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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Opening night sells out, Stony Brook Film Festival 2010

Sylvia Hoeks, who played Julia in The Storm, Alain De Levita, producer, and Alan Inkles, director of the 15th Annual Stony Brook Film Festival (Photo Credit: Staller Center)

It was too good to be true.

These were the words Alan Inkles used to describe the two films that opened Stony Brook’s 15th annual film festival.  Inkles, the director of the Stony Brook Film Festival, marked this year’s opening night as “groundbreaking.” One of the films made its United States premiere and the other made its east coast premiere. This was the first time two films were shown on opening night.

The sold out theater seating over 1,000 people played two Dutch films: The Storm and Bride Flight.  Both were directed by the same man, Ben Sombogaart, and both were based on the same event in history, the North Sea Flood of 1953. In attendance were the producer and lead actress of The Storm, Sylvia Hoeks and Alain De Levita. After the completion of The Storm, which played first, the audience rose to their feet and turned to De Levita and Hoeks to applaud their work.

“I had never really experienced something like that in our 15 years,” Inkles said in regards to the standing ovation after The Storm. “I can count on one hand the amount of nights in this theater that I remember feeling the kind of goose bumps that I felt when the audience did that.”

The second film, Bride Flight, did not receive the same response. Inkles admitted that Bride Flight can be a tough and long film to get through, especially after already sitting through a very emotional movie like The Storm.

In addition to the films, there was a question and answer period as well as an opening night party in the university art gallery to kick off the festival. During the question and answer period between the two showings, Hoeks and De Levita explained more about The Storm to the audience. Hoeks explained her character in the film as a vehicle in which to tell the story of the storm. She said that the director, instead of telling a true story, made one character that you could feel the emotion and tragedy of the storm through.

Hoeks also spoke about the premiere of The Storm last year in Zeeland, the setting of the film and the area the North Sea Flood hit the hardest. She said many of the people in attendance were people who survived the flood. She said the film gave those in attendance a chance to grieve when they hadn’t previously been able to.

“They didn’t really talk about it a lot because in Holland, in the place that was affected most by the flood, they were very religious and they thought it was God’s will so they didn’t talk about it much,” Hoaks said. “So this film gave them the power to talk about it and to grieve more. For them it was a very happy experience. “

De Levita also said that the film can be appreciated by Americans as well because of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. He hopes that because of films like  The Storm, there will be dams built to prevent further tragedies.

“The film is a dramatic film about surviving and what can happen, so if anything, we hope that big dams will be built like we did in the Netherlands,” De Levita said. “If you go to the Netherlands you should see the dam. It’s huge, even by American standards.”

The Storm was one of the most expensive films created in the Netherlands. De Levita expressed hopes for the film to one day be circulated in the United States.

This is another reason why Inkles believes this opening night was so groundbreaking. Now he is in the process of trying to get The Storm and other films that premiered at the festival considered for distribution in this country. Not only does it benefit the films, but it also gives recognition to Stony Brook.

“This is Stony Brook, this isn’t Sundance, it isn’t Toronto,” Inkles said.

According to Inkles, nine of the 21 screening nights were sold out. This is six to seven times more sell outs than any previous year.

Those in attendance included people from the community, other producers, actors, sponsors and Stony Brook students.

A new addition to the film festival this year was CCS 204 – The Stony Brook Film Festival: Films and Contexts, a summer class involving 12 to 13 students that attended the whole film festival. They critiqued films, met with filmmakers and directors, toured the facilities and film booths and learned about film marketing. Inkles believes the pilot year of this class was a huge success and he’s sure that it will either double or triple next year.  In his opinion, “it’s all about the students.”

Corinne McGuirk, a sophomore cinema and cultural studies and biology chemistry  major, said that her first time at the film festival and her involvement in CCS 204  was a great experience.

“[The film industry] really tells you a lot about human character and human nature and just how society interacts with each other,” McGuirk said. “It teaches you about the human spirit and what we do for our enjoyment and what’s current so I find it interesting to learn about people.”

Another student Jeremy Schara, also a  cinema and cultural studies major in the summer film festival class, said the festival really sparked his passion for filmmaking. Right now he’s writing a script for a zombie movie. In his mind, he said interacting with people who were in the industry was the best part of the experience.

“It’s really cool to meet the people who put these things together, to be able to walk up to a producer and ask them how they got started,” Schara said.

Inkles said that throughout the two weeks of the festival, he received high praises for the two films that opened the first night. If appropriate, he says he hopes to continue showing two films opening night in festivals to come.

“Everybody told me nothing matched in their mind the energy and excitement of the opening night,” Inkles said. “It might have been the best opening night we’ve had in fifteen years.”

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