Numerous independent filmmakers and actors gathered at the Museum of the Moving Image Wednesday, Oct. 12, to celebrate their work being featured in the upcoming 12th annual Queens World Film Festival. Over 100 films made from people across 27 nations will be played at five Queens venues from Nov. 1 to 6.
Attendees discussed their films with each other as they socialized prior to gathering inside the auditorium to view a sizzle reel featuring clips set to play at the festival.
The Queens World Film Festival attempts to advance public participation in film screenings by utilizing traditional and alternative screening locations and venues to play independent films. The five venues set to play the films during the festival are the Museum of the Moving Image, Flushing Town Hall, Kaufman Astoria Studios, Queens Theatre in the Park and The Local.
Queens World Film Festival Executive Director Katha Cato and Artistic Director Don Cato also discussed the Spirit of Queens honorees who will be recognized Nov. 2: Queens Theatre Executive Director and Cultural Institutions Group Chair Taryn Sacramone, National Black Theatre Chief Executive Officer and Coalition of Theatres of Color Chair Sade Lythcott, New Yorkers for Culture & Arts Executive Director Lucy Sexton and Flushing Town Hall Executive and Artistic Director Ellen Kodadek. The honorees each spoke about how proud they were to be recognized for their work throughout the pandemic by establishing spaces for cultural institutions to gather online and share resources, needs and support.
Many of the filmmakers in attendance had ties to New York City, with some incorporating such ties into their films. The films set to be screened at the festival range from documentaries to dramas to fictional stories inspired by real experiences. A lot of creativity is put into these films.
One portrait documentary film, “Elba Ruiz: Fat Meat,” was made to tell the story of how the titular individual credits eating meat with more fat with helping her overcome Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Created by Ruiz’s neighbor in Jackson Heights, Julia Maddox, the film goes over Ruiz’s nine-year battle with cancer, eventually overcoming it through such an unorthodox method.
“It’s a wonderful story about the power of the human spirit,” Maddox said. “It’s also about the will and power of the mind on a diet to save somebody’s life.”
Another film with Queens roots, “Blue Fire,” was directed by Astoria resident Nick Ronan and stars Rego Park resident Erica Camarano. Ronan described the film as a gritty sci-fi thriller about two damaged people who discover something in a snowy forest.
Ronan and Camarano described the obstacles they overcame throughout filming, including shooting in the snowy mountains of Vermont with temperatures reaching as low as -2 degrees Fahrenheit. In total, the production took approximately two and a half years, with creating special effects taking up one year alone. The filmmakers are very happy to see their hard work pay off by being a part of this film festival.
“We had quite a bit of a challenge filming, but it was a great experience,” Camarano said. “We just had a really fantastic crew. It’s really exciting to be able to screen in our home borough.”
“We were here in 2018 for the film we did then,” Ronan said. “This event is fantastic. It helps get the word out.”
South Ozone Park native Adrian Drepaul is excited to tell his story of redemption and helping others through “Cooking Inside: From Prison to Home.” The film shows Drepaul and Caz Stewart, two formerly incarcerated men, recreating a prison meal exactly as they prepared it inside.
Drepaul said that he, Stewart and director Brent Lambert-Zaffino have recently been in talks with A&E about the possibility of turning this concept into its own cooking show.
“No matter where you are in the world, what language you speak or by what name you call God, the love in any community can always be found around the table,” Drepaul said. “I’m so happy to be part of ‘Cooking Inside’ and even prouder that its premiere is in my hometown at the Queens World Film Festival.”
In addition to the live screenings taking place during the festival, virtual screenings for all the films will be made available on FilmFestivalFlix.com. Prizes and awards will be given in a variety of categories throughout the festival. Tickets for the live and virtual screenings can be purchased on the Queens World Film Festival’s website.