BY JAMES FARRELL
At this year’s 7th Annual Queens World Film Festival, returning to the Museum of the Moving Image from March 14-19, groundbreaking filmmaker and Queens native Julie Dash will receive the 2017 Spirit of Queens Award. In addition to the presentation of the award, her 1991 classic, “Daughters of the Dust” will be screened at the Museum of the Moving Image on Wednesday March 15, along with a Q&A with Dash.
Dash, a Long Island City native, has had a historic impact on the filmmaking industry. “Daughters of the Dust,” a film about an island family—descendants of escaped slaves—living off the coast of the US in 1902, was the first American film by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release. It was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004.
In addition to “Daughters of the Dust”, another film of Dash’s—a short called Illusions from 1982—will be screened at the festival. “Illusions” previously won the Jury Prize for Best Film of the Decade from the Black Filmmakers Foundation.
Dash’s accomplished career began in Harlem in 1969 and led to a long career in movies and television. Her other works include 1977’s “The Diary of an African Nun”, which she made as a film student at UCLA, and several television films including “Love Song” (2000), “Incognito” (1999) and “Funny Valentines” (1999). Additionally, she was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for “The Rosa Parks Story.”
“Her work is stunning, so it’s our honor to be screening her,” said Katha Cato, director of the Queens World Film Festival.
Don Cato, Katha’s co-director, explained that what makes Dash such a strong pick for the award—aside from her historic significance—is her ability to use images effectively.
“She knows how to tell a story visually,” said Don Cato. “That’s what a good filmmaker should do. I don’t want somebody telling me the story, I want somebody showing me the story.”
The Catos also spoke about their excitement for the festival, a yearly survey of classic indie films that this year, will feature roughly 137 films, including 22 by local Queens filmmakers.
“It’s year seven,” said Katha. “So we’ve been doing this incredible growth since year one.”
Among the highlights, Katha said, was a block of films the Catos call “Kandy Krush,” which includes a broad array of interesting films—including a Macaulay Culkin film called “Aladdin” with a set made entirely of cardboard.
“There’s women’s rights, there’s immigrant stories, there’s twisted love stories,” said Katha Cato of the collection. “We really feel that Queens still has that pioneering spirit.”
When asked what he was most excited for, Don Cato said it was not a simple answer.
“We have 137 of them that we’re excited about.”
The Queens World Film Festival begins on March 14. Its 137 films aired in the Museum of the Moving Image and several other venues around Queens. A full schedule of events and films will be released this month.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.