Queens World Film Festival shines light on locally and globally-sourced independent films

Queens World Film Festival shines light on locally and globally-sourced independent films
Courtesy of Alex Webb
By Tammy Scileppi

If you’re looking for some big screen entertainment that’s exciting, shocking, endearing, repulsive, engaging and uplifting, grab your friends and stop by the Museum of the Moving Image and Kaufman Astoria Studios to check out the best independent film has to offer at the 2018 Queens World Film Festival.

The eighth edition of the fest boasts must-see local and global works by rising talent, including films that are edgier and more thought-provoking than ever. The expanded 11-day program will run from Thursday, March 15, to Sunday, March 25.

Executive Director Katha Cato said she was excited to have 31 films from Queens and 19 filmmakers screening at MOMI.

“With screens shrinking all over the world and people competing for screen time; watching movies on their phones, while at their desk checking e-mail… to be able to do 11 days of beautiful screenings, challenging films that people can see and discuss… it’s just super important,” she said.

There were 611 submissions from 48 nations for this year’s festival. QWFF has selected 189 films from 36 nations for screening.

A commitment to diversity was important, and 65 of the movies selected are from female filmmakers.

“We were shocked and thrilled that there were so many women chosen because their work was stunning,” said Cato, who explained that she and her partner, Don Cato, were interested in a variety of provocative, challenging themes, like immigration and women’s issues.

“Don looks for a film where sound is good, you can tell what you’re looking at, craftsmanship, camera use, how inventive they are with media and technology,” she said. “He’s looking for people who are putting that camera right next to their heart and telling a story.”

Families may take a special interested in Kids Corner, which showcases films made by children aged 14 and younger that will screen at MOMI. Team Cato develops these young auteurs through their after school film program, which they teach in various Queens schools. Actor/comedian and Queens native Ray Romano sponsored all tickets for the students who made these films, and their families. Cato says QWFF is looking for another sponsor to make the entire student show free for additional family members.

Here’s a sampling of local talent at the festival.

“Thank You and Good Night”

Have you ever seen a film that makes use of cardboard cutouts crafted from old photographs? In this whimsical, genre-busting creation, Jan Oxenberg takes viewers on a sentimental journey back to her childhood in Queens, sharing misty, food-related memories of her grandma’s home-cooked Jewish dishes… accented with carrots. The filmmaker, who’s work premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991, grew up in Bell Park Gardens in Bayside, where her neighbors included Richard Dreyfuss and Estelle Getty.

The QWFF will award Oxenberg with its “Spirit of Queens” Award at a special tribute screening March 20, at 7 p.m., at MOMI,

“Bricklayer’s Poet”

Don’t miss actor/filmmaker Gino Cafarelli’s short/featurette about love, heart, loss and loneliness.

A chance encounter between a bricklayer and a poet becomes deeper than what’s on the surface.

According to Cafarelli, the film is Inspired by writer Joe Maruzzo, who wrote it as a one-act play 30 years ago. “His dad was a bricklayer, and my dad is a retired mason/bricklayer. I was immediately attracted to the play because of our dads,” he said.

Cafarelli, who can be seen in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film, “The Irishman,” will screen “Bricklayer’s Poet” Thursday, March 15, at 7:00 p.m., MOMI – Redstone


Director Kate Marks takes indie filmmaking to a whole new level in one of her two offerings at the festival. A manic episode lands an overachieving, Ivy League-bound teen in a school for kids with mental illness.

“There aren’t many characters like her on TV and I wanted the show to be grounded in her perspective, so my guiding principle was ‘capture things the way Aurora would see them’ – messy, medicated, and bizarre,” said Marks.

Thursday, March 22, at 6:00 p.m., Zukor

“Miracle Maker”

Marks said when her dad was diagnosed with cancer, she began to light candles for St. Jude, even though she’s not Catholic. “Raised in a household where we put our faith in effort, I always thought hard work could fix any problem. But when this philosophy failed, I began to search for a hero to rescue my family… enter Miss Kitty, the miracle maker of my film.”

Sunday, March 25, at 5:30 p.m., MOMI – Redstone

“Two Marxists in Hollywood”

Mark your calendars for Saturday, March 24, at 1:00 p.m., and head on over to MOMI to catch “Two Marxists in Hollywood” by director Zoe Beloff.

Radical artists and Nazi Germany refugees Bertolt Brecht and Sergei Eisenstein believed that other filmmakers should question the way we understand our world. These revolutionaries were hellbent on making films in Hollywood on their own terms. Did they succeed?

The film invites us to re-imagine their ideas today through intriguing interviews with actors playing the two men.

“To The Flame”

In the mood for some riveting indie horror? Then you’ll want to see this psychological thriller set in a small town.

Expect suspense, mixed with unexpected humor and dangerous, yet humorous characters.

While interviewing neighbors for his film class assignment, Kyle happens upon a creepy, disturbed couple. Was his encounter a big mistake?

“It definitely takes a hard look at a certain type of male ego that sees everything through the lens of self-promotion,” said Webb, who’s credits include “Boardwalk Empire,” “Daredevil” and “House of Cards.”

Friday, March 23, at 6:00 p.m. MOMI – Redstone

“A Favor”

A woman has to make a difficult choice between family or duty. This film captures an ordinary woman in an extraordinary circumstance, where her biggest struggle isn’t on the battlefield. Experience a behind-the-scenes look at profound moments faced by brave women in the military.

“‘A Favor’ was written to tell a story that people can relate to and cast light on events that don’t make the headlines,” according to director Tannia Kustka. “It’s one thing to use words to tell a story and quite a different one to see the struggle, anguish, pain and love on our character’s face.

“Her actions may seem heartless but she also has a huge heart. It is this paradox that makes people so interesting to watch.”

Thursday March 22, at 6:00 p.m. Zukor

For more information, visit www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.