The Reel Queens: Cuba comes to Bayside for Havana Film Fest

By Nathan Duke

The festival is run by the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, a nonprofit organization that creates cultural exchange programs between the Latin American country and the United States. But Carole Rosenberg, the foundation's president, said this year's festival will include 50 films that display a unique blend of cultures.”It's more than just a presentation of Latin-American films,” Rosenberg said. “It's a platform and intercultural forum which gathers filmgoers and artists, highlighting the new current of cinema as well honoring the work of masters that new generations can look up to.”The festival, which runs from April 11 to April 18 at various Queens , Manhattan and Bronx locations, will screen “El Benny,” a film about popular Cuban musician Benny More, at Queensborough Community College's Performing Arts Center in Bayside April 12 at 8 p.m. The screening will precede a concert featuring Puerto Rican Broadway actress and singer Chita Rivera at the college on April 13. Special rates will be available to purchase tickets for both the screening and concert, Rosenberg said.Diana Vargas, the film festival's programmer, said “El Benny” will be part of the line-up for a second year after a number of filmgoers were shut out of last year's three sold-out screenings.”There's a big following of Benny More's music – he's an institution in Latin America,” Vargas said. “He started his career in Mexico but moved to Cuba to make a band. It wasn't easy for a black man to do that. There's a legend that he made a pact with the devil to make him stay young. That's what the movie is about.”Rosenberg said the festival originally screened films at Sunnyside locations during its first few years and has shown films at Astoria's Museum of the Moving Image for the past seven years. But the museum is currently undergoing renovation, preventing the festival from screening at its Riklis Theater this year, she said.The festival will include films from Cuba, the United States, Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Colombia.One of the festival's highlights will be the premiere of documentarian Estela Bravo's new film “Who Am I? The Found Children of Argentina,” at Manhattan's Quad Cinema on April 12 and a second screening on April 14. The first screening will also include a retrospective of the director's work, while the second will include a question-and-answer session with Bravo, Rosenberg said.”Who Am I?” recounts the 20-year struggle of Argentina's Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, who searched for 500 grandchildren stolen during that country's 1976-83 Dirty War, a government crackdown on dissidents.The Havana Film Festival will also host its third annual children's program at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art on April 12. The program will feature short movies made by filmmakers between the ages of 13 and 23, several of whom will attend the screenings to discuss their work with audience members.”The mainstream sees children as consumers, so most films geared toward them are in blockbuster form,” Rosenberg said. “We chose films by children that will inspire the audience. It will open doors to other worlds and show them the way that other kids live.”The festival will also screen “The Other,” director Ariel Rotter's film about a man who assumes the identity of a dead passenger sitting next to him on a train, on April 17. The film won the Special Jury Prize and Best Actor award at the Berlin Film Festival in February.Tickets for the Queensborough screening of “El Benny” are on sale at the school's performing arts center. The festival's Manhattan screenings are on sale at the Quad Cinema or on www.moviefone.com. For additional information, call 212-946-1839 or visit the festival's Web site at www.hffny.com.

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