The Stony Brook Film Festival launches its 23rd edition this week with a lineup of international titles, American independents, short films and — thanks to a last-minute request from a well-known actor — some bragging rights.
According to festival director Alan Inkles, the brochure was heading to print in mid-May when he received an email from Brian Cox, the Scottish actor known for his roles in “Braveheart,” “The Bourne Identity” and numerous stage plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Cox, who accepted a Career Achievement Award from the festival in 2016, was writing to ask if Inkles might accept his new film, “The Etruscan Smile,” about a Hebrides islander who transplants himself to America.
“I would be so delighted if the U.S. premiere could be at Stony Brook, as it was one of the most fun festivals I have ever had the pleasure to attend,” the actor wrote. With a little juggling, Inkles slotted the title into the schedule and arranged for Cox to attend in person, along with co-stars Rosanna Arquette and Thora Birch.
“We’re not the biggest festival,” Inkles says, “but we're a quality festival, and filmmakers know that."
Below are several highlights from this year’s lineup. Most screenings include a short film.
SHELTER (Thursday, July 19 at 8 p.m.) The festival’s opening-night film is a dramatic thriller about a Mossad agent who unexpectedly forms a bond with a Lebanese informant under her protection. The writer-director is Eran Riklis, who will attend this screening. The film stars Neta Riskin, Golshifteh Farahani and the great Lior Ashkenazi.
THE BOOKSHOP (Friday, July 20 at 7 p.m.) In 1959, a widow (Emily Mortimer) opens a modern-minded bookstore in a conservative British seaside town. Patricia Clarkson plays an oppositional community member and Bill Nighy is the aloof but supportive Mr. Brundish.
DEAN DARLING (Saturday, July 21, at 4 p.m.). A college student whose parents recently died in a car accident moves in with his aunt and uncle and spends a summer of soul searching. Smithtown writer-director Calogero Carucci shot this film in his hometown and Coney Island with a small cast and crew largely from Long Island. Most, if not all of them, will attend this screening.
THE ETRUSCAN SMILE (Saturday, July 21, at 9:30 p.m.) Brian Cox plays a rugged Scotsman who leaves his island home for medical treatment in a very different milieu — San Francisco. The cast will be in attendance.
ABDUCTED IN PLAIN SIGHT (Sunday, July 22, at 4 p.m.) Skye Borgman's documentary tells the story of Robert Berchtold, who in the mid-1970s kidnapped an adolescent girl — twice — and brainwashed her into turning against her family.
THE GUILTY (Monday, July 23, at 9:30 p.m.) After a security-alarm dispatcher is disconnected from a kidnapped caller, he attempts to track her down with the only tool he has — his phone. Jakob Cedergren and Jessica Dinnage star in this Danish thriller.
A BOY, A GIRL, A DREAM (July 26 at 9:30 p.m.) On Election Day 2016, a club promoter (Omari Hardwick) falls for a woman (Meagan Good) who encourages him to chase his dreams. Director and co-writer Qasim Basir shot this film in a single take across various locations in Los Angeles.
AURORA BOREALIS: Északi fény (July 29 at 8 p.m.) The closing night film is a Hungarian drama about a woman who discovers long-buried secrets about her mother's life during the Soviet occupation.
STONY BROOK FILM FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE July 19 to 28, Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Rd.
INFO $12; passes $90 to $250; 631-632-2787, stonybrookfilmfestival.com