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Berenshtein directed by Roman Shumunov - 27th Stony Brook Film Festival award winners
Berenshtein directed by Roman Shumunov

Berenshtein, Roman Shumunov’s film on the true story of Leonid Berenshtein, the last surviving member of the World War II partisan battalion that located Hitler’s secret weapon, won the Jury Award Best Feature at the 27th annual Stony Brook Film Festival. The German film Contra directed by Sönke Wortmann took the Audience Award Best Feature, and Nicole Rodenburg’s Glob Lessons won the Spirit of Independent Filmmaking Award.

Filmmakers in attendance to accept awards during the ceremony included Dan Bronzite, winner of the Jury Award for best short film All That Glitters; Saskia Diesing, Director of the Festival’s closing night feature film Lost Transport; Alessia Mandinici, Director of the opening night short film Lentini; and Dr. Gabriel Sara, co-star of the opening night feature film, Peaceful. Cinzia Angelini, Director of the closing night short film Mila accepted her award via video. In a rare showing, one of the films received two awards; Peaceful earned the 2022 Opening Night Feature award, and the first ever Humanitarian Award in honor of Dr. Gabriel Sara.

Highlighting the LIVE Awards Ceremony was a presentation by the filmmakers of Red River Road, winner of the 2021 Spirit of Independent Filmmaking Award. Writer/director Paul Schuyler proudly announced that Red River Road was acquired for distribution by Veritas Films with the help and support of the Stony Brook Film Festival.

“For over 27 years, filmmakers have continually conveyed to us that we are the most hospitable festival they’ve been to,” said Alan Inkles, Director of the Stony Brook Film Festival. “We are able to treat our filmmakers like royalty because we have two constituents in mind when we plan our festivals – our filmmakers and our audience. With the support of Island Federal and many of our other supporters, we are proud to provide a full experience to our audience, bringing together filmmakers and cast members from all over the world to give firsthand accounts of their process.”

This year’s Festival bestowed a special Humanitarian Award on Dr. Gabriel Sara, co-star of and consultant on the opening night feature, Peaceful. A cancer specialist at Manhattan’s Mt. Sinai West, Sara helped launch The Helen Sawaya Fund, a philanthropy program whose mission is to enhance the experience of cancer patients through art and music. “The dignity and empathy which Sara brings to his work became the impetus for Peaceful, a film that touched us all so deeply,” said Inkles. “We are proud to confer our first-ever Humanitarian Award on Dr. Sara for his vital and important work in improving the lives of cancer patients.”

2022 Stony Brook Film Festival Winning Films

Berenshtein – 2022 Jury Award Best Feature
Israel and Ukraine – 110 min
Directed by Roman Shumunov. Written by Simon Shechter and Tasha Karluyka. With Yaroslav Kucherenko, Anton Karlinsky, Lilya Ostapovich, Pavel Aldoshin, Viktoriya Levchenko, Dmitriy Saranskov, and Ygor Surkov.

The amazing, true story of Leonid Berenshtein, the last surviving member of the World War II partisan battalion that located Hitler’s secret weapon – the V2 missile development facility – all while hiding his real name and Jewish identity from his fellow soldiers. This epic masterpiece seamlessly intersperses Berenshtein’s story with footage of the real Berenshtein remembering his experiences during the last days of his life. Despite the horrors he endured and the nightmares he witnessed, what shines through is how the humanity of one man impacted all those around him. A film you will not soon forget.

Contra – 2022 Audience Award Best Feature
Germany – 108 min
Directed by Sönke Wortmann. Written by Doron Wisotzky. With Nilam Farooq (Sweethearts), Christoph Maria Herbst, Hassan Akkouch.

An unpopular Professor gets himself into serious trouble for making racist remarks to freshman Naima Hamid when she arrives late for his lecture. After a video of their exchange goes viral, he is given one final chance to save his teaching career by the university president: prepare Naima to represent the University in a national debate competition. Both the Professor and Naima are less than happy about the situation, but time will tell if they can set aside their differences and work as a team. Rising star Nilam Farooq gives a breakout performance in this hilarious, heartfelt film.

Glob Lessons – 2022 Spirit of Independent Filmmaking Award
United States – 101 min
Directed by Nicole Rodenburg. Written by Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber. With Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber.

While performing low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest, two aimless thirtysomething strangers – a repressed gay man and an enigmatic woman with a wild streak – struggle to overcome their fears of inadequacy and intimacy in order to survive the lonely tundra called life. This riotous, too-funny-to-not-be-true story, written and performed with perfect timing by Rodenburg and Froeber, will leave you laughing for days and then some.

All That Glitters – 2022 Jury Award Best Short
United Kingdom – 23 min
A film by Dan Bronzite. With Sophia Myles.

A desperate teenager snatches a rich woman’s handbag only to discover that her life is not as rosy as it seems.

Summer of Bees – 2022 Jury Award Best Short
Finland – 23 min
In Finnish, with subtitles
A film by Ida-Maria Olva

A young woman decides to quit school and instead use the money her parents saved for her to start beekeeping… with some reluctant help from her mother.

Ousmane – 2022 Audience Award Best Short
Canada – 25 min
A film by Jorge Camarotti

Ousmane, a newly arrived immigrant living in Montreal, faces a challenging situation when he meets an elderly disoriented lady at the end of his workday.

Peaceful – 2022 Opening Night Feature Award
North American Premiere – France – 122 min
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot. Written by Emmanuelle Bercot and Marcia Romano. With Catherine Deneuve, Benoît Magimel, Gabriel A. Sara and Cécile de France.

Over the course of a year, Benjamin, an acting teacher with a terminal illness, attempts to make peace with his imminent death, while his fearful and controlling mother (played by a wonderful Catherine Deneuve) learns that she can no longer micro-manage the time he has left. The beating heart of this film comes from Gabriel Sara – a cancer specialist from Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan in real-life – who portrays Benjamin’s very humane specialist Dr. Eddé. As Dr. Eddé, Sara, who also served as a consultant on the film, becomes a sort of spiritual guide to the dying and their families, as well as to his own heroic medical team. You will not want to miss this poignant, life-affirming drama about acceptance and resilience, from acclaimed actress and director Emmanuelle Bercot (Polisse) and the producers of the Deneuve masterpiece La Belle Epoque.

Lost Transport – 2022 Closing Night Feature Award
East Coast Premiere
Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany – 101 minutes
Written and directed by Saskia Diesing. With Hanna van Vliet, Eugénie Anselin, Anna
Bachmannand, Bram Suijker, and Konstantin Frolov.

In the spring of 1945, a train deporting 2,500 Jewish former prisoners from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp is abandoned by fleeing German soldiers near a small German village, leaving the fate of its occupants to the advancing Russian troops. Amid the ensuing confusion and its very real dangers, three women from vastly different backgrounds – Russian sniper Vera, village girl Winnie and Jewish-Dutch survivor Simone – realize they must work together if they are to survive. Based on real events from the final days of World War II, this gripping drama reveals a part of history rarely heard or understood, as these very human characters set aside their differences to forge a very unlikely friendship. A powerful and deeply moving film that provides the perfect ending to our festival.

Lentini – 2022 Opening Night Short Award
United States – 11 min
A film by Alessia Mandanici

A German-Italian girl travels to Sicily for the first time in years for her grandfather’s funeral, where she tries to reconnect with her Italian grandmother.

Mila – 2022 Closing Night Short Award
United States – 20 min
A film by Cinzia Angelini

Veteran animation artist Cinzia Angelini brings us her directorial debut in this heart-warming story of a young girl who has lost everything but still clings to hope. Inspired by events of the Trento bombing in Italy, 1943.

Gabriel A. Sara – Peaceful – 2022 Humanitarian Award
North American Premiere – France – 122 min
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot. Written by Emmanuelle Bercot and Marcia Romano. With Catherine Deneuve, Benoît Magimel, Gabriel A. Sara, and Cécile de France.

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