The 28th annual Stony Brook Film Festival, presented by Island Federal, returns to the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University July 20-29, showcasing the work of hundreds of artists from across the globe.
The festival features 36 films — including features and shorts — from 26 countries, all shown on the center’s main stage theater. Many of the international films include the theme of love overcoming life’s difficulties.
“This is the most diverse and exciting festival since my team and I created this series in 1995,” said festival director Alan Inkles. “With 36 films chosen from over 2,500 submissions, we absolutely have the cream of the crop of the best new American Indie and foreign language films of the year — brand new premiere films you can’t see in the theatre, online or even streaming.”
Inkles added that filmmakers and actors from as far away as Serbia and Israel will be flying in to attend for Q&A sessions following most screenings. “Our reasonable pass for the entire 10 days of the festival is what I pay for one movie at Sundance, and on our 40-foot screen in our main theatre at Staller Center, the experience is better at Stony Brook,” Inkles added. “This is an extraordinary way to get back to the movie theatre for some of the most dramatic, funny, thrilling and unique films. This truly is the cultural event of the summer on Long Island.”
Cinephiles can purchase individual tickets, a weekend pass, a complete festival pass or a premium gold pass, which includes premiere seating in the VIP reserved section, promotions at local restaurants, exclusive invitations to opening and closing parties, SBFF swag, and more. Individual tickets start at $15.
New for this year is a Flex Pass that allows guests to attend any five days of the festival (excluding closing night and the awards ceremony) without needing a reservation, with guaranteed seating for up to 20 features and short films. Flex Pass tickets start at $70 for early purchase. Visit the festival website to purchase tickets and passes.
Each night includes a feature film paired with a short film, and most films will feature an in-person Q&A with filmmakers. Passholders will have the opportunity to rate and vote on favorite films to help choose the winners, which are announced at the closing night awards ceremony.
Kicking off the festival is the U.S. premiere of the Dutch film Sea of Time, a harrowing, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful film anchored by powerhouse performances that examine enduring love in times of hardship.
Continuing the theme of love overcoming setbacks is the blossoming young love against all odds in the Polish period drama March ’68, the touching Japanese film Trapped Balloon (starring Toko Miura of the 2022 Oscar-winning film Drive My Car), the gorgeous and romantic love story of My Sailor, My Love with Scottish film icon James Cosmo (Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials) and Tony-Award Winner Bríd Brennan (Dancing at Lughnasa), and the hilarious, music-infused Slovenian road trip feature Grandpa Goes South.
The festival also includes the powerful documentary Radioactive, directed by Stony Brook University professor Heidi Hutner. It recounts the saga about four housewives from Three Mile Island facing down the nuclear industry Goliath for over 40 years.
Some recognizable faces appear in this year’s lineup, including Richard Kind, Karen Allen, and Peter Reigert in Hit Man: Secrets of Lies and the hilarious Two Chairs, Not One, starring Caitlin Reilly (HBO’s Hacks), whose popular TikTok account has amassed hundreds of millions of views, and Monica Nappo from House of Gucci in Amanda.
Martha tells the true story of Martha Liebermann, wife to famed painter Max Liebermann, as she faces the Third Reich on her own terms. The Hungarian thriller The Grandson tells the story of a man’s refusal to allow scammers to take advantage of his grandfather. Where the Road Leads tells the story of a Serbian teen who will do anything to save a stranger she hopes will take her far away from her home.
The quirky Canadian comedy I Like Movies is about the reformation of a crabby, awkward teenage cinephile. Also providing comic relief are the scenic and quietly riotous American indies Friends From Home, shot with a low budget during Covid, and from Italy, the compelling Amanda, about a young woman who suddenly decides that an acquaintance from her very young childhood is now her best friend.
Rounding out the independent offerings is the wild Yes, Repeat, No, set in a studio where three actors are all auditioning for the same role. This film focuses on questions of conflicting identity while managing to surprise viewers at every turn.
The final night’s feature, Divertimento, shares the true story of sisters Zahia and Fettouma Ziouani, a conductor and a cellist, who, despite being Algerian immigrants from the wrong part of Paris, managed to create a world-class professional orchestra with respect, determination, and talent.
— Beth Squire