BY JON CRONIN
After their sixth wildly successful year, the Queens World Film Festival has launched a summer encore series with 13 events running now through August 25 and hosted at both Kissena Park in Flushing and Sgt. Collins Park in Woodside last Friday.
The summer series kicked off last week in Sgt. Collins Park and showcased six short films by Queens filmmakers. It was presented by the Northern Woodside Coalition.
The films were; “Can’t Dance” by Richard Uhlig, a QWFF Founders Choice award winner from 2012, “Comic Book Heaven” by E.J. Mcleavey-Fisher, “Wild Woman” by Joy Shatz, “We Had Plans” by Christina Raia, “Thanks” by Tom Patterson, “Disconnector” by Faiyaz Jafri, “Pain Staking” by Adolfo Martinez Perez, and Diwali Dream Garage by Johnny Pik, which was voted QWFF Best Comedy Short in 2015.
Three filmmakers turned up to support their viewing. The film was inspired by Writer and Director Richard Uhlig’s elderly neighbors in his Jackson Heights’ apartment building. It was filmed over a long weekend in Uhlig’s apartment, where he lives with his wife and two children, in 2011. To this day, he admits, his neighbors still do not know that they inspired this short film.
The 16 minute short is about a widower, who in an attempt to be closer with his dead wife mixes her ashes with a glass of 1986 Crown Regal whiskey and she magically appears. Upset by his abject loneliness, she encourages and teaches him how to woo their elderly neighbor, before her time is up. The neighbor is played by Karen Lynn Gary, who in 1979 starred as John Travolta’s girlfriend in Saturday Night Fever.
“I didn’t even recognize her when she came to audition,” said Uhlig, “She was just the best one for the part.”
By coincidence, Uhlig’s daughter, Jett, starred in another filmed screened, “Thanks” about a little girl from Cleveland who is mysteriously dropped off with a wad of cash in a liquor store in Queens and told that the man working there would take care of her. “Thanks” was the directorial debut of Tom Patterson who was also the film editor of “Can’t Dance.” Patterson is an award-winning editor who has had films in the Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW festivals.
Filmmakers Christina Raia and Kelsey Rauber also dropped by the viewing. The four minute short “We Had Plans” was directed by Raia and written by Rauber. Raia, who filmed it in her Sunnyside apartment, said it was actually based on a conversation Rauber had with her sister.
Of the reason for the film’s briefness, Raia said she and Rauber had just come off working on an feature length film and before that a ten episode web series called “Kelsey” which was also written and directed by the duo.
In this project Raia, said, “We wanted to drop the audience in and pull them out.” The movie starts with a young girl facing the realization that she would be breaking up with a long-time boyfriend and challenging the plan she had with her sister to carry on the family gene pool.
The short has emotional intensity that builds and blacks out as the audience realizes the action and pace is about to change significantly.
This week the festival will be presented by Queensboro Hill Neighborhood Association Ltd. at Kissena Park in Flushing on Thursday at Main Street and Elder Avenue at dusk. This Friday they will once again be showcased at Sgt. Collins Park with a presentation of animated shorts. As Katha Cato, director of the film festival pointed out last week, these films are not rated and “Just like in life are sprinkled with the occasional sh#t and f@*k.” Check out queensworldfilmfestival.com/events/ for a full listing of the festival’s summer screenings.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JonathanSCronin