BY JACLYN JEFFREY-WILENSKY
In March, the Queens World Film Festival will return to the borough for its eighth annual roster of films from around the world.
The festival features more than 180 independent films by filmmakers hailing from 36 different countries.
“We felt that the borough deserved a world-class film festival,” said artistic director Don Cato. “It’s all about bringing the world to Queens, and Queens to the world.”
Spanning two weekends and two locations, the 2018 festival is much larger than in years past, executive director Katha Cato said. Screenings will be held from March 15 to 25 at Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image and the Zukor Theater.
“We’ve been able to get more films into the Museum of the Moving Image, which is incredible to do for filmmakers, especially filmmakers who live in the borough,” Katha Cato said.
The films, which were selected from a pool of more than 600 applicants, span a variety of genres, from feature-length narrative movies to documentaries and animated shorts. The films are organized into thematically related blocks, complete with catchy titles and post-screening discussions.
“We try to have something for everybody,” Don Cato said. “Each block has a personality of its own.”
One block, “Nothing But Web,” consists of six short films centered around the internet and its effects on society. Another, “Kids Corner,” features films made by children under the age of 14 as part of the festival’s Young Filmmakers program. A third, “Queens Corner,” features short narrative and documentary films from Queens-based filmmakers.
Blind Faith, one of the films in the third block, is an 11-minute comedy-drama about a young skeptic who picks up a hitchhiker claiming to be Jesus Christ. Director and writer Taishon Black, who was born and raised in Corona, said he was excited to be part of a film festival that is so close to home.
“It’s in Queens, so I could invite a bunch of people from Queens to the film festival,” he explained. “A lot of people can’t get out to Brooklyn or to lower Manhattan, so having it in Queens would be great.”
For Black and other budding filmmakers, events such as the Queens World Film Festival are an important career stepping-stone. After Blind Faith was well received at another film festival, Black said that he was able to secure funding for his next project, a film titled A Rocket Ship.
Organizers and filmmakers agree that Queens is uniquely well suited to an event of this type.
“Growing up in Queens allowed me to basically think differently,” Black said. “Queens is such a diverse borough, from Flushing to Jackson Heights to Woodside to LIC. I wanted to show that diversity in my films.”
Katha Cato also agreed that the numerous cultures of Queens make it a great fit for the festival.
“The legacy of the film industry is in this borough,” said Katha Cato. “Filmmaking is happening in this borough. So, we’re bringing the film lovers and the filmmakers together from all over the world, in the world’s borough, in the avenue where the industry was born. We just feel it’s a perfect fit.”
The festival will kick off on March 15 with an opening-night gala and film screening at the Museum of the Moving Image.
The event will also serve as an awards ceremony for filmmakers Jan Oxenberg and Vincent Gagliostro, who are the recipients of the festival’s 2018 Spirit of Queens Award.