June 5, 2023 By Bill Parry
The sixth annual Astoria Film Festival is underway with online programming to support filmmakers with disabilities and others who can’t make it to the in-person festival at Kaufman Astoria Studios, with the Youth Film Festival on Saturday, June 9, and the Main Film Festival on Sunday, June 11.
The online Astoria Film Festival programming kicked off on June 1 with a celebration of Pride Month featuring a panel of LGBTQIA+ filmmakers moderated by former festival filmmaker and Astoria resident Kyle Stockberger. The panel was followed by an All-Festival virtual panel moderated by Astoria Film Festival founder Nina Fiore.
“It continues online through the rest of the month with various panels and workshops including one on A.I. and its legal effects on film production by an entertainment lawyer who specializes in tech,” Fiore told the Queens Post. “And then there’s a panel featuring our disabled filmmakers from this year’s festival and it’s moderated by RespectAbility, which is a Los Angeles-based organization that focuses on disabled representation in media.”
Fiore was born and raised in Astoria in a low-income immigrant home who persevered over her own disabilities to graduate from Harvard and work professionally in TV and digital media production. She founded the Astoria Film Festival in 2018 while she was Education Director at Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens in Astoria and wanted to connect students interested in film with professionals in the industry.
“I care about this community. I especially care about the youth. I care about people who are underrepresented in the media, because I am one of them,” Fiore said. “A lot of the kids I worked with wanted to do more intense filmmaking. I had been a producer my whole life but didn’t know anything about cinematography. That’s a whole nother level, right? So I kind of needed to find filmmakers in the area. And I was like, why don’t we start a film festival and then you know, we’ll find the filmmakers who are local and we’ll have them work with our kids.”
Her journey led to Kaufman Astoria Studios and an unexpected meeting with the studio president and CEO Hal Rosenbluth.
“So I go in and I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and to make a long story short, once they saw the work I was doing the kids in the neighborhood and they were like, do you need tours for the kids?” Fiore recalled.
A partnership was born.
“During COVID they gave us the open-air back-lot with 20 people at a time, so we had to keep it to just eight showings back then,” Fiore said.
For the Astoria Youth Film Festival on June 10 at Kaufman Astoria Studios, Fiore worked with six neighborhood schools that will screen eight films during a morning session. One of the student films —a documentary short created with Q300 Middle School in Astoria — is about Environmental Justice and features interviews by the students with former Councilman Costa Constantinides and Dave-Inder Comar, environmental lawyers who will be joining the students on the in-person panel at the Zukor Theater.
Constantinides is currently CEO of Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens which provided filming space and free access to their computer lab for editing classes
A female-filmmaker panel of selected films will close out the in-person events, moderated by New York in Film & Television, who will also be presenting an award at the Main Festival Awards Ceremony on Sunday evening at the Zukor.
The Astoria Film Festival will be bookended by two social events, an opening night party at Heart of Gold Astoria on June 9, and an after party at Sunswick 35/35 on June 11.
For more information, including how to purchase tickets, visit the Astoria Film Festival website.