Having built credibility with audiences and filmmakers alike over the past decade, the Stony Brook Film Festival, which gets under way on Thursday, July 17, now draws hundreds of entries from around the world.
Indeed, more than 600 feature-length documentaries and short films were nominated for inclusion in this year's lineup. But only 35 of them were selected for the 13th annual festival, which continues at the State University of New York's Stony Brook campus through Saturday, July 26.
"Most of our films just tend to be good stories," said Alan Inkles, the Festival director since its inception and head of Stony Brook's Staller Center.
What's the biggest difference between Stony Brook's event and other independent film festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca?
"This is an audience of 1,000 people going to watch movies, not just buy and sell them," Inkles said, noting that in recent years almost every screening has drawn near-capacity crowds and the notice of high-level film industry insiders. "In the last five or six years, we've really come into our own," he added.
In a full-color brochure touting the festival, Inkles writes: "Enjoy 10 days of independent film, shown on Staller Center's impressive 40-foot screen in our 1,000-seat Main Stage Theatre." He goes on to urge readers to "buy an inexpensive pass for only $65 and see every film."
That type of time commitment may be asking a bit much, although a couple of films listed in the brochure stand out because they feature top performers, starting with the Thursday, July 17 New York premiere of
Emotional Arithmetic, starring Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer and Gabriel Byrne. Based on a novel by the late Canadian writer Matt Cohen, the film chronicles a 1980s reunion of three World War II survivors of a French 'transit' camp. The 8 p.m.
screening is being followed by an Opening Night Party in the University Art Gallery at 10 p.m.
The Saturday, July 19 schedule features two motion pictures with links to familiar names.
The Cake Eaters, a film marking the directorial debut of actress Mary Stuart Masterson, who will be in Stony Brook's Main Stage Theatre that night, will be shown at 7 p.m. Masterson is perhaps best known for playing Dr. Rebecca Hendrix between 2004 and 2007 on NBC's
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, July 19 at 9:30 p.m.,
will have its world premiere. Starring Dana Delany, it is a comedy based in rural Pennsylvania. The film's director is John Putch, whose mother, Jean Stapleton, became a TV legend for her portrayal of Edith Bunker on CBS's
All in the Family. Putch himself has been in the entertainment business for decades, dating back to a regular role as a child actor on CBS's
One Day at a Time.
The closing night film on Saturday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. is
Camille, which will make its East Coast premiere at Stony Brook. With Sienna Miller and James Franco (Spiderman) in the lead roles, the story is billed as a "delightfully twisted adventure about a young couple on their way to Niagara Falls."
For more information, check out www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com.