Bayside animator readies screening at Queens World Film Festival

By Patrick Donachie

“The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead & Roundhead” has already screened more than three dozen times in numerous countries, according to director Elliot Cowan. Past screenings of the animated film have taken place in spots ranging from Arkansas to Armenia. It will be shown Friday as a part of the Queens World Film Festival, and the night will have a special significance for Cowan.

“This is the first time it’s playing in the borough in which it was made,” he said.

Cowan, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, has lived in Queens since 2007. He created and animated “The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead & Roundhead” at his desk in his Bayside home over a period of five years while juggling several simultaneous appointments as a university professor. His film follows the two title characters as they face a series of harrowing and exhilarating experiences during a trip to a big city. Cowan said he conceived of the idea of the film as a response to overtly sentimental children’s picture books, and he made the film on the cheap. He hoped the movie’s manageable price tag might encourage more independent Queens filmmakers.

“We made it for $80,000 and there’s no reason why we couldn’t make something else around here,” he said. “Not every movie needs to be a $350 million Pixar epic, nor should it be.”

The Queens World Film Festival began six years ago; this year’s festival runs March 15-20 and includes 143 films from 23 nations. Katha Cato, the event’s executive director, recalled how quickly the festival grew from its modest beginnings in Jackson Heights to venues in Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City. Cato said that she would like to eventually grow the festival even further.

“We would love to grow the footprint,” she said. “The dream is to do a week in western Queens and a week in eastern Queens.”

Despite the ambition, she noted that the Queens World Film Festival would require a larger sponsor if they wanted to expand the festival throughout the borough. Instead, she encouraged Bayside organizations to consider partnering with the festival by requesting film screenings for pre-organized occasions.

“If you have Women’s Day, or something thematic, we can look for something that enhances the event that’s already going on,” she said. “Let’s do something great to make it beautiful.”

Cato also encouraged residents in eastern Queens who were excited about the festival to support this year’s presentations. Cowan doesn’t always get to attend screenings of his film because of his busy work schedule, but he will be in attendance on Friday night. He said that New York City’s impact on his creative work was difficult to pinpoint, but undeniable.

“I would definitely say that the energy of living in Queens had some impact on it,” he said. “There’s certainly a buzz in the air.”

“The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead & Roundhead” screens at 8 p.m. at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City on Friday, March 18 as a part of the Queens World Film Festival. More information, including details on purchasing tickets, can be found at www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.