Maybe LIC and Astoria (and Ridgewood, to a lesser extent) are becoming more like Park Slope and Williamsburg, in their own little way - and gentrification on a larger scale could sweep through Queens the way it has through Brooklyn one day - but right now, I still see enclaves of broad ethnicity. I can point out Orthodox Jewish and Indian and Chinese neighborhoods on a Queens map. I see pedestrian plazas bringing all kinds of people together in places like Jackson Heights and Corona. If I walk down Roosevelt Avenue long enough, I can hear Spanish, Korean, and Bengali languages spoken and more besides.
|QWFF's Don Cato leading the procession of student |
filmmakers at the PS 69 film premiere
Yesterday was that day this year. Five films from five groups of fifth graders played at the school, and the atmosphere, while less than a world premiere at Cannes, was more than that of a typical school assembly. There was a delightful little "red carpet" down the center aisle of the auditorium made of construction paper, decorated and autographed by the student filmmakers, who walked down it amidst an audience of their schoolmates, their parents, faculty and others.
Led by Don Cato, in his role as QWFF programmer, the filmmaker mentors for this year - Sharif Sadek, Patti Lowenhaupt, Shelley H. Miller and Richard Calvache - assisted the students in making short films that mirror their lives, exploring themes that reflect their experiences, such as bullying and how to prevent it, or coping with wearing glasses or braces. Yes, there's an "afterschool special" vibe reflected in these shorts, but overall, they're fun to watch, they show the enthusiasm the kids bring to the work, and unlike many adult-made films, they don't try to be anything other than what they are. Katha Cato told me afterwards that she was amazed at how mature the kids looked on the screen, and to a degree, many of them did.
|Councilman Daniel Dromm|
And in case I didn't make it clear - these are (mostly) students of color: black, Latino, Indian, Asian, as well as white. They dressed up for the occasion (one girl wore a lovely sari), and some of them hammed it up a bit for the iPhone and iPad cameras as they walked down the "red carpet," as kids will do. They seemed pretty proud to be there. A few of them spoke to the audience, basically saying how much they enjoyed the experience of making films and how it changed them, and I have no doubt that this will stay with them, even if they never pick up a camera to shoot a movie again. So maybe gentrification is a thing in the rest of New York, and maybe it's something to be resisted... but here in Queens, diversity is by no means a four-letter word.
Later on yesterday, I headed west to the Secret Theater in LIC and had the place virtually to myself for much of the afternoon as I screened two outstanding feature-length documentaries:
|The students receive certificates from Councilman Dromm|
Breakin' LA is not an 80s breakdancing movie, but rather a German film about a group of German bicyclists who explore Los Angeles on their bikes. They take in not just the local biking scene, but aspects of American culture at large; we see them do things like volunteer at a homeless shelter and fire guns at a shooting range. The cinematography is dynamic, as we follow them breezing through the streets from various POV angles and doing biking tricks in parks. We also hear locals talk about the difficulties of biking in such a car-centric city, and how biking has become a thing, not only in LA but around the country. Entertaining and enlightening. Here's the website.