BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
His riveting work, “Roma,” started with a painful personal journey, but it won Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón three more Oscars on Feb. 24.
Based on his housekeeper’s life when he was growing up, “Roma” told the story of Cleo, an indigenous domestic worker who struggles with personal woes, as the family she works for falls apart.
“As artists, our job is to look where others don’t,” Cuarón said in his acceptance speech.
Like Cuarón, the talented filmmakers participating in the ninth annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) will soon share their own compelling stories with audiences and each have something relevant, moving and worthwhile to say.
Enjoy 200-plus local and global film screenings over 11 days — from March 21 to March 31 — at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Astoria. The 2019 indie line-up includes 79 films by women, 14 LGBTQ-themed works and 15 by Asian filmmakers, and 6 films by kids, for kids.
The opening night event — set for March 21 at 7 p.m. — will showcase a block of seven shorts that are sure to raise a few eyebrows. “Marguerite,” just nominated for a 2019 Academy Award for Live Action Short, will also be shown.
This year’s “Spirit of Queens” honorees are David Schwartz, MoMI’s former Chief Curator, and filmmaking partners director Nancy Kelly and husband, Kenji Yamamoto (editor/producer). QWFF will screen a new 4K restoration of their work, “Thousand Pieces of Gold,” on March 26 at 7 p.m. in MoMI’s Redstone Theater.
“We are finding that artists everywhere are reflecting the times we live in. Be prepared to be moved by the imagination, the creativity and the heart of these filmmakers from around the world and around the corner,” said QWFF Executive Director Katha Cato.
Highlighted here are two compelling films: “Thousand Pieces of Gold” and “Quiet Storm.”
The former is a restoration of an important work that in the early 1990’s “was addressing issues and themes that are even more relevant today,” said Cato. “The film presents a unique vision of the romanticized Old West, presenting the story through the eyes of the marginalized people who actually built the communities.”
Nonprofit IndieCollect has saved this and many other films that might have been lost forever.
“When I met Kenji, I thought I was a cowgirl who was making a film,” said former ranch hand Nancy Kelly, who lives in California with Yamamoto.
Set in an 1880s mining town, the film portrays the real-life story of Lalu (Rosalind Chao), a young Chinese woman whose desperately poor parents sell her into slavery. She is trafficked to a nefarious saloonkeeper in Idaho’s gold country.
Kelly drew inspiration from the novel by the same name.
Few films today feature Asian women in the lead and this deals with immigration, sex trafficking and forced marriage, and really resonates in the #MeToo era.
But it had a rocky start.
“People in the film business had no confidence in me as a director – I was young, inexperienced and female,” Kelly recalled. “The percentage of female directors was – and is – disgracefully low: 4 percent to 7 percent.”
Here’s another must-see film.
“Jonathan Sweet’s ‘Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story,’ is an important and extremely well-made doc that I think Queens is going to eat up,” said Cato. “His story is quite compelling and will touch everyone.”
“Growing up, Artest was surrounded by an era of violence….,” Sweet said. “There was, however, a poetry born of the violence – inspiring the soundtrack that led to Queens’ rise in hip-hop culture. Nas. Capone. Noreaga. And, Havoc of Mobb Deep. They were not only part of the village that raised Ron; they comprised the soundtrack to his adolescence….
“Ron (Metta World Peace) was brave enough to take us through his life both on and off the basketball court,” Sweet added, noting that after winning the 2010 NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers star said: ‘I want to thank my psychiatrist.’
“That one guileless sentence helped kick down the doors for mental health acceptance in America.”
For the full schedule and ticket information, visit queensworldfilmfestival.org.