It takes a lot to pull audiences out of the house and into a theater, especially as COVID still lingers and streaming content keeps growing exponentially. That means the Stony Brook Film Festival, now in its 27th year, has its work cut out for it.
For this edition, festival director Alan Inkles chose a lineup of films from around the world — most without distribution — that viewers might not ever see again. Genres span a wide range, from a timely drama about Ukraine (“Olga”) to a comedy about a French family thrown into chaos by an unclaimed pregnancy test (“The Test”). The festival is also bringing in roughly two dozen filmmakers and actors for the kind of in-person experience that “virtual” festivals still can’t replicate.
“It’s hard to compete with everything that’s on television,” Inkles said. “We’ve got to find things that are really interesting and really creative, and I think we’ve done that with the festival.”
Below are several highlights from the festival. All times listed are after noon.
WHEN|WHERE The Stony Brook Film Festival runs July 21-30 at the Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook University. Tickets are $13.50; passes are $75-$250. To purchase tickets and for more information call 631-632-2787 or go to stonybrookfilmfestival.com.
PEACEFUL (Thursday at 8) In the festival’s opening-night film, a terminally ill acting teacher (Benoît Magimel) must contend with his loving but controlling mother (Catherine Deneuve). Dr. Gabriel Sara, a cancer specialist from Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, served as a consultant on the film and makes his acting debut. In French with English subtitles. U.S. premiere.
OLGA (Friday at 7) A Ukrainian gymnast seeks citizenship in Switzerland to avoid the growing conflicts in her homeland. Real-life gymnasts play the lead roles in this timely drama directed and co-written by Elie Grappe. With Anastasiia Budiashkina, Sabrina Rubtsova and Caterina Barloggio. In multiple languages with English subtitles.
GLOB LESSONS (Friday at 9:30) Two aimless thirty-somethings — a repressed gay man and a woman with a wild streak — find themselves performing together in a traveling children’s theater. Directed by Nicole Rodenburg, who co-wrote with Colin Froeber; the two are also the stars of this offbeat comedy.
THE JACKIE STILES STORY (Saturday at 4:30) A documentary on the diminutive, 5'8" basketball player from Kansas who became an NCAA star and launched a highflying career — then all but disappeared from public view. Directed by Brent Huff.
CONTRA (Saturday at 7) At a German university, an unpopular professor lands in hot water over his remarks to a Muslim student, then gets one chance to save his job: by preparing her for a national debate competition. With Nilam Farooq, Christoph Maria Herbst and Hassan Akkouch. In German and Arabic with English subtitles. North American premiere.
BERENSHTEIN (Sunday at 7) A documentary on the last surviving member of a World War II battalion who helped locate Hitler’s secret V2 missile development facility — even while hiding his Jewish identity from his fellow soldiers. Directed by Roman Shumunov. In multiple languages with English subtitles.
HARD SHELL, SOFT SHELL (July 26 at 7) A young oyster farmer with a broken heart moves back home with his parents and decides dancing is the way to win back the girl of his dreams. Director Emma Benestan shot her romantic comedy on location in the French port city of Sète. With Yasin Houicha, Oulaya Amamra and Raphaël Quenard. In French with English subtitles.
THE TEST (July 27 at 9:30) In this French comedy, a mother’s seemingly perfect world is upended when she discovers someone’s pregnancy test hidden in the bathroom trash. With Alexandra Lamy, Philippe Katerine and Matteo Perez. In French with English subtitles.
HAUTE COUTURE (July 28 at 7:00) A stolen handbag leads to an unlikely relationship between a Parisian girl and the head seamstress at Dior. With Nathalie Baye (“Catch Me If You Can”) and Lyna Khoudri (“The French Dispatch”). Directed and co-written by Sylvie Ohayon. In French with English subtitles.
BLACK BOX (July 29 at 9:30) A French-Belgian thriller about a talented young black box analyst whose latest investigation — the fatal crash of a brand-new aircraft — is suddenly shut down by the authorities. With Pierre Niney and Lou de Laâge. In French with English subtitles.
LOST TRANSPORT (July 30 at 8)
In this World War II drama, three women — a German villager, a Jewish-Dutch survivor and a Russian sniper — find themselves teaming up to defend a train full of concentration camp prisoners from advancing Russians. The festival’s closing-night film was written and directed by Saskia Diesing. In multiple languages with English subtitles.