A large-scale film festival in Queens’ only art house theater will provide movie lovers with 10 days of independent films, artist Q&As, industry panels and more.
The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema is the brainchild of Glendale resident Jayson Simba. The actor, writer, director and producer has seen an influx of movies and television shows being filmed in Glendale and surrounding neighborhoods and decided that the theater was the perfect place to showcase great independent films.
“In the last couple of years [with the] construction of Broadway Stages, there’s been major film and television shows being shot all over this area Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Forest Park,” he said. “I felt a lot of people didn’t know where this area was.”
During the spring of 2016, Simba started putting together a concrete plan for a film festival and pulled together industry friends to help organize it. The festival has received almost 400 submissions from filmmakers, and organizers will whittle it down to about 130 films.
From Aug. 4 through Aug. 13, Kew Gardens Cinemas will showcase dramas, comedies, horror films, documentaries, action and fantasy films, noir, experimental films and animated films.
“The response and types of submissions have been amazing because they really do cover everything out there,” he said.
Simba will also collaborate with the Queens Museum, which will show select programming from the festival to the public for free. On Aug. 10 the museum will also host an outdoor screening at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. He added that a main goal of the festival is to involve the local Queens community.
“I really wanted to get everyone in the community involved and I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I got an overwhelming positive response. Everyone is all for it.”
Ateaz, a certified organic coffee and tea boutique located at 116-29 Metropolitan Ave., will be the official filmmaker lounge throughout the duration of the festival. Festival participants will get discounts and the store will act as a hangout spot for everyone involved with the festival.
Shake Shack will hand out samples at the movie theater throughout the festival and will host a Movie Trivia Night at the theater as well.
Some of the judges for the festival include director and writer Rodney Ferrer, Marlene Forte, an actress who recently appeared on “Fear the Walking Dead” and Sam Adelman, known for his editing work on “Donnie Brasco,” “Practical Magic” and “Desperately Seeking Susan.”
Simba said that while there is no specific criteria the board of directors look for when choosing which films to screen, the films that are chosen feature filmmakers that “get creative with their use of limited resources.”
“Is this something that audiences are going to gravitate to?” Simba said. “What were focusing on is a truly independent filmmaker. With that comes a challenge of not having major financial backing from a studio.”
Simba, who started his own production company in 2000 and has written, directed and produced 12 films, hopes to bring exposure to independent films and filmmakers through this project.
“Nowadays movies are all focused on Hollywood and big-budget productions,” he said. “There are a lot of really good filmmakers out there that don’t have million-dollar budgets that could bring in a great film.”
Winners for every category will receive a personally engraved statuette at the Grand Awards Gala on the final night of the festival. It will take place on the rooftop penthouse of Terrace on the Park. Simba is still taking submissions until April 23. To submit a film, visit the festival’s website.
Organizers are also taking poster submissions from Kew Gardens residents. The best poster will become the official poster for the festival and submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simba said he is also taking donations since the festival is a nonprofit and in May, he will be looking for volunteers who are interested in working at the festival.