26th annual Stony Brook Film Festival winners announced at awards ceremony

26th annual Stony Brook Film Festival winners announced at awards ceremony

The 26th annual Stony Brook Film Festival, presented by Island Federal Credit Union, wrapped up with a Closing Night Awards Reception on July 31. The evening recognized the outstanding new independent films screened at the festival, which was held at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University from July 22 to 31.

Making its world premiere at the festival, Anchorage won the Grand Prize this year. Director Scott Monahan and screenwriter Dakota Loesch star as two brothers who attempt to drive a trunk full of opioids from Florida to Alaska to cash in big in the Land of Gold. But their plan gets challenged by their surroundings, their shortcomings, and their tendency to dip into their own supply. This one-of-a-kind film explores the national crises of opioid addiction.

Special Achievement in Directing was awarded to Trey Nelson for his directorial debut in The 5th Man, a documentary that tells the extraordinary story of Paul Limmer, a world class track coach at Mepham High School in North Bellmore, whose dedication impacted so many lives. This film is also the first documentary to ever open the Stony Brook Film Festival.

The Spirit of Independent Filmmaking Award, given to a filmmaker whose work exemplifies the spirit and breadth of filmmaking where the focus is on the art and most often produced with an extremely limited budget, was awarded to Red River Road. Written and directed by Paul Schuyler, the film was shot entirely under COVID-19 lockdown by one family and their dog that served as the entire cast and crew.

Written and directed by Lina Luzyte, The Castle captured the Audience Award for Best Feature. The film features Monika, a thirteen-year-old Lithuanian girl living in Dublin with her mother, a pianist who works at a local fish factory, and her grandmother, who has dementia and requires constant supervision. After singing with her mother at a small locale, they are approached with an invitation to play in ‘The Castle’ which they are told is one of the best music venues in Ireland. 

Willow received the Jury Award for Best Feature. Written and directed by Milcho Manchevski, the film tells of a young peasant woman who seeks the help of an aged sorceress in the attempt to get pregnant. Centuries later, two contemporary women find themselves struggling with their own beliefs, modern science, and societal mores, in their own struggles to navigate motherhood. With its amazing images and unconventional narrative, this is a film whose story and characters exhibit that rare authenticity that makes you forget you’re watching a movie.

Noisy received the Audience Award for Best Short. A film by Cedric Hill, it features two strangers on a noisy subway who discover they have way more in common than where they’re heading. 

Rounding out the awards, The Saverini Widow captured the Jury Award for Best Short. A French film by Loïc Gaillard, it details how a widow’s life falls to pieces when her son is killed in a clash. Left with only her dog, she plots a desperate scheme. With stunning visuals and no dialogue, this film keeps you riveted to the end.

Of the winning films, filmmakers and cast and crew from Anchorage, Red River Road, and The 5th Man were in attendance to accept their awards. It was an unusual year indeed, with only American filmmakers in attendance for the live Q&A sessions following their screenings, but a joyful and celebrated return to the theater.

Virtual passes are now available to view the encore screening of the Festival on IndieFlix Festivals through Aug. 30. Passes for the entire 4 weeks are $85 per household or $25 for a weekly pass. Virtual passholders will be able to watch films multiple times and will have access to a number of features and shorts beginning each Thursday at 7 p.m. through Monday at midnight. Pre-recorded discussions with filmmakers, directors, cast, and crew will be included as well. For more information, call 631-632-2787 or visit stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

Photos courtesy of Staller Center for the Arts