The fifth annual Queens World Film Festival took place in Queens this past week, from March 17 to March 22 in places all over the borough, including the Museum of Moving Image and the Secret Theater. In seeking to unite filmmakers from across the world and in our own neighborhood, the film festival has come to symbolize a love of film the audience and filmmakers alike have for the art of cinematography.
What culminated at the Museum of Moving Image on March 17 kicked the festival off as its starting night: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz attended, as did Cynthia Lopez, the Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and the festival’s directors, Katha Cato and Don Cato. In sharing their love of filmmaking in conjunction with their love of the borough, the guests and speakers alike showed a positive attitude to the good-spirited films to come.
With 117 films premiering all over the world (ranging from five minute shorts to full feature films), the festival has truly gone to serve the borough’s namesake. Queens is the most diverse area in the entire world, and the festival only helps prove that fact with its wide array of movies that could bring you to Syria to China to Austria and back to America.
Not only did the festival provide such varying backgrounds and nationalities, but it also attested to the differing messages each filmmaker had behind their film. On March 22, at the MMI, the 2015 Winners Circle Screenings were held, where the shorts from Best Short Winners Circle each brought a different message to light. The first, Austrian short Grenzverkehr (Border Trafficking) showed a horrific end to an ongoing problem of human trafficking and prostitution. Diwaili Dream Garage took a comedic take of friendship, all filmed in Astoria Park, Queens, while Eulogy was your not-so-average gangster crime flick. Roxanne dealt with the pressures of being a transgender, and Carry On was a film about the Japanese occupation of China that led to families being separated and the death of innocent lives.
However, perhaps most prominent was the animated short Dirty Laundry Day. A Syrian film about causing change, it features a young man at a laundromat where the machine won’t take his dollar for change (we’ve all been here). Eerily, it would state, “Change is not free” and something would change, until finally the main character got the message—and you should check out the film for the ending. However, all the films were an amazing attribute to such a well thought out film festival that it allows for a greater appreciation of Queens and for the films shown there.
To further tie in the community with the festival, Don Cato, the festival director, started the Young Filmmakers Program in 2008 that has given the opportunity for young aspiring filmmakers to make their own films and produce them, like the fifth graders at PS 69. Each year, there is a separate theme involved with the films the students are to make; this year being “Character” in which the filmmakers are asked to think of a time where they learned about character and learned a lesson.
The festival was a huge success and it can only grow to further showcase the talented filmmakers from around the world.