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Stony Brook Film Festival returns, includes sneak peek with Hollywood faces

The crowd at the Stony Brook Film Festival, 2018.
Courtesy of the Staller Center
The crowd at the Stony Brook Film Festival, 2018.

The Stony Brook Film Festival will return for its 29th year on July 18 and run through July 27. The festival is slated to screen 36 films and accompanying shorts, with selections pulled from across the world.

WSHU’s Eda Uzunlar spoke with festival founder and director Alan Inkles to discuss this year’s selection and the festival's growth over nearly three decades.

WSHU: Alan, you founded this film festival 29 years ago and have been a part of every iteration. Talk about the work that goes into it, and how it culminates into the opening night.

AI: It's an amazing energy. Even though it's a 10-day festival, we're really working on it year-round. Movies are coming in as early as November. We get about 3,000 films that come in, my colleagues and I, and it's a great feeling. So by opening night, it's usually a packed house and you know, you think of film festivals — most of them are small theaters. These are independent films and foreign films.

CLIP, A Fantastic Relationship: It's like the moment he showed me the tattoo, I knew I could never look at him. Totally. This has become unsustainable.

AI: You know, Tribeca and the Hamptons, a lot of them are in the small theaters, but we have a 1,000-seat theater in there. Like, 800 people might be there for a film they've never heard of before.

CLIP, The Queen of My Dreams: <<Urdu dialogue>> It's an MFA mom. It's an acronym. Nobody says it like a word. I'm not nobody.

AI: It might be a foreign language film; this year we have a great French film.

AI: But they've taken a chance. They've looked at the brochure, they've trusted us for 29 years and they pack it in for a film. There's no review on it. They have no idea what they're coming to. There's no other way they can see this film, and there's just no way to describe it. It's indescribable. It's like opening night every year for 29 years. It never gets old – never gets old, Eda.

WSHU: Well, I would assume so, considering you've been doing it for almost three decades. Tell me how you've seen this event change and grow over time.

AI: We're probably one of the hardest festivals to get into. Over the years, because we don't – you know, I used to do 100 films. So, when I think about the first year, I used my five theaters. I had a main theater, a recital hall; I had a video up. You watch people go from theater to theater. I said, “That's not who we are.”

So, I've gone through so many machinations of more venues, more films. I think what I love is we — with a great team that I have here — we've actually sort of moved away from the things that weren't working and we've got a real system that works. So, I would say more than anything, I just love the way we've grown. I think we've just, we've turned into this major mini-festival that people want to come to play at because they know I'm gonna work for them. I'm gonna push their films.

WSHU: And you've got some surprises up your sleeve. This year's lineup features a sneak peek of an upcoming movie. What can you tell us about that special night?

AI: Yeah, a filmmaker, which, I won't mention his name, but he's a Long Island filmmaker. He's back living in Long Island. He was in LA for a while. He produced this really brilliant film. It's got a couple of stars in it that people will recognize from other films. Because the film has got a big connection — actually, it's a connection to Stony Brook in a way too, and what's going on at Stony Brook Hospital. That's a little bit of a tease. It's a narrative film. It's a great film. It just got picked up for distribution. So it's the first time anyone will see this film anywhere. I think even the cast and crew, a lot of them will come for the film. So it's Sunday night, the 21st, at seven o'clock. It's got social meaning, [and] connects to the university. It's absolutely worth coming out for, and I think you're really gonna like it a lot.

Eda Uzunlar (she/her) is a reporter for WSHU.