I was born in East Elmhurst, but even as a kid I always thought of Jackson Heights and Corona as part of what I considered my neighborhood. Partially because I was never entirely sure what constituted "East Elmhurst," geographically speaking; partially because I hung out in those adjacent burgs as much as my own, if not more so. My best friend Jerry lived in Corona and we would often hang out either at his house or in Flushing Meadow Park. (Whenever I hear Simon & Garfunkel's "Me and Julio," I usually think of those days.)
During a long break between movie blocks, I had lunch and walked around, revisiting those streets and places from back in the day. The old public pool, now renovated. The local library I went to for school assignments and such. The bodega where I would play video games after school. My old junior high school. The site of the stationery store where I bought my comic books. I thought about passing by my old house, but I didn't want to indulge my nostalgia that much.
|P.S. 69 students drumming it up before the QWFF Awards|
I think a neighborhood is more than an area on a map, especially when you're young and the world is new. I think that as kids, we sort of stake out our own territory, no matter how far from home it may take us, and over time it becomes our own. For me, that territory covers a good deal of Northern Queens because we were the kind of kids that did our share of exploring, sometimes by bike, often times by bus or train, but mostly by walking around. These days a lot of parents shuttle their kids by car everywhere - to school, to soccer practice, to rehearsals - and I think that's unfortunate, because you don't really get to know your turf that way. With us it was different.
|'Duality' director Benjamin Tran, who won for Best Young Filmmaker|
The final day of QWFF began with a block at the Renaissance Charter School. Closed For the Season was about a teenage girl whose passive mother has an abusive boyfriend. This was really poor. Bad lighting, mediocre sound, and a score that telegraphed every single emotion. Thicker Than Water was another family-in-crisis drama, which ended kinda abruptly, I thought. Ashley Waits was about an army wife struggling with the knowledge that her husband could die in combat. Would've liked to have gotten a better sense of the danger he was actually in; without it she came across as whiny.
|'Silence' director Noube Rateau|
Silence was a good documentary about drug addiction, from the perspective of former users, former dealers, and relatives of those who struggled with addiction. The director got a lot of frank and honest talk from his subjects on what is certainly a thorny issue, one with political and economic repercussions as well as personal ones. Some of the arty flourishes, like switching from color to black-and-white for no apparent reason - were a bit much, and I could've done without the spoken-word bit at the beginning in which I couldn't understand half of what the guy was saying. Plus there were some related comedic sketches at the beginning that director Noube Rateau said was there to ease the transition to the serious stuff, but I didn't think they worked. Overall, though, it was a worthy effort; quite engrossing once the discussions got going.
|Marlyn Mason of 'Model Rules,' who won for Best Actress|
Finally, the night wrapped at P.S. 69 with a festival awards presentation. QWFF sponsors a program for local kids to make movies of their own. One of the festival's blocks showcased select work from kids in the program, including those from P.S. 69. About 15-20 or so of these grade schoolers (and some high schoolers as well) were in attendance last night, and a bunch of the younger kids served as awards presenters. The films that were screened were earnest dramatizations of subjects like making friends, things to do at the park, bullying, and the importance of environmentalism. What they may have lacked in polish they made up for in imagination and sincerity, and you have to like the idea of kids being empowered to make films of their own.
|The mother of 'Queen' director Adam Rose, who won for Best in Festival|
Don and Katha Cato once again hosted. The full list of awards winners will likely go up on the QWFF website within the next few days, though I was excited to see that Queen won both Best of Festival and Best Actor for Ryan Eggold. Director Adam Rose's mother was there to accept his award. Turns out that Rose, like myself, is a LaGuardia High School alumnus, so that makes me twice as excited to see this film do well.
QWFF Day 1: Things to come
QWFF Day 2: What's up, doc?
QWFF Day 3: A gay-all time