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Queens Together holds film premiere to raise money for local restaurants and food-insecure communities in Astoria, Long Island City

Chefs and film crew gather at the Eternal Flame exhibit in Long Island City.
Photo courtesy of Devin Klos

Next week, Queens Together will hold a premiere of the documentary “Queens Together at the Eternal Flame,” which highlights local chefs and their struggles during the pandemic in order to raise money to alleviate food insecurity and support local restaurants. 

The two nonprofit organizations, Queens Together and Zone 126, will distribute food items in Astoria and Long Island City. The donations from the premiere will get local restaurants to provide produce for the food pantries at schools in those areas and help get fresh foods to families so they can cook at home. 

The film documents a day at the Eternal Flame art exhibition in Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City last year. Queens Together gathered chefs at Paul Ramírez Jonas’ exhibit, which is a huge communal grill that puts emphasis on cooking as a cultural expression in immigrant communities. 

The documentary, directed by Devin Klos, shows chefs cooking together and sharing what the COVID-19 pandemic had done to them, their restaurants and the community. 

Klos had originally started volunteering with Queens Together to deliver food to Elmhurst Hospital during the pandemic. From there, Klos discovered how his work as a filmmaker could help the organization’s mission. 

“I was trying to figure out what to do with myself. I had nothing to do,” Klos said. “We just started to talk, bond and check in with each other. We batted around ideas on what we could do to put a spotlight on restaurants in need.”

Queens Together is a nonprofit organization made up of restaurants providing support to one another and their communities in times of crisis. Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and executive director of Queens Together, said they raised about $260,000 for local restaurants over the last year.

This kind of fundraising tactic is new to Queens Together.

“As we discovered over the past year, a lot of outside-the-box ideas got us a lot of fundraising support and volunteers,” Forgash said. “We’re really hoping we get a nice turnout.”

The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria will co-host the event, which Forgash is hoping will get more people involved in donating. 

“Restaurants work for their community,” Forgash said. “Yes, we’ve made them some money to help them keep their doors open during COVID, but there’s nothing like a chef cooking food for neighbors in need. When I say I want to shout their name from the rafters, I mean it.”

The free online event will be held Tuesday, July 13, at 7 p.m. Donations can be made on their website. To find the link to the virtual premiere, visit the Museum of the Moving Image website.

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