Look no further for your cinematic paradise. The Staller Center for the Arts will screen 36 new independent films from almost 20 different nations at the Stony Brook Film Festival between July 18 and July 27. Throughout the 10 days, visitors will mingle with filmmakers, directors, actors and producers from across the globe as they experience the U.S. and world premieres of several American indie and foreign films.
Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center and the Stony Brook Film Festival, called this year’s mix of dramas, comedies and documentaries the festival’s most diverse since he founded it 24 years ago.
“We’re going to take you to the depths of despair and also give you some very funny belly laughs,” Inkles said. “It’s a great whirlwind.”
According to Inkles, for many of the 36 “jewels” that he and co-programmer Kent Marks handpicked from more than 3,000 entries, the festival is “the only chance you’ll get to see them”—unless they get picked up by American distributors, which is unlikely due to low demand, though the films that win awards at the world-renowned festival do “get a leg up.”
“You can count on two hands the number of foreign language films that have done well in this country during the last 20 years,” he said. “Even American indie films can’t get out there because there’s too many screens playing Toy Story 26 and Spider-Man 18…We get the opportunity to show some really great films that you can’t see anywhere else.”
Inkles believes that many Americans prefer blockbusters to foreign films because of the nuisance of reading too-small subtitles. He explained, however, that the Main Stage Theater’s 40-foot screens will allow the universal messages of the festival’s foreign offerings to resonate.
“The subtitles are so large that you forget you’re reading subtitles,” he said. “These are things happening to someone in Israel or China or Senegal, but they’re stories about human nature…Once you get past two minutes of a foreign language, you’re not watching anything that is so foreign to you.”
You’re likely not fleeing 20th century East Germany in a hot air balloon, Inkles admits, alluding to the festival’s opening night feature Balloon, “but you’re dealing with parents and their children who won’t have a life if they don’t escape.”
“And we know what that’s like in a sense. We want a better life for our children,” he said.“This is the stuff that we live and breathe.”
Indeed, Inkles characterized the endurance of family relationships as the fortuitous motif of this year’s festival. Each festival’s theme, he said, tends to “sort of develop” unintentionally as its films are selected.
Inkles has paired one feature with one complementary short for every night of the festival (more on weekends), granting each filmmaker an individual question-and-answer session.
“It’s interactive; it’s like going to a live show,” he said. “It’s not just going to the movies… it’s partaking in a bigger thing.”
Long Islanders have other activities to enjoy during the summer, Inkles recognizes, which is why the festival provides an especially entertaining and evocative program.
“I know that the sun beckons you, I know you got a barbecue, I know that you want to stay on the boat,” he said. “But there are some very hardworking filmmakers out there who are trying to tell really powerful stories…I want people to find something in a film that really changes their life or the way that they think.”
Inkles understands that the festival is far for many Nassau County residents, but attending is more valuable than binge watching TV in your basement, he reasons..
“Want to go to the multiplex to see some of those action films? Then do it, by all means. Want to watch Netflix? Watch to your heart’s desire,” he said. “But if you want to come see some really intelligent, really challenging, and fun films, then come to the Stony Brook Film Festival.”
Visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com to purchase tickets and passes. Passholder perks include reserved seating with filmmakers, discounts at nearby restaurants, and admission to the opening night party and closing night awards reception.
For more on the Stony Brook Film Festival’s screening schedule and film descriptions, visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com/films.