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Queens World Film Festival kicks off with Astoria event

Neha Gautam and Kath Cato (Source: Rodrigo Salazar Photography)

Neha Gautam and Kath Cato (Source: Rodrigo Salazar Photography)

Jan. 31, 2015 Staff Report

The organizers of the 5th annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) held their kick-off event on January 18 to provide an overview of some of the films that will be screened this year and to invite the public to meet many of the actors and filmmakers involved.

The festival will be held from March 17-20 and will feature 116 films that were selected from more than 400 submissions.

The films will be screened at three venues: The Museum of Moving Image in Astoria; The Secret Theatre in Long Island City; and PS 69 in Jackson Heights.

Katha Cato, the executive director of the QWFF who spoke at the event, credited the strength of the festival to the people who come out every year to support it.

“What we’ve done for the last four years is really make sure that we have built up an inclusive community around the festival,” Cato said.

Among the attendees at the event, which was held at Monika’s Café — located within the Kaufman Arts District — were many Queens-based actors and filmmakers

Laura Aguinaga, who hails from Woodside, is a director and writer for the short film “Short Steps,” which is about a man who struggles to move on with life after his marriage collapses.

The cast of Short Steps primarily consists of US-born Hispanic actors.

“We wanted to show that filmmakers can tell [mainstream] stories with a Latino cast, instead of creating roles and plot lines that are often typecast for Latinos in the industry,” Aguinaga said.

Richard Calvache, an Astoria resident who was raised in Jackson Heights, is the short film’s executive producer and editor. He said that the story is essentially a different take on the classic“boy meets girl” narrative.

Meanwhile, one Jackson Heights filmmaker’s documentary, “Chosen Family” will also be screening at the festival. Indian-born director Neha Gautam said her film revolves around the topic of discrimination against LGBT people of color, and the creation of a safe space for them to gather in Queens that was founded by five LGBT women of color.

Another Queens filmmaker who attended Saturday’s event was Craig Calamis. who said his feature-length film “The Drifter” is a thriller based on a troubled character whose dark, unfolding memories lead him on a downward spiral as the movie progresses.

For the full list of films that will be screened at the 2015 Queens World Film Festival, click here.

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