauk. Music for the film is composed by local singer-songwriter-storyteller Inda Eaton.
What does Martin want to be the takeaway for audiences? “I am looking to start a conversation on love,” she said. “Not to come up with a definitive answer, but to question it and reflect on it. Many of the interviewees said they spent hours after their interview discussing it with their partners.”
How did she pick who to talk to? “I started with my friends, some well-known in their fields, and gradually expanded the circle to acquaintances and people whom I thought would make an addition to the film,” Martin said. “I was also looking for diversity — color, sexuality, age, culture. And I grabbed a few people off the street I didn’t know who looked interesting.”