One Astoria organization is turning to the diverse community it calls home to help release a film and soundtrack addressing the issue of social inequality in today’s world.
Astoria Stand Up was formed a little over a year ago and was born out of the idea of a short film called “Astoria Park,” written and directed by Paras Chaudhari and Chrysovalantis Stamelos.
Chaudhari and Stamelos, now Astoria residents, came up with the concept of the film in 2003 while they were students at Syracuse University and had the idea of creating a movie set in a basketball court, where opposing sides clashed heads.
However the “purpose” of the film wasn’t discovered until Chaudhari and Stamelos moved to Astoria and, as a South Asian American and Greek American, they decided to focus the script on examining the hatred and inequalities faced in a neighborhood as diverse as Astoria.
“As soon as the concept of the film happened we knew it would be a New York City film,” Chaudhari said. “Astoria Park represents this one big place in the neighborhood that no matter who you are and where you come from, you come to this place to relax and be with the community.”
What began as a four-minute music video turned into a half-hour short film following two enemies divided by their cultures and desires to own the right to a local basketball court. These two characters come into contact with other characters who also struggle with issues in sexuality, racism, identity, faith and how the problems are dealt with on and off the court.
“We weren’t seeing fair and accurate representation of ourselves in the mainstream media. Not only was it not fair, it was also dangerous representation,” Chaudhari said. “We wanted to take a gritty look at the socio-cultural shift that is continuing to happen and pick up especially in this neighborhood.”
The short film has since been featured at film festivals and has made headlines throughout the world.
However, for the writers, there was still more to do and after having spent some time trying to find private investors to fund the film they decided to instead turn to the community they represent – which is where Astoria Stand Up was born.
The group has since become a platform for underrepresented perspectives and communities and movement of artists fighting social inequalities simply by coming together and representing the change they want to see, according to Chaudhari.
“Astoria Stand Up has become its own entity and will continue to be a platform for underrepresented perspectives,” he said.
The group started a Kickstarter campaign last month to fund their project called “Harmony & Dissonance,” which looks to make “Astoria Park” into a feature film and also put together a soundtrack for the movie. The campaign has a goal set at $300,000 and ends on June 21.
The soundtrack, which will be called “Harmony Session” and includes ten tracks, will bring together poets and musicians of diverse backgrounds to collaborate on tracks that each will represent an act of social change.
A percentage of each track sold will then go toward an organization that is “making a difference in the world.”
Chaudhari added that he wants anyone interested in making a donation or anyone who has questions to reach out to the group because the main goal throughout the process has been to involve the community.
“For anyone that participates in this they are more than participants,” he said. “The people who contribute to this will be the ones that say, ‘Hey, I made this happen.’”