Filmmaker: Treva Wurmfeld
Runtime: 75 mins
Synopsis: The Hamptons: playground of the super rich. Epicenter of a luxury property boom, with developers scheming for any scrap of land on which to make millions. Meanwhile the original inhabitants of this beautiful peninsula, the Shinnecock Indians, find themselves pushed to a point of near extinction, squeezed onto a tiny 750-acre reservation. Over hundreds of years the Shinnecock have seen their ancient burial grounds plowed up unceremoniously: for the widening of roads, golf courses and new mansions. On the reservation wounds run deep.
Exploring the roots of American inequity, greed and pollution, CONSCIENCE POINT contrasts the values of those for whom beautiful places are a commodity – who regard land as raw material to be developed for profit and pleasure – and those locals for whom land means community, belonging, heritage and home. CONSCIENCE POINT metaphorically and thematically goes beyond the Hamptons to tell a story of fighting the elite 1% at a time when so many across America are also struggling to remain in gentrifying parts of cities under development for luxury homes and lifestyles.
Long time Shinnecock activist Becky Hill-Genia, the film’s heroine, cut her activist teeth during the American Indian Movement. During this time she was steeped in empowering philosophies and political ideas that she applies today to the present day situation – standing up to Southampton town government, to preserve Shinnecock sacred land and push forward legislation to protect ancestral grave sites.
Becky’s story brings to light a community under immense stress, that has suffered from the repeated colonization of their land and way of life, beginning with the arrival of European settlers in 1640 and continuing through the over-development of the 90’s due to Wall street types moving in and building endless McMansions. Becky and her family love the land, and seek to preserve it in its unspoiled state. For them land use is a moral issue, and greed is the enemy of the environment. The survival of wild land that is part of their culture forms a central part of a high stakes story that is ultimately as much about environmental sustainability as abuse of power.
A long simmering tension between the wealthiest Americans and the Shinnecock will come to a head in the summer of 2018, when the world watches the U.S. Open golf tournament unfold at the ultra-exclusive Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Few will have any idea that the pristine course was literally carved out of a Shinnecock burial site. CONSCIENCE POINT will expose the true story of the wealthiest zip code in America, as Becky takes a courageous stand to secure the Shinnecock’s future, against the odds.
About the Filmmaker
Treva Wurmfeld‘s feature directorial debut, Shepard & Dark, made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and won top awards at the Woodstock Int. Film Festival, the Cleveland Int. Film Festival and the Florida Film Festival. That year, Wurmfeld was included in Filmmaker Magazines 25 new faces of Independent Film. Shepard & Dark was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival and Wurmfeld was nominated for the Camera d’Or prize. Shepard & Dark was released by Music Box films in the Fall of 2013. Her second feature documentary, Conscience Point, premiered at the Hampton’s Int’l Film Festival in 2019 where it picked up the Rabinowitz & Grant award for Social Justice. The film was supported by ITVS and received the Pare Lorentz grant from the IDA. It was broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens and received distribution from Women Make Movies and Java Films. A podcast version of the story was commissioned by a BBC & Sundance Institute collaboration in 2018. Earlier in her career, Wurmfeld shot and produced for the Emmy Award winning series Intervention and wrote and directed the short films, Oyster (2007) and The Hama Hama Way (2015). She received her MFA from Hunter College, in 2006.