Credit, as always, must go to the dynamic duo who put it all together, Don & Katha Cato. The amount of energy and passion they put into this festival, as well as the truckloads of genuine love and respect they receive in return, cannot be understated. You only have to be around them once to understand. Last night, QWFF 2015 kicked off at the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI), and once again, they were at the heart of it, doing what they do best: telling the world about the movies they love.
|Queens Councilman Jimmy van Bramer (center), a QWFF |
presenter, with Katha and Don Cato at MOMI
This year's Spirit of Queens honoree was Cuban filmmaker Leon Ichaso. Among his best-known films, both in and out of the mainstream, include the Wesley Snipes crime flick Sugar Hill, El Cantante, a biopic of singer Hector Lavoe, with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, and the political drama Bitter Sugar (screening tonight at MOMI), in addition to a variety of theatrical and TV movies and shows in a career dating back to 1979. Here's a recent New York Times article about him.
The opening night "sampler" of films had parents (and surrogate parents) as a recurring theme:
|Queens Borough President Melinda Katz|
- Godka Cirka (A Hole in the Sky). From France, but set in Somali, this one focuses on the lives of shepherdesses, narrated by a young girl. It almost seemed like a hybrid of fiction and non-fiction; the footage of the shepherdesses, young and old, have a documentary feel. We follow them around the countryside and the spare and ramshackle streets, we observe their rituals and gatherings and songs, and it looks like something you might see on the BBC, but imposed over all of it is this girl's narrative about her life, her family and her expectations. A unique approach.
- Dirty Laundry Day. An animated short about a laundromat change machine that is more than it seems. An American film, but the filmmaker is of Syrian descent, and recent events in that specific country inform the narrative in this film, although I kinda wish that it was a little bit more obvious within the story so that the film wouldn't need a post-script title card telling us so. Good otherwise. The sketchy artwork combined with computer effects made for an unusual contrast.
|Spirit of Queens honoree Leon Ichaso|
- Carry On. From China, set during World War 2, a father has to figure out how to protect his daughter from the Japanese soldiers raiding his village. Another gem, one that shows how not even duty can get in the way of simple human compassion. Even mixes in some funny moments. Cinematography, screenplay, performances, all tops.
Plus, there was a bonus screening of Sundance award winner World of Tomorrow, an animated short about cloning that was as adorable as it was visually striking. There's quite a bit of buzz around it, from the looks of things, so I'd strongly advise you to look for it when it becomes available to watch later this month.
Look for more pictures from QWFF 2015 this week and next on the WSW Tumblr page.