The Stony Brook Film Festival, presented by Island Federal, is in its 28th year at the Staller Center for the Arts. This year’s Festival will run from Thursday, July 20, through Saturday, July 29, 2023. The fullschedule can be found here.
With hundreds of artists creating 36 films from 26 countries, the Stony Brook Film Festival at the Staller Center for the Arts will become a hub for some of the best filmmakers working today, a meeting ground for favorite actors and rising stars, and a showcase of new masterpieces.
Kicking off SBFF’s 28th year is the U.S. premiere of the Dutch film Sea of Time. Led by Sallie Harmensen (SkyTV’s Devils), Reinout Scholten van Aschat, and of Danish stage and screen fame Elsie De Brauw, the harrowing, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful film is anchored by the powerhouse performances that examine enduring love in times of hardship.
Many international films in this year’s Festival are threaded by this theme of love overcoming life’s difficulties. Whether it 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), or the hilarious, music-infused road trip Feature Grandpa Goes South from Slovenia.
Continuing on this shared theme of overcoming is Martha, a film that tells the true story of Martha Liebermann, wife to famed painter Max Liebermann, as she faces the Third Reich on own her terms. At the same time, the powerful documentary Radioactive, directed by Stony Brook University professor Heidi Hutner, recounts the saga about four housewives from Three Mile Island facing down the nuclear industry Goliath for over forty years, and The Grandson with its story of a man’s refusal to allow heartless scammers to get the best of his Grandfather in this tight Hungarian thriller.
There is no shortage of independent cinema in this year’s lineup, including the Serbian puzzle piece Where the Road Takes You, which takes the Western trope of the stranger in town who saves the girl and flips it on its head. From Canada, we are delighted to have the quirky comedy I Like Movies 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 on the cheap during Covid, and from Italy, the strangely compelling Amanda, about a young woman who suddenly decides that an acquaintance from her very young childhood is now her best friend.
Rounding out a host of stellar independent offerings is the wild Yes, Repeat, No, set in a studio where three actors are all auditioning for the same role. This courageous and unforgettable film zeroes in on questions of conflicting identity while managing to surprise at every turn.
Some recognizable faces also show up in this year’s lineup, including Richard Kind, Karen Allen, and Peter Reigert in Hit Man: Secrets of Liesand the wickedly hilarious Two Chairs, Not One,starring Caitlin Reilly (HBO’s Hacks), whose wildly popular TikTok account has amassed hundreds of millions of views, and Monica Nappo from House of Gucci in Amanda, an extremely entertaining, quirky and out of this world comedy. To view past Festival Attendees, click here.
Our Closing Night feature tells an extraordinary tale of overcoming. 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 little more than respect, determination, and sheer talent. Opening and closing with the insistent rhythm of Ravel’s Bolero, the film makes its hopeful message equally insistent: family and community can make the impossible possible.
Brian Cox, advisory board member to the Stony Brook Film Festival, and two-time honoree at the Festival, considers this “One Helluva Festival,” where attendees can see World Premieres and films from many different countries and cultures they cannot see anywhere else, not streaming, online, or in theaters. The only way to see any of these Films is to experience the Stony Brook Film Festival, live and in person.