On Friday, June 21 a media luncheon was held adjacent to the iconic windmill at Stony Brook University/Southampton to announce the long overdue merging of the arts between the Eastern SBU campus and the Main Campus in Stony Brook. The art form in this case is film.
Alan Inkles, Director of the Staller Center for the Arts, and Bob Reeves, Associate Provost of Stony Brook Southampton, met with East End media to outline the distinct, yet integrated, summer film related offerings at each of the campuses.
Inkles spoke first and with passion about his brainchild the Stony Brook Film Festival (SBFF), now in its 18th season (July 18-27). Inkles created the SBFF as a replacement for the Stony Brook International Theatre Festival, which although a stunning artistic endeavor for several years, proved too costly to sustain.
Devoted to showcasing independent films that otherwise might be overlooked by the general public, the SBFF offers an eclectic mix of American and International Indies that go beyond fluff and studio formula to create for the viewer what is often a once in a lifetime cinema experience. This year 20 full length Indie films will be featured at the ten day festival, along with 13 independent shorts screened prior to the features. In combination they represent a truly international flavor including films from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Pakistan, Serbia-Croatia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and, of course, the United States. The films are presented on one of the largest screens in the country in a theater with almost impeccable acoustics.
Every feature film in the festival is brilliant and almost all a U.S., East Coast or New York premiere. “In the most competitive season in our eighteen year festival, I felt we left a second festival on the cutting room floor. The entries this year, both in the shorts and features categories, were challenging, entertaining and full of discoveries,” said Inkles.
Definite hi-lights of this year’s festival include opening night film “Zaytoun,” an Israel/U.K./France collaboration directed by Eran Riklis that deals with the unlikely bond between an Israeli pilot and a Palestinian refugee during the 1982 Lebanese War. The perfect closing night bookend to “Zaytoun” is “Two Lives,” a Norway/Germany offering directed by Georg Maas that revolves around a WWII love child, resulting from a relationship between a German soldier and a Norwegian woman. Her refusal to testify at a trial on behalf of war children reveals a web of secrets that is gradually unveiled.
Originally slated as the festival’s World Premiere, but now scheduled for a two day earlier national release tied to the date of the actual tragedy due to the highly publicized controversy surrounding the film, “TWA Flight 800” will instead receive its World “Festival” Premiere at the SBFF. This U.S. documentary directed by Kristina Borjesson reveals new facts and possible cover-ups in one of the most controversial plane crashes in American aviation history that occurred off our own Long Island coastline in 1996.
Beyond the Opening Night Party, festival goers will have the opportunity to meet, chat and mingle with directors, producers and actors at the many post screening Q&As and lobby receptions. On July 26, prior to the screening of her film “Deep Powder,” legendary independent film producer Christine Vachon of Killer Films will be on hand to accept the 2013 SBFF Career Achievement Award. That said, we now turn our attention to the SBFF and Stony Brook Southampton merging of the art form of film.
This reporter has probably written as many words about the Southampton Writers Conference (SWC) as any reporter on the East End, agreeing with Tom Wolfe that it is indeed, “The best conference in the country!” The aforementioned Bob Reeves as Director of the SWC during his tenure has elevated it to heights and breaths that would undoubtedly make Wolfe further embellish his compliment. Now Reeves has added filmmaking to the summer mix as part of the SWC/Southampton Arts Summer MFA workshops (Session I July 10-14, Session II July 17-28).
At the media luncheon Reeves unveiled the details of the new 2013 Southampton Arts Graduate Level Film Program, which will be kicked off this summer with their 20/20/20 Program (July 8-28). 20/20/20 is an intensive summer filmmaking incubator that gives 20 independent filmmakers 20 days to make 20 five-minute short films. With full scholarships offered to the candidates, Reeves described the requirements and demands on the filmmakers as, “…something to say, the desire to say it visually, and the willingness to work around the clock for 20 days to do so.”
The connection to SBFF is that the festival’s 2013 Award Winner Christine Vachon is now a member of the Stony Brook/Southampton Faculty and is the director of the inaugural 20/20/20 program. Not unsurprising industry gadfly Vachon, who has produced over seventy films in less than twenty years, describes the program as, “The goal is to match the reality of the film business today. That means turning the traditional film school on its head.” Frankly, who better to achieve that goal than Vachon? Are you hearing the footsteps Tisch, UCLA and NYU?
This summer the 20/20/20 filmmakers will be special guests of the Staller Center at Christine Vachon’s award ceremony, undoubtedly cheering on a mentor and a program that will profoundly impact all their futures. To take it a footstep farther, Inkles will be considering this summer’s Stony Brook/Southampton 20/20/20 shorts for next year’s Stony Brook Film Festival.
It is the synergy of education and evaluation, dedication and demonstration, creation and, ultimately, presentation. Emerging filmmakers on one campus in the midst of creating its identity as an innovative film school supported by a sister campus with a renowned International independent film festival that could prove to be the catalysis to their ultimate success.
Yes, thanks to Inkles and Reeves, Stony Brook East and Stony Brook West have found an artistic commonality that may very well produce the next generation of innovative and influential filmmakers…and, better yet, we all have the opportunity to be witness to it. Support the arts! It is our most important Civil Defense…it defends our civility.