Queens World Film Festival returns this month with live screenings across the borough

QWFF introduces filmmakers
The Queens World Film Festival team poses outside Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

After a successful leap into the digital space in 2020, the 11th annual Queens World Film Festival is making a comeback this month providing live screenings across the borough with 11 days of streaming and indie film experiences, providing a unique and in-depth look at the best in contemporary independent film.

From June 23 to July 3, 130 films will be screened at the Queens Theatre, Museum of Moving Image, The Local NY, Culture Lab and the United Sherpa Association.

Those who are not comfortable with public gatherings can stream 198 films from 33 nations on Film Festival Flix, a popular film festival streaming platform that is available for purchase on an app store.

Tickets for all live screenings will be on sale soon through Brown Paper Tickets. It is presented by Benedict Realty Group (BRG) whose support has made it possible to employ technicians, ushers, hosts, projectionists from within the Queens community and to purchase T-shirts, posters, marketing materials and other supplies from local businesses.

“BRG has been in the community for over 30 years, and we are committed to supporting the arts and our youth,” said Daniel Benedict, BRG CEO. “The Queens World Film Festival is helping to bring the arts back. When the arts come back, the community thrives.”

The film festival returns to the Sumner Redstone Theatre at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria for a live opening night on June 23 hosted by festival directors Preston and Katha Cato.

“We are so excited to be back at the Museum of Moving Image,” Katha told QNS. “It’s amazing that we are putting this on, helping and participating in Queens Theatre’s first live event. This is a great collaboration and our filmmakers are thrilled.”

With only 50 seats for opening night that are already sold out, Cato is hoping that in the weeks to come, perhaps restrictions will be lifted.

The feature film for the evening is “Mouse” by Queens filmmaker Adam Engel, CEO and president of TangoLight Films with over a decade of feature films to his credit. “Mouse” is a story of one man who feels the guilt of possibly missing the chance to save two people from a neighbor who might be losing touch with reality. When a quick investigation comes and goes and that neighbor moves away, the man feels guilt as it begins to slowly fester in the community.

“We watch him as he takes steps to protect an innocence he never really lost,” Engel said.

The film was shot in a glorious anamorphic format completely in Kew Gardens/Forest Hills, where Engel grew up. According to Engel, he has always wanted to capture the beauty of the place, especially in the deep throes of summertime.

“There is something about the landscape of Kew Gardens/Forest Hills as well as the homes that are so dense and rich,” Engel said.

For Engel, there is something about the shared experience of sitting in a theater watching characters and situations that are larger than life, he said. But last year, that deal was voided, suddenly taken away with no promises.

“When the Queens World Film Festival reached out with the news that not only would we be accepted into their film festival but that we would be opening the film festival in the glorious theater at the Museum of the Moving Image I felt … hope,” Engel said. “The excitement of opening nights and full theaters became a possibility again. And that, on a deep deep level, reignites everything we do this for.”

“Mouse” is accompanied by a short film from Stephan Joseph Eigenmann that uses an empathetic robot to teach us, taking a futuristic look at where our hearts go when we no longer wish to feel anything. The pairing represents the full gamut of what is to be found at the festival and takes us from the sublime to the horrific, reminding us that our anguish is real.

Also on opening night, QWFF will pay tribute to Elmhurst Hospital as the 2021 recipient of the “Spirit of Queens Award” for the tireless care their staff provided throughout the pandemic.

Katho Cato poses with volunteers at the Queens World Film Festival salute for Elmhurst Hospital staff. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Through its “Heroes of Elmhurst Project,” QWFF will provide all 6,000 hospital staff members with a full festival all-access pass for the upcoming spring festival. Each pass purchased for an “Elmhurst Hospital Hero” will provide the staff member an opportunity to enjoy unlimited viewings of 196 independent films for the entire duration of the festival.

“The Heroes of Elmhurst project is near and dear to my heart,” said Cato, who lives nearby the hospital that was the “epicenter of the epicenter” during the COVID-19 pandemic. “What they did was … I just don’t know how human beings dig down and find that in themselves over and over again. That’s why we are honoring the entire hospital staff, and why we are trying to sell tickets for every single one of those staff members to come home, plug in and hear from the world that they helped to protect.”

Other honors will include the 2021 Queens World Trailblazer Award, Opal Hope Bennet, veteran programmer and POV shorts producer.

Bennet has created career paths and opportunities for many other young women involved in developing interesting and maverick programming. Her vast experience and a keen eye for talent have helped to distinguish her in the world of curation and programming.

Multidisciplinary animator Catya Plate will receive the Lois Webber Pioneer Award for her work in sculpture, painting, drawing, installation, artist books and stop-motion animation. Plate has recently been added to the prestigious Great Women Animators list and in 2008 her work was selected for permanent inclusion in the Art Base of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

Additionally, Queens World includes year-round screening opportunities for festival alumni, special events to bring the indie film community together, industry networking events and an educational initiative for youth and seniors.

Festival sponsors include Benedict Realty Group, which is presenting all live events. Support also comes from Investors Bank, Queens Council on the Arts and Resorts World with media sponsorship provided by PIX11, Schneps Media, Queens Chronicle, Yelp and QPTV.

Nine Queens hotels are offering discounts to visiting filmmakers and festival guests. To learn more, visit queensworldfilmfestival.org.