Oct. 5, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
The third annual Astoria Film Festival launched Thursday and it will include an expanded line up of movies made by emerging local and international filmmakers.
The festival will include a mix of nearly 100 short films and web series that can be viewed virtually and at various locations throughout October.
There will be movie screenings at the Heart of Gold bar, located at 37-14 31st Ave., on several nights over the next two weeks and a special Halloween event held at that venue on Oct. 31 to bring the festival to an end.
The festival will also include an award ceremony held at the Kaufman Astoria Studios, located at 34-12 36th St., on Oct. 26.
Organizers will be putting a cap on the number of attendees at these venues to comply with COVID-19 regulations. All movies, however, can be streamed online up until Oct. 16.
The festival is being sponsored by the Kaufman Arts District and the Kaufman Astoria Studios.
The festival kicked off Thursday night with an in-person meet-and-greet session held outdoors with filmmakers at the Open Streets area of 31st Avenue and 34th Street.
Nina Fiore, the founder and executive director of the festival, said there is a wide variety of movie genres on offer this year and several of the films being shown were made in Astoria.
“There is a comedy about déjà vu made by local filmmaker Michael Fodera and a drama about a man who keeps a pigeon coop starring Queens actor Louis Gasparro,” Fiore said.
“There is also a horror film about a creepy ex-boyfriend made by Astoria husband-and-wife duo Sarah Misch and John Noel,” she said.
Fiore said there are also movies being shown by filmmakers from Queens that feature some of the borough’s landmarks.
“One of the movies highlights the Ankhlave Arts Alliance’s Art Exhibit at the Queens Botanical Garden,” Fiore said.
Fiore said the festival was established in 2018 with the express goal of promoting local talent and helping independent filmmakers connect with international filmmakers.
There will be filmmakers from 21 different countries represented at the festival. There will be a series of online sessions that will include interviews with various filmmakers, Q & A sessions, movie-making tips and networking events. Many of these sessions will be held via Zoom.
The festival was expected to take place in May but it was postponed due to the coronavirus shutdown.
Fiore said the delay has brought some upside. For instance, they have been able to increase the number of films that are being screened.
Organizers added a “quarantine” category for movies made during the lockdown and – since the festival was rescheduled for October – a night of horror movies will end the festival on Oct. 31 to coincide with Halloween.
“The quarantine films are a very interesting time capsule of the emotions of this past year,” Fiore said.
“Some are very sweet and hopeful and it’s an interesting range,” she said.
Fiore, who previously worked for Viacom, said the quarantine category has proven very popular and submissions have been received from moviemakers in Japan, China, India, Australia, South America, Europe and South America.
Fiore said another component of the festival is developing aspiring young local filmmakers by teaming them up with more established Astoria-based filmmakers.
She said that many local filmmakers have been working with school children on short films for the festival over the past year and some of their work is being screened at the festival.
“Many of our festival filmmakers have helped us conduct workshops with students at local elementary, middle and high schools,” Fiore said.
She said that this partnership serves to teach students new skills and will help them forge a career in the industry.
Fiore, an Astoria resident, said she is hoping that the community supports the festival, noting that industry workers have been hard-hit by the economic crisis.
“This year many of our community’s independent filmmakers have lost a great deal of work which usually sustains them – from filmmaking to bartending, to all performance-related work,” Fiore said.
Online festival movie screenings are available to watch from Oct. 1 to Oct. 16 and tickets are priced at $15 each. Ticketholders will be able to stream all short films and web series via the festival’s YouTube channel for that price and access the online interactive sessions.
Tickets for in-person events and film screenings – which run until Oct. 31 – ranges in price from $20 to $25.
All tickets can be purchased on the Astoria Film Festival website here.
The awards ceremony will be streamed for free on the Astoria Film Festival Facebook page and on Queens Public Television.