The East Hampton movie theater was packed for the world premiere of "59 Middle Lane," a documentary film that follows the 20-year-old children of financier Ted Ammon — who was bludgeoned to death in 2001, less than a mile away from the theater — back to their native Ukraine.
One of East Hampton's few murder cases, the multimillionaire's death made for tabloid headlines and was even made into a TV movie, "Murder in the Hamptons."
As his children, who have remained relatively silent, reach adulthood, it's clear they were ready to tell the story on their terms, even though as they began filming, they weren't sure exactly what their story was.
"It's going to change things, but I don't know what yet," Alexa says in the film before she and her brother depart for their home country. Greg Ammon, who has a film production company, directs.
What they find may have been difficult for others to face, but for two children who lost both adoptive parents by the time they were 13 and who admit to loving the man who was convicted of murdering their father, the Ammon children don't turn away from what they find in the Ukraine — they embrace it.
After all, they find family — on camera they meet three half-siblings, two of whom they meet almost instantly when they visit the address found in their adoption papers. They speak to another brother in Moscow over the phone.
They discover that the government removed them from their mother's care as she struggled with alcoholism and mental problems, and that they were likely the product of a one night stand with a soldier. Their mother was a prostitute, who begged for money on the streets to buy alcohol. She died in 2004, at 49, seven years before the film was made. The twins were two of her eight children — some of whom went to the same orphanage they did.
The film does not shy away from how their own adoptive family quickly disintegrated.
The children share photographs never publicly seen before of their family — photos with writing next to them, like, "First night as a family."
Greg and Alexa had visibly deformed skulls from malnourishment. Their godfather comments in the film, "They went from having nothing to having everything."
While the pictures show happier times — playing Wiffle Ball on the lawn at their East Hampton estate with their father to enjoying the sandy beach with both parents — Greg Ammon says early on the film that he has a hard time recalling the good memories.
Though they were only around 10, they remember the bitter divorce that ensued. They reveal their mother made them steal papers while visiting their father and report back on findings, and it was only then, they said, that their mother would be nice and let them watch television. If they showed any happiness from being around their father, they mother sent them directly to their room and would not even give them a hug to welcome them home.
Their aunt Sandi Williams — who later raised them in Huntsville, AL — broke the news their father was dead. They even spend an emotional night in the house at 59 Middle Lane, their first night there since they were 13.
Danny Pelosi, a contractor whom their mother had already been dating, was seemingly kind toward the children, they said, running interference between their volatile mother. Pelosi and Generosa Ammon married three months later.
Their aunt said he "insinuated himself into their psyches." She bristles at the amount of time the children spent with him, though he was in and out of jail on DWI charges.
Williams and her husband Dr. Bob Williams filed for custody of the children as Generosa was dying from breast cancer, which she ultimately succumbed to in 2003. They were afraid for the children's safety if left with Pelosi, who wasn't convicted of Ted Ammon's murder until 2004.
Snippets of television footage show Pelosi walking into court (His attorney Eddie Burke Jr., of Sag Harbor, walking beside him). Several front pages of The New York Post are featured in the film — reminding those who may have forgotten the public's fascination with the case.
One facet the film does not address is Generosa's role – or lack thereof – in their father's murder. She was long suspected a person of interest in the case, though there was no evidence linking her. In March 2012, Pelosi gave an interview to ABC News claiming his innocence and that Generosa hired someone else to commit the murder.
Greg and Alexa admit to loving Pelosi and to still holding guilt around speaking out against him in court.
Like many adoptive children who seek out their biological family, there is guilt. "I've felt guilty my whole life," Alexa said in the film.
Perhaps the film is their first step in letting go of some that.
Did you see the film? What did you think of it?