posted 2012-03-21 23:27:46

Queens World Film Festival

Second annual Queens festival is a success

Peter Dunifon

Associate Arts and Entertainment Editor

Katha and Don Cato, Founders and Directors of the Queens World Film Festival, speak inside the theater before the screening. Photo by Peter Dunifon.
Far removed from the red carpets of California, Queens turned hostel to some of the most unique and challenging independent cinema in recent memory at the Queens World Film Festival, celebrating its second year over the first weekend of March. The festival hosted over one hundred films at three different venues across Jackson Heights. For the second year of the festival, grand purveyors Katha and Don Cato made significant progress in displaying these independent films on a grander scale.

In the grandiose theater of the Museum of the Moving Image, the QWFF opened to a reservation-only audience of filmmakers, press, and supporters of film. An hour before the event started a small group had already formed outside. The mood was energetic and amiable as Katha Cato came out to introduce herself. Once inside, filmmakers and press mingled with each other, talking excitedly about the many film premiers on the horizon.

The Catos stood on the theater stage to introduce the selection of short films for the evening, and later councilmen Jimmy Can Bramer and Daniel Dromm each spoke respectively. They focused on the importance of art in the turbulence of the present, and they remarked on the gift of sharing cinema in Queens. Councilman Dromm, whose district primarily covers Jackson Heights, stressed the contributions of the community in creating a successful film festival.

For Jackson Heights, QWFF certainly made an impact. Spread around between the Jackson Heights Cinema, Renaissance Charter School, and PS 69, the diverse collection of films appeared in thematically related blocks. Short and feature length films screened alongside each other under thematic headings such as “Tortured and Twisted,” “Old, Good, Days,” and “Self Preservation.” Occupy Wall Street was represented, and the LGBT community held an especially successful block sponsored by Queens Pride.

Among many well-crafted films, one documentary from the Netherlands put a particularly controversial topic on display. Documentarian Jan-Willem Breure’s, Are All Men Pedophiles?, cuts to the chase as its title suggests. Narrated by Breure, the film takes an almost scientific direction. Smooth visuals and compelling interviews combine in the hour-long film to deliver an intriguing message that both deconstructs and complicates the matter. In the end, Breure seems to suggest that a more specific term, hebephilia – meaning a sexual preference for pubescent youth – is not only more common among adults, but it is also historically valid behavior. Interestingly, Breure leaves the consequential and much larger critique of modern society out of the frame.

A locally produced film by Chicken & Beef, Monkey Gang: The Mockumentary, brought an especially large crowd to the Jackson Heights Cinema. The film’s satirical depiction of the current state of hip hop and gangster rap induced uproarious laughter from its audience, and at the festival’s end, it received the Audience Award. The eighty minute film premiered on Mar. 3 alongside two shorts, Powerless and Five Boroughs. The latter film was created by students at Bronx Community College in the spring of 2011.

Hunter College alumnus Edwin René Martinezz worked alongside the Catos as an associate of QWFF. Focusing on outreach and coordinating special events, Martinezz reached out to latino groups within the Queens community and other local film makers. One such film maker, Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Entertainment, made an appearance on the opening night. He brought with him the star character of the Toxic Avenger, a gruesome looking monster with a mop.

Martinezz, a graduate of the film program at Hunter, first got involved with QWFF when he met the Catos at a networking event. He quickly became part of the core “friends of the festival,” and he has since assumed more responsibilities in his role as an associate of the festival. Individually, Martinezz wrote, directed, and produced a short film titled My Life, My Struggle: I Am an Artist. He followed three minority artists living in New York City as they attempted to make waves in galleries and the New York art scene. His current project is a film under the name, “No Love For Brothers.”

With a sturdy foundation set upon this and the previous year’s festival, The Catos and the rest of the people behind the Queens World Film Festival had cast bright light toward the future of film in the borough. As a purveyor of diverse films from around the globe, it might just be perfect for what the borough needs.