Filmmakers joined Katha Cato and Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Danny Dromm for the kick off to the QWFF
In its sixth year, the Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) is back and bigger than ever before. What began as a small gathering at the home of Don and Katha Cato has now grown to a circulation of 144 films from over 25 nations across four venues, including at the Museum of the Moving Image. The festival will run from March 15th to March 20th.
On Thursday, February 4, the Don and Katha Cato were joined by local elected officials and filmmakers alike at the museum as they kicked off the celebrations for the upcoming festival.
“As the screens shrink all over the world, the opportunity to screen your work has got to come back to the communities,” Katha Cato said. “Film is for the community.”
“From the beginning of time, we have gathered around dark caves with flickering lights to share our stories, obviously we’ve updated the caves and the flickering lights are now zeros and ones, but the impulse to gather, the impulse to tell your story and the impulse to sit next to somebody who looks nothing like you and he gasps at what you gasp at, is what we’ll save us,” she added.
After nearly 500 films were submitted for the festival, Don Cato admitted that the screening process was “gut wrenching” because hundreds of films had been turned down. However, each film shown in the festival featured extraordinary craftsmanship, emotion and storytelling.
There are to be 38 feature length films and 85 short films covering movie genres such as narratives, documentaries, LGBTQ, animation and the newly added family friendly programming.
Movie submissions came from around the Unites States as well as countries such as Nepal, China, Korea, Brazil, Bangladesh and more.
Some films shed a fictional light on real instances that have rocked our country to its core. For instance, Brooklyn filmmaker Tyrik Washington’s film “Under the Heavens” explores the Eric Garner case through a young boy’s perspective and it’s impact. Washington will hold a Q&A after the screening to discuss his motivations in developing the movie.
Another film, “Reunification,” is based on filmmaker Alvin Tsang’s youth and his experiences with his parents’ unspeakable actions of divorce within the Asian culture.
In attendance was Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, whose husband, Dan Hendrick, produced a piece alongside director David Sigal that will be aired at the festival, entitled “Saving Jamaica Bay.”
The documentary, featuring a narration by Susan Sarandon, follows the area that New Yorkers put the things they don’t want for nearly a century.
“The best things about [filmmakers] are your spirit and creativity, you take everything about yourselves and you put it into an art form and share it with the rest of the world, and there’s nothing more courageous,” Van Bramer said. “I’m glad that festivals like this exist to make sure your visions are seen by so many other people.”
“Julio of Jackson Heights,” is a film many years in the making. It introduces the shocking and brutal murder of Julio Rivera, a gay man living in Jackson Heights, and the bitter taste that it left on the city. The documentary holds dear to Councilmember Danny Dromm, who was one of the founders of the Queens Pride parade in 1973. Adding sentimental value, the film will premiere at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, the same setting at which Rivera was murdered by three members of a local skinhead gang’s “hunting party.”
“The documentation of what happened, from the point of Julio’s death to the starting of the parade to the election of both Jimmy and myself as openly gay members of the City Council, it’s something that really interests me,” Dromm said.
There will be a plethora of talent from both Brooklyn and Queens that will be showcased throughout the festival. Other featured and short films from Queens-based filmmakers include “Better Man,” “But Not for Me,” “Into The Woods,” “Muck,” “Photo Op,” “Pomonok Dreams,” “Pop Meets the Void,” “Swimlapse,” “Timshel,” “The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead & Roundhead,” “Tom in America,” “Underneath the Grey,” “We Had Plans,” and “With Love.”
Inspired by his time as a lifeguard in North Carolina, Astoria resident Edward Schmit, created the nine-minute short “Swimlapse” which follows a lifeguard returning to duty after a tragic drowning. The lifeguard must overcome his fears to teach an unreluctant girl to swim.
The pieces by the 29 Queens filmmakers reflects “this rapidly evolving creative landscape in Queens,” Carl Goodman, executive director of the museum, said.
Works from Brooklyn includes “A Box Came to Brooklyn,” “Father & Son,” “Nothing Serious,” “Monsters and Animals” and “Split End.” “H.O.M.E.,” produced by Darren Dean of “Tangerine” and directed by Daniel Maldanado, follows two stories that intertwine to reveal the alienation and meaning to be found when the disconnected connected in a disconnected city.
Legendary filmmakers Melvin Van Peebles and Susan Seidelman spoke to the audience of filmmakers about the creative process behind filmmaking and activism through film. Both filmmakers will have their classic films screened at the festival.
For more information on the screening schedule as well as more information on the films, visit QueensWorldFilmFestival.com