Tag Archives: Queens World Film Festival

Queens World Film Festival celebrates fifth year’s opening night

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

With the luck of the Irish, the Queens World Film Festival kicked off its fifth year of helping bring independent films to the big screen.

The six-day festival, which gives international and local filmmakers the opportunity to screen their films in Queens, celebrated its opening night on St. Patrick’s Day at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured five films, including two from local Queens filmmakers Jamil Lahham and Lisa Melodia. The films ranged from animation to short narratives. The night also included a bonus screening of Sundance Film Festival-winning film “World of Tomorrow,” which filled the room with laughter.

“I love this film festival because I love Queens, and everything and anything that is good starts right here in my home borough of Queens County. We do it right,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “I admire and respect and really have come to love Don and Katha Cato because you can tell they pour everything, their heart and soul, into this festival.”

The Queens World Film Festival, which will run through March 22, is organized by husband-and-wife duo of Don and Katha Cato, and this year will feature a total of 117 films, with 19 works from Queens. The films include feature narratives, documentaries and LGBT pieces.

Through the week, the films will be sorted out into different blocks based on subject and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights and the Museum of the Moving Image.

“[Katha and Don] have literally catapulted this festival to heights that not many folks could have foreseen when they first started this,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “Katha and Don and all the folks that are involved in the arts have truly been using the diversity that we bring to this borough to catapult us in tourism.”

Opening night also recognized director Leon Ichaso, known for movies such as “El Cantante,” “Ali” and “Hendrix,” as a “Spirit of Queens” honoree. Don Cato said Ichaso, who has been called the “poet of Latin New York,” was receiving the awards for his artistry, integrity and humanity.

The festival will also present Ichaso’s film “Bitter Sugar” on Wednesday at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“To all the filmmakers that are here please don’t lose the hope, it’s a hard world making movies,[but] it’s worth it,” Ichaso said. “It is festivals like this that in that journey we can take a rest, we can show what we do, we can meet each other and thank God they exist and thank God for the Queens World Film Festival.”

Closing night of the festival will feature a screening of the film “Dukhtar (Daughter)” by Afia Nathaniel, followed by an award ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“Experience these films during our festival, talk about them,” said Don at the end of the night. “The films are the stars of this festival.”

For a full schedule of the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.


Queens World Film Festival to kick off fifth year

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy Jamil Lahham

Along with recent celebrity sightings, including Oscar winner George Clooney, Astoria is ready to continue shining with this year’s Queens World Film Festival — bringing over a hundred unique local and international films to the booming borough.

The festival, celebrating its fifth year running, will take place from March 17 through March 22 and feature 117 films, with 19 works from Queens. The films include short and feature narrative, documentaries, animation and LGBT pieces.

“It will be a week of something for everyone,” said festival director Katha Cato, who arranges the event along with her husband Don and a group of volunteers. “I’m so excited about the caliber of what we are about to expose Queens to.”

This year the six-day festival, which officially received a nonprofit status this year, brought in over 400 submissions from across the nation and around the world.

“Five [years] just feels like I can breathe a little bit. We made it to year five and that’s important,” Cato said. “We are experiencing and feeling it.”

The festival begins on March 17 at 8 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria. The evening will feature a block of six films, including two from Queens filmmakers.

“You can do any kind of shot and any type you want in Queens, to represent any nation or any demographic. You can find it somewhere, somehow in this borough,” Cato said. “You can create a lot of different worlds here and with these studios starting to understand that and with a film festival, this could be a huge industry here in this borough.”

The short narrative "Short Steps" by Queens filmmaker Laura Aguinaga is one of 19 Queens films at the film festival.

The short narrative “Short Steps” by Queens filmmaker Laura Aguinaga is one of 19 Queens films at the film festival.

Opening night will also recognize director Leon Ichaso, known for movies such as “El Cantante” starring Jennifer Lopez, as a “Spirit of Queens” honoree. The festival will also present Ichaso’s film “Bitter Sugar” on March 18 at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Throughout the festival, the independent films will be divided into different blocks based on subject and shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, and, for the first time, daily showings at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“It’s about pairing [the films] together to create the proper context so they all look, sound and feel the way the filmmaker wanted it,” Cato said. “And we are creating community within these filmmakers who are perhaps on the same journey and might perhaps work together [in the future].”

Closing night of the festival will feature a screening of the film “Dukhtar (Daughter)” by Afia Nathaniel and be followed by an award ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“I just hope everyone knows that a lot of love went into this festival and we’re going to fix any mistakes we encounter, but we want you to really experience the films,” Cato added. “Just experience them, don’t judge them. It’s a different medium, there aren’t studio films.”

Tickets for opening night and the rest of the festival are still available at www.queensworldfilmfestival.com.


Local movie maker brings piece of Jackson Heights to Queens World Film Festival

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy Walk Up Productions

One Jackson Heights filmmaker is keeping a promise and taking it to the big screen.

Producer and Jackson Heights resident Michael Lieber met screenwriter Joseph P. Vasquez in California during the mid-1990s and started to work on a screenplay called “The House That Jack Built,” written by Vasquez.

But before the project was complete, Vasquez, 32, died. Lieber vowed that he would finish the film.

Two years ago, Lieber kept his promise and decided to begin making the film with director Henry Barrial and additional producers Sam Kitt and Hitesh R. Patel.

“It just shows that the most important thing was starting with a good script,” Lieber said. “Unfortunately, the writer died many years ago and he was not able to see the fruition of this film. This is why it took so many years to make, because I wasn’t just going to get it filmed like that.”

Vasquez’s film, which is almost 90 minutes long, follows the life of a young Hispanic man named Jack Maldonado who tries to build a relationship with his family by buying an apartment building and moving them all there. The story then becomes a combination of escalating conflicts with family members and also “turf battles” as Jack deals with competing marijuana dealers.

“When I look back, I’m kind of amazed we were able to achieve this,” he said, referring to the film’s budget, which was less than $150,000.

One third of the movie was filmed in Jackson Heights and the rest was finished in the Bronx.

“The House That Jack Built” has been picked as one of the 127 films showing at the Queens World Film Festival, which began Tuesday. It has also been nominated for Best Narrative Feature in the festival.

“This festival is very different; this is a film lovers’ festival,” Lieber said. “It’s a warm festival. It’s very New York and yet it has an international scope.”

“The House That Jack Built” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights.

“If you want the feel of New York City, Queens is the borough these days,” he said.

To purchase tickets, visit here. For more info on the film, visit here .



Queens World Film Festival celebrates opening night

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Action! The 4th Annual Queens World Film Festival has begun.

The festival, which brings international and local filmmakers to the borough to screen their works, celebrated its opening night on Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured three films from the United States and one from Kosovo, ranging from animation to short narratives.


Borough President Melinda Katz, one of the night’s speakers, said that the festival was not only a great project for all the filmmakers and volunteers involved, but also for helping brand the borough of Queens.

“We are the most diverse place on the entire planet. We are extremely excited by this,” Katz said. “We are telling the international audience that we are here, we are strong. Diversity is the greatest asset that we can give the entire world here in the borough of Queens and this film festival proves it every day that we are having it.”

Organizers Katha and Don Cato, who were introduced by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, welcomed the audience and shared what they’ve done in the 365 days since last year’s festival. They then went on to describe what the next five days would bring for the borough.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and one we are very happy to share it with everyone,” Katha said.

Don encouraged the audience members to go see all the films over the next few days.

“What I want you to experience is the unique opportunity that all of these films have and let them just wash over you,” he said. “Let them inform you, experience them, open yourselves up to them and enjoy them for what they are.”

Before the first block of films was shown, the festival honored Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image, as one of the 2014 Spirit of Queens Honorees for his leadership.

“Something wonderful is happening here,” Goodman said. “New York City is becoming decentralized. Manhattan is a borough, Queens is a borough. They’re all boroughs and there’s no inner or outer. I like to think about it as Manhattan being the shining surface of the city and Queens being the substance.”

Independent filmmaker Hal Hartley was also recognized as a Spirit of Queens Honoree. Before accepting his award, the crowd got a taste of his eight minute short narrative from 1994 called “Opera No. 1.”

The night ended with a party at Studio Square just a couple blocks away from the museum.

Throughout the six-day festival, which goes until March 10, a total of 127 films including short and feature narratives, LGBT pieces, documentaries and animation will be divided into subject blocks and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre and The Nesva Hotel in Long Island City, and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights. During the festival there will be 16 films screened from Queens filmmakers.

The festival will also screen the world premiere of the director’s cut of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” on Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at P.S. 69.

Films will also be given awards on the final night of the festival.

For a full schedule of the festival visit here. Tickets for the festival are $10 for regular admission and $6 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets visit here.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Tuesday: Partly cloudy skies this morning will become overcast during the afternoon. High near 30. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday night: Cloudy early with some clearing expected late. Low 24. Winds light and variable.

EVENT OF THE DAY:  Queens World Film Festival

In addition to integrating the work of 18 local Queens filmmakers, the festival spotlights a dazzling selection of foreign films from such countries as Belgium, Iran, India, Spain, Kosovo, Switzerland, Vietnam, the UK and Canada. Venues include the Museum of the Moving Image, The Secret Theatre, Nesva Hotel and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights. March 4-9. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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Curtain set to rise on 4th Annual Queens World Film Festival

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of the Queens World Film Festival

The 4th Annual Queens World Film Festival is ready to hit the stage strong and put Queens on the map.

The Queens World Film Festival, which brings together local and international filmmakers, will take place from March 4 through March 10 and feature 127 films, with 16 works from Queens. The films include short and feature narratives, documentaries, LGBT pieces and animation.

“We’re going to remind the world that Queens is the birthplace of the [film] industry in America,” said festival director Katha Cato, who arranged the event along with her husband, Don.

In the year since the last festival, Katha was diagnosed with three types of cancer and has had to undergo various surgeries and chemotherapy.

However, she continued to work on the festival, which brought in over 300 submissions this year.

“We’re very excited; we’re in very good shape,” said Katha. “It’s the love of my life, next to Donald. It’s a very fulfilling and challenging job. It’s sustained me as I imagined standing at the podium many times when things weren’t quite pleasant.”

The six-day festival begins at 8 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, with a block of four films. The evening will also honor the museum’s Executive Director, Carl Goodman, and maverick filmmaker Hal Hartley as “Spirit of Queens” honorees.

Opening night, which is already sold out, features films from one filmmaker from Kosovo, a directorial debut from a Southern Illinois University student and two New York filmmakers.

“The borough is going to look beautiful on opening night,” said Katha.

Katha and Don Cato

The celebration of independent films will continue as the works are divided into different blocks based on subject and shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre and The Nesva Hotel in Long Island City, and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights.

The “big excitement” for this year’s festival is the world premiere of the 159-minute director’s cut of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing.” The film will be shown at P.S. 69 at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 6.

Awards will be given to films on the final night of the festival.

“To be able to reach out to so many people is a really pretty amazing opportunity- we are certainly not doing it for the money,” said Don, who, together with a screening committee, choose the festival’s award winners. “We just keep it going because we started this thing and we’re trying to build something.”

Tickets for the festival are $10 for regular admission and $6 for students and seniors and can be purchased online here.



Jackson Heights plaza to get $500K in enhancements

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

One Jackson Heights plaza is getting a little extra help to fully shine in the community.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm recently announced he will allocate $500,000 in capital funds for enhancements to the 37th Road Pedestrian Plaza known as Diversity Plaza.

“Diversity Plaza has become an integral part of our community,” said Dromm.

“These improvements will go a long way to build out an asset that our community has come to adopt as a town square. Despite its slightly rocky start, this truly is the ‘little plaza that could.’”

The funding will allow the plaza, which is still in its design phase, to include seating, lighting and other features. Other amenities will also include the installment of community maps, guiding residents and visitors to local businesses around the neighborhood.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has also reserved $2 million to provide extra improvements to the plaza, including a public pay toilet, permanent seating and an improved street surface. Later this fall, Dromm’s office and the DOT will set up a meeting at which the public will have the chance to give their opinions on the amenities.

“Diversity Plaza is a result of tremendous community effort, from the intensive transportation planning sessions that developed it, to the efforts of the local merchants and civic groups that are now sustaining it,” said Andy Wiley-Schwarts, Assistant Commissioner for Public Space at the DOT. “We look forward to working with Councilmember Dromm and the Jackson Heights community to build a safe, beautiful public space for generations to enjoy.”

The councilmember also secured $10,000 in discretionary funding to include the services of the Horticultural Society and ACE New York, which will offer a monthly power washing and horticulture care as part of daily maintenance and cleaning services for the plaza. Dromm had already allocated $60,000 to the Doe Fund to clean both the plaza and surrounding area.

The nonprofit organization SUKHI New York was founded to become the plaza partner and take care of maintenance and events.

“We are eager to involve the broader Jackson Heights community in a discussion about what they would like to see on their plaza,” said Shazia Kauser, president and one of the founders of SUKHI New York.

In the past months, the plaza has hosted the first ever open-air community board meeting with Community Board 3 and a series of short films as part of the Queens World Film Festival.



Queens director brings female filmmakers into the spotlight

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paola de Giovannini

Though she started her career working in front of the camera as a young actress, Effie Fradelos always knew she belonged behind the scenes and didn’t let fear stop her from making her way into the Queens World Film Festival.

The 25-year-old was born in Astoria yet moved around Queens for a few years before permanently settling in Bayside.

Starting as an actress in 2005, Fradelos worked in student-made and independent short films for two years until she realized she wanted to go into film production.

“I wanted to be the one telling the story,” said Fradelos. “I love being on set with the crew and making stuff happen from scratch.”

She then began her journey in creating a film that would bring female filmmakers into a world that is viewed as ruled by men.

“There’s not many of us women. Women need to tell their stories,” said Fradelos.

Her debut 10-minute film titled “Blooming Road” tells the story of Victoria, a lost artist attending medical school to please the desires of her mother, but who reaches a breaking point once she can no longer take it.

“I want to show people you can get out of your cage. Don’t be afraid to do what you want,” said Fradelos. “I want to entertain people and also want them to feel better about a situation.”

The whole film took a year to complete, yet actual shooting time only lasted three days back to back in locations at Fort Totten Park in Bayside, her grandparents’ apartment in Astoria and Downtown Manhattan.

After her sister told her about the Queens World Film Festival, she submitted her film and waited to see if she would make it.

“Someone had to pinch me, I felt like it was a dream,” said Fradelos. “I’m happy I was accepted into the Queens festival because it is my background, it’s my culture.”

“Blooming Road” debuted on screen Friday, March 8 at the Secret Theatre.

Fradelos will graduate from The New School for Communications and Film Production in May and already has her first feature-length script in the works, along with two other ideas.

“For sure there will be a Queens location in my next film,” said Fradelos. “It’s time that Queens is looked at like a place to come for the arts. It’s not just L.A., it’s not just Manhattan.”



Stars shine at Queens World Film Festival

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

The stars came out for the Queens World Film Festival at the Museum of the Moving Image. 

Opening night was held on Tuesday, March 5 and featured films from the borough and as far away as Belgium, Italy, Spain and Australia.

Organizers Katha and Don Cato welcomed the large audience of film lovers and encouraged the filmmakers present to continue making films.

“We have a lot to talk about or even argue about,” said Katha. “You must continue to tell your stories, it’s what binds us together!”

Before any of the films made its debut, the festival honored Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer as the 2013 Spirit of Queens Community honoree for his dedication to the community and the arts.

“If you do not believe culture and the arts sustain communities, you have to witness festivals like this,” said Van Bramer. “You don’t have to go to Manhattan to see world-class films.”

Although Academy Award nominated actress Karen Black could not be in attendance, she was also featured as a Spirit of Queens honoree and accepted her recognition through a pre-recorded video.

Saturday night, March 9, the awards presentation was held at Renaissance Event Hall. Among the winners was “Planet Utero” by Elmhurst’s Faiyaz Jafri, for Best Animation. William Cusick was another local filmmaker who took home an award for Founder’s Choice for his film “Welcome to Nowhere (Bullet Hole Road).” The Audience Award winner was “Mikeyboy,” which is set in Queens, by director Christopher Berkenkamp.

The festival came to an end Sunday, March 10 with encore screenings at the Secret Theatre of all the winning films.

Adrian Manzano from Jackson Heights debuted his feature “BQE” at the film festival.

The festival honored Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer as the 2013 Spirit of Queens Community Honoree for his dedication to the community.




Queens World Film Festival: Around the world, around the corner

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Elliot Lobell first fell in love with stop motion animation when he saw “Star Wars.” From that moment, he knew he wanted to be an animator.

One catch – he couldn’t draw.

Stop motion animation bridged the gap for the Queens native, bringing anything he dreamed to life. He created figures from clay, fabric and yarn, and these characters he enlivened with the adroit manipulation of a camera.

Lobell’s stop motion film, “Andrew: Story of a Closet Monster,” depicts the story of Sam, a little boy who befriends the monster living inside his closet.

It is just one of 130 films screened during the Queens World Film Festival (QWFF), an annual spectacle aggregating and celebrating the work of film makers from every corner of the Earth.

Artists, local officials and movie enthusiasts gathered at Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image for the festival’s opening night on Thursday, March 4.

Katha Cato, co-founder of the QWFF, buzzed around the museum’s lobby, greeting attendees and chatting with filmmakers, her vibrant energy invigorating.

“[You go to the QWFF] if you want to see stuff you can’t see anywhere else,” said Cato.

The celebration brings together the work of artists from various nations, including Korea, Spain, Japan and the United States. Cato feels the festival creates a sense of community, despite its participants’ varying hometowns.

“[The QWFF] means getting a chance to hear and see stories in a corporate setting,” said Cato. “This work is world-class caliber that you’d never see anywhere else.”

Funded almost entirely by Cato and her husband, Don, the festival has received assistance from two main sponsors, Amalgamated Bank and MPC properties. Regardless of finances, the number of films submitted to this year’s QWFF has nearly doubled since last year’s event.

“The QWFF is further proof that Queens is a cultural mecca in and of itself, and that amazing art and amazing films are created here and shown here, particularly in a venue like this,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who acts as chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee and is an avid supporter of the arts.

The first block of films, called “Unlikely Alliances,” included Lobell’s “Andrew: Story of a Closet Monster” and “War Story,” an Iranian piece about two soldiers and the futility of battle, following which, Councilmember Daniel Dromm received a commemoration award from the QWFF for his efforts in preserving the arts.

The second block of films, titled “Very Revealing,” included “Model Rules,” which depicted a nude model’s fantasy while struggling to come to terms with growing older, “Easy Street,” a young lawyer’s interview gone awry, and “Something Left, Something Taken,” a fresh, animated flick about a young couple visiting San Francisco who wind up in a car, driven by a possible serial killer.

Lloyd Kaufman, President of TROMA Entertainment, received the QWFF Spirit of Queens Filmmaker Honoree Award for his contributions to the world of cinema over the past 40 years. A montage of some of Kaufman’s films — edgy, erotic and extreme — was shown.

The final block of movies, called “To Love Again,” featured three films centered on romance and relationships. “Can’t Dance,” told the story of widowed neighbors, aiming for a second chance at happiness. “No Existe El Adios,” entirely in Spanish, depicted love at its various stages. The last film of the evening, the well-acted and emotionally-driven “Queen,” detailed a drag queen’s heartfelt yet unsuccessful attempts to adopt a baby.

Over the next four days, the QWFF hopped from venue to venue, showing movies at the Jackson Heights Cinema, the Renaissance Charter School and P.S. 69, all in an ardent attempt to preserve, cultivate and expand the presence of film in Queens.