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Queens World Film Festival to screen over 150 films in Astoria this month 

Apr. 3, 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan

The Queens World Film Festival is returning for its 13th year this month with a roster of 152 independent films representing 19 nations and dozens of filmmakers from the five boroughs. 

Over the course of 11 days, the films will be screened together in unique thematic blocs that serve as a matchmaker between the filmmaker and the audience. Unlike other film festivals, a screening at QWFF includes several films that appear categorically different but have the same underlying message or evoked emotion. This approach has been unique to Queens World since the inaugural film festival over a decade ago. 

“When you’re going up against Transformers and noisy, noisy Barbies and wonderful, big, huge studio films, these smaller films really need this help to find their audience to make sure people know about them,” said Queens World Executive Director, Katha Cato. “What it allows us to do also is to find the right audience for the film.”

Since entering the film festival community in 2011, QWFF cemented itself as a pipeline for filmmakers from around the world looking to break into the industry. On FilmFreeway, where filmmakers submit their films for consideration, QWFF is deemed one of the top 100 festivals in the world. And MovieMaker named it one of 20 great film festivals for first-time movie makers. 

The festival, which runs from Apr. 16-28, will be screened inside two theaters—the Museum of the Moving Image and Zukor Theatre at Kaufman Astoria Studios, which are located just one block from each other in Astoria

This year, out of 564 submissions received from 48 nations, 152 films were selected and grouped into 47 thematic blocs that touch on human experiences and identities that go beyond genre. From abroad, filmmakers from Indonesia, Ukraine and Iran were selected by the committee. 

For opening night on Wednesday, Apr. 17 at the Museum of Moving Image, the theme is “7 films that don’t back down” which begins with ‘Unthinkable Conversations’ a narrative short from the United Kingdom about a family living through a war. The bloc ends with ‘JADE,’ a short film about a young father who visits his best friend for a haircut, and confidence boost, before venturing to court to win back custody of his daughter. 

“I would say this year is the most elaborate that we’ve ever been,” said Cato, who co-founded the festival with her husband Donald Preston Cato, who serves as the Artistic Director. “It’ll enhance everybody’s experience, whether they know the journey that we’re taking them on or not.”

Co-founders Katha Cata and Donald Preston Cato bring a unique approach to the Queens World Film Festival, now in it’s 14th year. Photo courtesy of QWFF

Other film blocs include “Over the fence: 7 stories about getting to where you must go” on Apr. 23 and “Kinship: 4 films about the need to connect” on Apr. 27. 

While many of the films are lumped together, several will be shown individually. The documentary ‘1.5 million,’ which highlights the literacy crisis in the South Bronx, is standing alone in its impact of representing the poorest congressional district in the nation. As is the ‘Enchanted Lake,’ a love story based on a true story that collides with environmental responsibilities from a filmmaker in Italy. 

The festival will end with an ode to the borough with “Queens Corner: 6 films as diverse as our borough on Apr. 8, which features ‘While Mortals Sleep,’ a short about angels and Jewish mysticism as well as ‘Flushing’ which chronicles two 20-somethings grappling with gentrification in their native city. Overall, 27 of the films being screened are by artists from Queens. 

The organizers of the festival are also proud to champion gender diversity, as the film industry remains disproportionately skewed toward male filmmakers. This year 27% of film submissions were by women filmmakers, which Cato noted is lower than usual. But 40% of the films that made the cut for the festival were directed by women. 

“I’m very, very proud of that,” said Cato. “That’s another thing that the thematic blocks help us with, it gives us more opportunities to bring more stories to the table.”

To kick off the festival, Queens World is having a ‘Trailer Party’ on Apr. 6 where they will screen 50 trailers as a sneak peak for what’s to come during the festival. The event will take place at The Local Hostel in Long Island City and will feature popcorn and chocolate for attendees. 

Tickets for each screening bloc can be purchased online for $20 with showings at the Redstone and Bartos Theatre at MOMI, as well as the Zukor Theatre at Kaufman Astoria Studios at various times throughout the day. 

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