Women will take center stage at the 27th Stony Brook Film Festival Presented by Island Federal — both in front of and behind the camera.
Screen legend Catherine Deneuve delivers a powerful performance in Peaceful, the opening night feature directed by acclaimed actress and director Emmanuelle Bercot, and the closing night feature, Lost Transport, written and directed by Saskia Diesing, is a powerful and deeply moving film set during the final days of World War II, uniquely told from a female perspective.
In all, 17 of the festival’s 38 films were directed by women, and two films, Kitchen Tales and Before Seven, were made with nearly all-female crews.
“The diversity of filmmakers is a hallmark of Stony Brook Film Festival, with student filmmakers, seasoned pros and nine first-time directors represented this year,” said Festival Director Alan Inkles. “We are very excited to have filmmakers from all over the world join us in person this year for their premiere screenings.”
The festival — which showcases the best in independent film premieres over 10 stimulating days — will take place from July 21-30 at the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, with all films screening at the center’s main stage theater. Film lovers 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. Passes start at $20.
All features are paired with a short film, and all films will feature either a live Q&A or pre-recorded interview with the filmmakers. All in-person attendees are invited to vote on the films each night, and the winners are announced at the closing night awards ceremony.
“Our audience can gather in a huge theater with Long Island’s largest screen to see movies the way they were meant to be seen,” Inkles said. “Not only are these films not available on any streaming format, but you also get to hear directly from the filmmakers themselves, ask them a question at our live Q&A, and even vote for your favorite.”
Opening night is headlined by the U.S premiere of Peaceful, starring Deneuve, Benoît Magimel and Gabriel A. Sara. A life-affirming drama about acceptance and resilience, the film follows Benjamin, an acting teacher with a terminal illness, as he navigates his final months and days. The beating heart of the film comes from Sara — a cancer specialist from Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan in real-life — who portrays Benjamin’s very humane specialist, Dr. Eddé.
The Jackie Stiles Story and Nasima are two completely different documentaries about female athletes from the middle of nowhere — a small Kansas town and a small seaside village in Bangladesh — who both beat the odds and made a huge impact in their respective sports of basketball and surfing. There are heroines from all walks of life, whether in the New Zealand drama The Justice of Bunny King, the Israeli epic Image of Victory, the Albanian thriller Vera Dream of the Sea, or the American indie Peace in the Valley, all of which feature knockout performances by their lead actresses.
The Sunday night independent feature, This is a Film About My Mother, was shot in Ithaca, New York, and stars real-life siblings Tess and Will Harrison, written and directed by Tess. The theme of family continues with the mesmerizing Korean independent film, Seokkarae, written and directed by Mike Beech and starring his wife, Jiwon Lee. The character-driven film depicts a quiet 20-something attempting to keep the family business going despite tough odds. Jungle, written by real life partners Claudia Verena Hruschka and Kieran Wheeler, has Wheeler directing and Hruschka giving a gut-wrenching performance in a hard-hitting short from Australia.
The Switcheroo is co-directed by Stony Brook brothers Ryan and Anthony Famulari. Made for next to nothing during COVID, this hilarious comedy has the brothers serving as the entire crew, with Anthony cast in the very funny role of a man and his clone. Two more co-directors are sisters Austin and Westin Ray with their UK-based quiet thriller Before Seven. The Rays, festival alums from 2014, served as directors, writer (Westin), and composer and cinematographer (Austin). Another SBFF festival alum is John Gray, who won the audience choice award for his 2020 film Extra Innings, and is back this year with the intriguing family drama The Little Drummer Boy.
Reflecting on current issues, two films in the festival, Olga and Berenshtein, both take place in and around Ukraine, and both are from times when the Ukrainian people faced down an oppressive regime — whether it be from the Nazis or their own government. Mila, a must-see short film on SBFF’s closing night, is a debut effort by writer/director Cinzia Angelini and made by 350 animators from 35 countries, who volunteered their services to help Angelini get her story made after all major studios turned it down. Inspired by events of the 1943 Trento bombing in Italy, this heartwarming story depicts a young girl who has lost everything but still clings to hope.
The SBFF kicks off with an opening night party and closes with an awards ceremony and closing night party. All passholders will hear from filmmakers throughout the festival and have the opportunity to rate and vote on favorite films to help choose the winners.
Gold passholders receive entry to all films, VIP reserved seating, a Stony Brook Film Festival swag bag, discounts at local restaurants and businesses, access to opening and closing night parties, filmmaker Q&As, and the closing night awards ceremony. Festival passholders receive entry to all films and guaranteed seating for sold-out films, filmmaker Q&A’s, access to the closing night awards ceremony, discounts at local restaurants and businesses, voting for audience choice award, and a Stony Brook Film Festival passholder gift.
Visit stonybrookfilmfestival.com for more information.