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What's playing at this year's Stony Brook Film Festival

"Babysplitters," a movie about two couples, each ambivalent

"Babysplitters," a movie about two couples, each ambivalent about parenthood, who decide to share a baby, will screen at the Stony Brook Film Festival. Photo Credit: Staller Center for the Arts

Families, be they immediate, estranged or just plain strange, provide a running theme at the 24th Stony Brook Film Festival, which launches July 18.

From the opening-night film, "Balloon," about two families trying to escape a totalitarian regime, to the closing-night comedy-drama, "Lola & Her Brothers," this year's titles seemed to fit an unplanned pattern, according to festival founder Alan Inkles.

"I don't usually like to do 'themes,' " Inkles says. "It just seemed like a lot of these movies were about finding parents, connecting with them, even connecting with grandparents. They were films about holding families together — or trying to re-form families that were broken."

Several highlights from the festival are listed below. All screenings take place after noon at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University.

BALLOON (Thursday at 8) In the summer of 1979, two families attempt to escape from Soviet-controlled East Germany using an unlikely mode of transport: a homemade hot-air balloon. With Thomas Kretschmann ("Valkyrie") and Karoline Schuch ("Hanna’s Journey"). Based on a true story. 

CELESTE (Friday at 9:30) In a crumbling estate in tropical Queensland, Australia, a retired opera singer asks her son to return home for her final performance.  

SWEETHEARTS (Saturday at 7) German actress Karoline Herfurth directs herself in this crime-comedy about a thief who takes a troublesome girl hostage. With Hannah Herzsprung and Frederick Lau.

THEM THAT FOLLOW (Saturday at 9:30) An Appalachian snake-handling church provides the backdrop to this drama about a preacher's daughter with an explosive secret. Starring Walton Goggins, Olivia Colman and Alice Englert. Co-stars Thomas Mann and Lewis Pullman, along with Syosset-raised producer Bradley Gallo, will speak at the screening.

GUEST ARTIST (Monday at 7) Jeff Daniels wrote and stars in this comedy-drama about a jaded New York playwright who, during a production in far-flung Michigan, finds himself trailed by a dogged fan. With Thomas Macias.

BABYSPLITTERS (July 24 at 7) Two couples, each ambivalent about parenthood, decide to share a baby. Actor Eddie Alfano, formerly of Deer Park, and writer-director Sam Friedlander will be at the screening.

A SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO LIVING AND DYING (July 24 at 9:30) A genetic scientist discovers she is pregnant with her late husband's child. Nitzan Mager, the writer, co-director and star, made this film over the course of her own nine-month pregnancy; she will attend the screening.

THE SILENT REVOLUTION (July 25 at 9:30) In this historical drama with contemporary relevance, several East German students stage a one-minute silent protest that unexpectedly causes a sensation and leads to serious accusations from the authorities. Based on a true story. Written and directed by Lars Kraume.

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJOLD (July 26 at 7) In this festival-circuit favorite, Danish documentarian Mads Brügger purports to link the 1961 death of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld to a sinister plot that potentially killed thousands. By turns quirky and chilling, this singular film is likely to be a talker upon its release Aug. 16.

THE PARTS YOU LOSE (July 26 at 9:30) In rural North Dakota, a deaf farm boy (Danny Murphy, himself deaf) forms an unlikely alliance with an injured criminal (Aaron Paul). Co-starring Scoot McNairy ("Argo") and Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("10 Cloverfield Lane").

LOLA & HER BROTHERS (July 27 at 8) A French comedy starring Ludivine Sagnier ("Swimming Pool") as a woman in her 30s who still plays mommy to her two grown brothers. Actor Jean-Paul Rouve, whose credits include 2007's "La Vie en Rose," co-wrote and directed.

Stony Brook Film Festival

WHEN | WHERE Thursday, July 18, through Saturday, July 27, at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University.

TICKETS $12; passes are $90-$250.

INFO 631-632-2787 or go stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

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