Friday, March 2, 2012

QWFF Day 1: Things to come

The Queens World Film Festival is a four-day event which showcases films from around the world at venues within the New York City borough of Queens. Throughout this weekend, I'll write about select films from the show, as well as highlights from the presentation. For more information about the festival, visit the website.

I've written before about how Queens in general, and the Astoria/Long Island City area in particular, is a venue for film and television production. The Queens World Film Festival sets out to prove that Queens is also a great place to see films as well, and no place in the borough is better for that than the Museum of the Moving Image, which hosted the QWFF opening night.

The impression I got is that this year's show is bigger than last year's. Last night's films were a sampling of the ones to be screened this weekend, and they were a highly diverse selection indeed. The near-full house in MOMI's main auditorium included a large number of the filmmakers with movies in the fest, who all got up on stage at the end of the night (I estimate there were about at least fifty, spilling off the stage and into the aisle).

Councilman Daniel Dromm

QWFF co-directors Don and Katha Cato were the evening's hosts. How best to describe Katha Cato? Enthusiastic? Exuberant? When I arrived at MOMI, she was right there at the inside front door, shaking hands and greeting everyone as they came in. When she first stepped up onto the stage, she waved her arms to pump up the crowd's excitement - not for her, but for the fest, and the audience happily complied. The podium had a microphone, but as you might imagine, she did not need one. Several other speakers that evening marveled at her energy and excitement, and I suppose you can't blame her for it. Don Cato, by contrast, is the quieter one, though he also seems to be the one with the eye for the talent.

 In addition to the films, QWFF presented a couple of festival awards last night. One went to Councilman Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, where the rest of QWFF will take place; a man who, among other things, has done much to improve pedestrian space in his district. The other award went to Troma president Lloyd Kaufman, Troma being based here in Queens. While I can't say I care a great deal for most Troma films, Kaufman himself was a lively presence, dissing The Artist and appearing on stage with a model dressed as Troma's star character, the Toxic Avenger. Kaufman, in turn, presented the Catos with awards of recognition of his own - "Troma diplomas," he called them. A new Troma film, Mr. Bricks, will debut here tonight.

Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, w/Don & Katha Cato (l), Kaufman's wife Pat (r) and Toxie

QWFF screened eight short films last night, half of which were world premieres (WP):
  • War Story (WP), an Iranian film about two soldiers facing off in the desert sands. Very Sergio Leone-like in its use of its landscape, the elements, and music.
  • Andrew: Story of a Closet Monster, a stop-motion animation story about an ineffective bedroom monster. Funny, but I thought the kid looked creepier than the monster (something about the material used to make him), but then, I've always found stop-motion slightly disturbing.
  • Model Rules, featuring long-time TV actress Marlyn Mason, whose career goes back to the early 60s, in a character study about a nude art-class model (and yeah, she still looks pretty good at her age!).
  • Easy Street, about an unusual job interview between a law student and a judge with political implications.
  • Something Left, Something Taken, a computer(?)-animated piece about a couple who may or may not be getting taken for a ride by a serial killer. It looks computer-animated, but the way it's done makes everything look like it's made out of fabric, or cardboard, or things like that. Quite eye-catching.
  • Can't Dance (WP), about a widower who is spurred towards finding love again by the ghost of his late wife, directed by a Queens native.
  • There Is No Goodbye (WP), a Spanish film. Unfortunately, this was shown without subtitles, so I can only guess at the story. I thought it was about two characters at three stages of life - as kids, as young adults and in old age - but I'm not certain about that. It looked nice, though.
  • Queen (WP), the one that got the biggest cheers, and deservedly so, because this one totally rocked. It's about a drag queen trying to adopt a child, and it was awesome. I'll talk more about it on Sunday.
All in all, QWFF got off to a great start.

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