Now in its 28th year, the Stony Brook Film Festival has become known as a showcase for foreign films carefully curated from art-house distributors. Many of the titles are unlikely to see a theatrical release in America, especially as streaming becomes an easier and less labor-intensive option for distribution. As always, the 10-day festival — which runs July 20-29 at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts — is probably the only way you’ll see these mostly overseas titles on a big screen.
This year, however, the festival will be showing one movie from right in its own backyard.
"Radioactive: The Women of Three Mile Island” focuses on the 1979 nuclear accident that took place in Pennsylvania, but its writer-director, Heidi Hutner, is a professor in Stony Brook’s English department. Hutner, who specializes in ecofeminism and sustainability issues, describes her debut documentary as the story of several women — stay-at-home moms, a crusading lawyer and an equally crusading waitress — who refused to accept official assurances about the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. It is in some ways a familiar story, she said, of women who are dismissed as overly emotional or irrational by powerful men.
“The women who speak up are gaslighted,” Hutner said, adding that in Japan — which saw its own nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011 — women who expressed their concerns earned a nickname: “Radiation Brain Moms.”
WHEN|WHERE The Stony Brook Film Festival takes place July 20-29 at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts.
TICKETS Single tickets are $15, all-access passes are $100 and five-day Flex Passes are $75.
INFO Call 631-632-2787 or go to stonybrookfilmfestival.com.
Shot over the course of four years and completed last summer, “Radioactive” has played several festivals already and picked up the Best Documentary award at New York’s Dances with Films Festival. Hutner said she’s working on distribution and hopes to continue making documentaries.
“When you read history or you go and look for information about nuclear anything, you barely hear about the women involved,” she said. “Other than Marie Curie, there’s not much. But in fact, they were really significant and still are.”
Here’s a sampling of the 18 features playing at this year’s festival. All screenings take place in the evening at the Staller Center and are preceded by a short film. Foreign-language films will be shown with English subtitles. It’s also worth noting that the fest is trying something new this year: a Flex Pass that can be used on any five days except closing night.
SEA OF TIME (Thursday at 8)
The festival’s opening night selection, from the Netherlands, focuses on two lovers, Lucas and Johanna, whose idyllic existence on a boat is shattered by a terrible accident. Thirty-five years later, they reconnect as Lucas attempts to dramatize their story in a theatrical production. Four actors play the younger and older lead roles; two are a real-life father and son (Gijs and Reinout Scholten van Aschat).
EXODUS (Friday at 7) A young Syrian refugee (Jwan Alqatami) teams up with a smuggler (Ashraf Barhom) who hopes to squeeze money from her parents — but as the two make their way across Europe while dodging the authorities, they form a deeper bond. Directed and co-written by Abe Hassan.
I LIKE MOVIES (Friday at 9:30)
A socially inept cinephile (Isaiah Lehtinen) who dreams of attending NYU’s film school takes a job at a video store where the quirky manager (Romina D’Ugo) may have more to teach him than how to stock a shelf. Written and directed by Chandler Levack.
GRANDPA GOES SOUTH (Saturday at 9:30) A frustrated jazz musician takes his terminally ill best friend on a road trip in search of a long-lost love. Complications arise when they encounter a young woman who is the only living witness to an assassination. With Vlado Novak, Boris Cavazza and Zala Djuric.
MARTHA (Sunday, July 23, at 7)
The true story of Martha Liebermann (Thekla Carola Wied), an 85-year-old Jewish Berliner and widow of an acclaimed painter. As the Nazis rise to power, however, Martha finds herself caught between an ambitious Gestapo commissioner and a high-level resistance group. Directed by Stefan Büling.
A FLEETING ENCOUNTER (Monday, July 24, at 9:30) A middle-aged man (Felipe Castro) in the throes of a crisis escapes to an Airbnb, only to find he’ll be sharing it with an Iranian woman (Pooneh Hajimohammadi) who has her own problems. Prejudices and pet peeves — and the unexpected appearance of an American (Clea Eden) — drive this comedy from director and co-writer Romed Wyder.
ELIK & JIMMY (Tuesday, July 25, at 7)
On the last day of their service in the Israeli military, an underachieving corporal (Tsachi Sadan) and a smart-mouthed officer (Meyran Menkes) begin a yearslong friendship that threatens to teeter into romance. Directed and co-written by Guidis Schneider.
RADIOACTIVE: THE WOMEN OF THREE MILE ISLAND (Wednesday, July 26, at 7) The story of the worst commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history, as told through the eyes of the women who experienced it — and fought to bring its ramifications to light. Written and directed by Stony Brook University's Heidi Hutner.
MARCH '68 (Thursday, July 27, at 7) Two Polish university students, Hania and Janek, find themselves caught up in the revolutionary turmoil rippling across Europe. With Vanessa Aleksander and Ignacy Liss. Directed and co-written by Krzysztof Lang.
YES REPEAT NO (Thursday, July 27, at 9:30)
In Michael Moshe Dahan’s slice of cinematic meta-theater, a director brings together three actors hoping to play the late Juliano Mer-Khamis, a Palestinian-Jewish activist and performer. What starts as a highly unorthodox audition soon turns into a fiery debate about identity and the Arab-Israel conundrum. With Mousa Hussein Kraish, Adam Meir and Karim Saleh.
THE GRANDSON (Friday, July 28, at 7) Mild-mannered Rudi (Gergely Blahó) learns that his grandfather has fallen victim to a heartless scam. When the authorities prove powerless to help, Rudi takes matters into his own hands. Directed and co-written by Kristóf Deák.
FIRST SNOW OF SUMMER (Friday, July 28, at 9:30) In Chris Raiber’s oddball comedy, a grieving son and husband escape their pain by going underground: one works in a metro station, the other lives in a tunnel. Even in subterranean soil, however, a romance might blossom. With Thomas Prenn, Verena Altenberger and Margarethe Tiesel.
DIVERTIMENTO (Saturday, July 29, at 8)
The festival’s closing night film tells the true story of Zahia Ziouani (Oulaya Amamra), a French-Algerian teenager who dreams of becoming a symphony conductor. Niels Arestrup (“War Horse”) is the mentor who supplies her with the confidence she needs. Directed and co-written by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar.
LI INTERNATIONAL FILM EXPO LINEUP
The grab-bag festival known as the Long Island International Film Expo returns for its 26th edition this week, boasting more than 130 films and 15 world premieres. You never know what you might find at the Expo: This year’s lineup includes foreign films, horror, rom-coms and a “lost” project from a local filmmaker that hasn’t been seen in more than 35 years. And that isn’t even counting the many panel discussions and Q&As.
One thing to know: Films at the Expo are screened in roughly two-hour blocks. Features are accompanied by a short or two; some blocks are all shorts.
Below are a few highlights:
A STAGE OF TWILIGHT (Wednesday at 6 p.m.) Karen Allen and William Sadler play a couple struggling with the news of a terminal diagnosis. This is the opening-night feature.
SLICE OF LIFE (Wednesday at 9:15 p.m.) This mix-and-match program is anchored by “The Three Phases of Fern,” a 1986 student film about teenage stoners on Long Island. It was recently rediscovered and digitally restored by its East Northport director, Bill Blaney.
SURF, SKATE, & SUN (Thursday at 6:30 p.m.) The feature title here is “Humanity Stoked,” the debut documentary from Huntington businessman-turned-filmmaker Michael Ien Cohen. Using skateboarding as his entree, Cohen speaks to celebrities, scientists and athletes about the nature of fear and how to overcome it.
RETRO FUTURISM (Thursday at 9 p.m.) A compendium of sci-fi shorts, including such titles as “The Time Traveling Beach Bum” and “Terminator: Bad Judgment Day.”
LOVE LIFE (Friday at 11 a.m.) The theme is romance: “Dutch,” a short film about a date, will be followed by “My Sister’s Wedding,” a rom-com about a woman trying to get her sister down the aisle.
MIDNIGHT MADNESS (Saturday at 11:30 p.m.) Everyone who attends this block of out-there shorts will receive a free button to mark the occasion. One winning film will earn a unique, handmade award.
PELICULA DE CIERRE (Sunday, July 23, at 1:30 p.m.) The festival’s closing-day block includes three Spanish-language films: “Ibiza Blue,” about three young professionals making their way through post-pandemic Ibiza; “La Bolita,” the story of a kid whose Cuban mother begins working for a bookie; and a music video titled “Living All of Life.”
The Long Island International Film Expo runs July 19-23 at the Bellmore Movies and Showplace, 222 Pettit Ave. Tickets are $15, day passes are $50-$75 and all-access Gold Passes are $125-$150. For tickets and more information, go to longislandfilm.com.
— RAFER GUZMAN