By Tammy Scileppi
More than 130 daring and provocative new films from 25 countries — all in one festival. Where else can you get that but right here in the World’s Borough? That’s what’s on tap for the 7th Annual Queens World Film Festival at Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image March 14–19.
“These films examine love, loss, immigration, mental health — and some take on these themes in progressive, ground-breaking style. These films promise to move and entertain our audiences,” said QWFF Artistic Director Don Cato.
From whimsical and avant-garde, to dreamy and tender, to edgy and subversive, it won’t be hard to find an indie film that captures your attention and your heart.
Some cutting, real-life works may be tough to watch, but you’ll walk away having learned and experienced something unforgettable. Four thought-provoking films depict the undocumented immigrant experience and four others tackle challenging mental health conditions.
Fright fans who can’t get enough of “The Walking Dead” TV series will probably get a kick from the creepy collection of thrillers and chillers heading to MOMI during fest week.
And on a softer note, you can choose from six artistic and beautifully made LGBT films, as well as a touching and heart-breaking animation about brotherly love.
And the red-carpet Opening Night celebration at MOMI on March 14 promises lots of excitement and glitz.
QWFF Executive Director Katha Cato described the role of filmmakers as an unblinking eye with a mission to capture the reality of the world around us.
“Make art. Reflect what you see. Do not blink. Do not look away,” she said. “Tell the truth, not as you see it, but as it is. Remember history, reflect the present and remind us that the future is our responsibility.”
It all kicks off at 7 p.m., with a VIP reception a chance to rub elbows with the filmmakers and the festival’s 2017 honoree, legendary filmmaker and Queens native Julie Dash, as well as other special guests. The program starts at 8 p.m., and Dash, whose work has been described as majestic and intimate, assertive and nuanced, will receive the 2017 Spirit of Queens Award for her outstanding contribution to cinema.
A Long Island City native, Dash paved the way for African-American female filmmakers. Her 1991 classic, “Daughter of the Dust” — the first American feature film by an African-American woman ever to receive a general theatrical release — will be presented on March 15 at MOMI, followed by a Q&A with the honoree. You can also catch her acclaimed short, “Illusions,” with another block of films to be screened at MoMI on March 18.
There were 23 films from Queens at the festival this year, and several artists were eager to discuss the diverse messages and inspirations of their contributions.
“Children Behind the Wall” (52 min.)
“Many people ask me, why am I doing this documentary? Why am I so passionate about this topic?” said Jackson Heights filmmaker and HBO producer Marisol González. “The fact is that I didn’t know the real reason until a couple of years ago.”
Her moving work shines a harsh light on the struggles children and young adults face with drug addiction in Tijuana, Mexico, and for González, 44, the issue is personal.
“As is the case with the youngsters you will see in this film, someone close to me, one of my relatives, was hooked on drugs and unfortunately didn’t make it. This is something that is really hard for me to talk about. I guess in a way, my need to want to help these kids stems from the fact that I wasn’t able to save my cousin.”
Her film shows that drug trafficking and addiction are a problem on both sides of the border, and she said that the current climate of divisiveness is not the solution.
“My message is that we need to be compassionate with each other,” said González. “We need to build bridges not walls and work together to put an end to drug addiction and drug trafficking.”
In 2011, the Dominican documentarian received the “Proclamation Award” from state Sen. José Peralta, for her “outstanding service to the Latino community.”
Sunday, March 19, 5:15 p.m./MOMI – Zukor Theatre
“A Long Time For Lovers” (77 min.)
The film follows eight friends ignoring the people who love them, while desperately chasing after people who do not. Once night falls, the rush to say how they feel becomes clear: Perhaps this really is the last night on earth.
“I first started writing LTFL with the intention of making light, and to some degree, a joke out of people who take relationships so seriously… As if it’s the end of the world,” said director and Astoria resident David McElfresh, 36. This is his second feature.
“With that in mind, I thought, why not just go ahead and make it the end of the world, and truly create a joke out of the situation. In the end, the film probably comes across more serious than a farce. However, I’d like to think people can see the absurdity in there somewhere.”
Saturday, March 18, 3:15 p.m./MOMI – Zukor Theatre
“Butterfly” (15 min.)
A young woman learns the rewards that simple acts of kindness can bring when her life crosses paths with an unlikely friend.
“The story is about an artist who befriends a down-on-his-luck man in the park. It has echoes of both scriptures and fairy/folk tales. But the main message of the film is that there is inherent magic in kindness,” said Serife Potuk, another up-and-coming Queens filmmaker.
Potuk sees filmmaking as an opportunity to have a positive impact on society.
“Our current culture, and my generation, is prone to listening to video media. I want to create films that have something positive to say,” he said.
Friday, March 17, 7:15 p.m./MOMI – Bartos Theatre
“Excerpts of 4 Little Girls: A Dance Film” (14 min.)
Queens filmmaker Kerri Edge presents portions of “a work in progress,” created to provoke conversations about the continued fight for civil rights in America. The 1963 church bombing that killed four little girls in Birmingham, Ala., “is the catalyst for the story that compares past and present movements to fight racial discrimination,” she said.
“Yesterday’s focus was the desegregation of public spaces, while today’s fight focuses on police brutality and criminal justice system injustices. America still struggles for racial harmony and equality,” said Edge.
Using dance as its primary expressive element, while memorializing the girls who tragically lost their lives — Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley — this moving and provocative film targets diverse family audiences, according to Edge.
Sunday, March 19, 3 p.m./MOMI – Zukor
“Dillzilla: Titan of Terror” (19 min.)
This must-see film is a spoof of the 1950’s B-movie horror genre.
“It is an ode to the time when film was fun and filled with sincerity, action and over-the-top monsters,” said Jackson Heights filmmaker Elizabeth “Pickles” Pasieczny, who writes and directs for Pickleman Productions, specializing in family films.
“‘Dillzilla’ follows the form, but also adds contemplation, consequence, and accountability,” she said. “There is no simple ‘kill the monster’ ending here.”
Pickleman, the titular character, gets infected by a mysterious bio-hazard. Now, whenever he gets angry, he grows to monstrous size. In his search for a solution to his predicament, he panics the local populace, accidently sets fire to the town, collapses a building, and finds himself besieged by the National Guard.
“Silliness and the absurd are missing in film, and Pickleman films are bringing them back,” said Pasieczny.
She said she loves classic horror movies because they were appropriate for all ages, and provided a welcome escape for the whole family.
“The audience was free to engage the film and enjoy the wild distraction from their everyday life,” she said. “I believe that families want those films again. Events that they can all experience together without extreme violence, crudeness or sexuality.”
Appropriately, the family-friendly message of “Dillzilla” is one of compassion, empathy, and forgiveness — especially to your own mistakes.
Sunday, March 19, 4:30 p.m./MoMI – Redstone
The festival winners will be announced March 19 at the Astor Room Bamboo Lodge, right next door to MOMI.
For the full schedule, visit www.queen
If You Go
7th-Annual Queens World Film Festival
Where: Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave., Astoria
QWFF 7: Opening Night
When: Tuesday, March 14 at 8 pm – 10 pm
Screening in the Redstone Theatre at MOMI
For tickets visit: