A wave of applause accompanied producer Marie Pineda as she accepted the Best Short Film, Jury Award at the Stony Brook Film Festival for Unrest, a 15-minute film about citizens choosing sides during the 1986 Phillipine Revolution.
She later praised the festival’s enthusiastic audience and variety of films.
“I am blown away because it just seems like everyone here has a real love for film and made the effort to come out and just enjoy the great selection that [Festival Director] Alan [Inkles has] done,” says Pineda.
Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts, says he created the film festival 15 years ago after another large-scale summer event was no longer feasible. He worked with the Staller family to find funding for a new screen and lighting booth for film festivals to come.
After many years of development and industry networking, the festival began to hit its stride.
“It’s really been the last few years that we’ve really become this really, very vibrant festival on the market,” says Inkles. “On the circuit, people know us. They want to play here.”
A hands-on festival director, Inkles chooses every film for the festival’s 10-day run. “I’ve got a great team here and I run it by them when I’m undecided…but, you know, the buck stops here,” says Inkles. “You can’t do it any other way.”
Between 700 and 800 shorts and feature films were submitted for this year’s competition—33 were included in the festival. The festival opened with The Storm, a Dutch film about a young mother who loses her baby in the 1953 North Sea Flood. Though the tragedy is foreign to some Americans, Producer Alain De Levita says the story is universal. “And after Katrina, I think it should be a story which is very also close to the hearts of Americans,” he says.
The film received a standing ovation and was a favorite of many, including Debi Santiago, who attended every night.
Santiago says the festival’s films were not mainstream, but there was something for everyone.
“[It’s] hard to not find something that you liked,” she explains.
On Thursday night, she wanted to see Howl—a film about the obscenity trial associated with Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” The film wasn’t in competition because it had a distributor when it was included in the festival. Films were in competition if they lacked a distributor, says Inkles. If these films gain recognition at the festival, they may attract a distributor’s attention.
The festival is an asset to the area and the university’s students, says Ward Melville high schooler Olivia Tant.
“I mean, when else are you going to get to see German, French, Dutch films all in one week?” she asks.
Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. says the festival serves the students and region at large.
“It’s become an event for the region of Long Island and we’re really glad it’s part of Stony Brook,” says Stanley.
Additionally, the community is an asset for filmmakers. Danny Buday, director of Five Star Day, which is about the validity of astrology, says the audience feedback and question-and-answer session were valuable.
“Having a thousand people view your movie is a really amazing experience to have to get that kind of insight,” he says. “I was actually very excited that people opened up the debate during our Q&A, because that’s the whole point of the movie.”
Other awards were given to Worth for Best Short Film, Audience Choice Award; Ayla and Berlin 36 , which tied for Best Feature Film, Audience Choice Prize; Five Star Day for Best Feature Film, Jury Award and The Storm was recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking, although the film, as is tradition for the opening night feature, was out of competition.