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Jackson Heights Filmmakers to be Featured in 6th Annual Queens World Film Festival


Executive Director Katha Cato (center) at press conference.
Photo credit: Rodrigo Salazar

Feb. 26, 2016 Staff Report

The 6th Annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) kicks off March 15, with the organizers screening 143 feature films in four Queens venues through March 20.

The screenings will take place at the Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave.) in Astoria, the Secret Theatre (44-02 23rd St.) in Long Island City, All Saints’ Episcopal Church (43-12 46th St.) in Sunnyside and P.S. 69 (77-02 37th Ave.) in Jackson Heights.

The festival will feature a wide variety of films produced and directed by filmmakers across the globe.

QWFF 02“It will be six days, five screens, four venues, 143 films from 23 nations, 38 feature length films, 85 short films, narratives, LGBTQ, animation and family friendly films, 29 world premieres, 22 U.S. premieres, 29 filmmakers from Queens, 42 female directors, and 30 female producers,” Queens World Film Festival Artistic Director Don Cato said.

On why he believes it has such wide-reaching appeal, Cato explained, “This year’s films come from many of the countries whose diasporas are represented in Queens… There are tender films, heartbreaking films and several works that are extremely provocative, even disturbing. Taken as a whole, I feel this year’s selection ties us into discussions people are having around the world.”

Investors Bank press conference

Executive Director Katha Cato went on to define the ethos that makes QWFF so compelling.

“From the beginning of time we have gathered in darkened caves around flickering lights to share our stories,” she said. “Today, we’ve upgraded the caves, the flickering lights are now zeroes and ones, but the impulse to gather, to tell our stories, remains.”

Each year, the festival seeks to bring in sponsors who wish to help these stories make it to the silver screen, such as long time supporting sponsor Investors Bank. Sr. Vice President and N.Y. Regional Manager Ana M. Oliveira said, “Our company and QWFF truly share the same core values and mission. Everyone at the Bank is impressed by Katha and Don Cato’s incredible energy and passion for the Festival, which has grown in size, scope and importance each year.”


Councilman Daniel Dromm (center) addresses filmmakers at press conference

Council Member Daniel Dromm said he’s proud to have been one of the festival’s first supporters, because it was born out of his district of Jackson Heights.

“Many of the screenings are done at P.S. 69 or at the Renaissance School, and I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Aging and LGBT series,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “I love the Queens World Film Festival, it’s great for tourism, it’s great for the economy, and it’s great for the film makers. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

In addition to films from all across the globe, some of the films which will be screening were either shot in the Jackson Heights area, or feature actors or filmmakers who reside in the neighborhood.


JH Article - Home 01One film that will be screened in the festival is the Daniel Maldonado and Ingrid Matias film “H.O.M.E.” The film is broken up into two parts, the first of which tells the story of a man with Asperger’s syndrome who runs away from home after having a fight with his family, and disappears into an underground labyrinth in the NYC subway system.

The second is about an Ecuadorian driver from Corona, Queens, who offers a young Chinese mother a ride home because she is stranded in Flushing during a transit strike. It focuses on how the two communicate despite both language and cultural barriers between them. While it is mainly filmed in a town car, the drive begins in Corona, and goes through Elmhurst.

“H.O.M.E.” will be screening at the Museum of Moving Image on Friday, March 18th, at 6:00 pm.  Tickets are available at the link.


SickAnother film that will be screened during the festival is Martin Riofrio’s film “Sick.” It focuses on a man who has to learn how to grieve after a tragedy occurs in his life.

Riofrio, who is a director, writer, and actor in the film, can normally be found working at Table Wine, in Jackson Heights. This is his first film to be accepted into the Queens World Film Festival.

“I want people to take away that human connection is very difficult, and everyone struggles with how to deal with their own emotions and the emotions of those around them,” Riofrio said about the short. “This film is about emotional lonliness, how it’s easy to feel lonely even in a crowded city, especially when something bad happens.”

“Sick” will be screening at P.S. 69 on Friday, March 18th, at 10:00 p.mTickets are available at the link.

“Julio of Jackson Heights”


Queens-born Richard Shpuntoff will premier his first feature length film at the Queens World Film Festival with “Julio of Jackson Heights.” The film documents the life and impact of Julio Rivera, who was murdered in a schoolyard in Jackson Heights, Queens on July 2, 1990. His assailants were three young men looking to “clean up” the neighborhood of gays. Instead, the murder sparked the coming out of New York’s largest — and until then — most closeted LGBTQ community. Shpuntoff’s work also includes a 20 year documentary project of the Queens Pride Parade (1993 – 2012) which was born out of this incident.

“Julio of Jackson Heights” will be screening P.S. 69 on Thursday, March 17th at 8:00 PM. Tickets are available at the link.

“The Last of the Munny Gang”

JH Article - Last Member Munny Gang 01Additionally, Julien Bettelheim, an Elmhurst resident, will have his film “The Last Member of the Munny Gang” screened during the festival. The film is a western set in the final days of the old west. The main character sets out to connect with a gang of outlaws and prevent them from a revenge plot.

“The whole project took about 3 years to complete the 19 minute short,” Bettelheim said. It is the first film he submitted to and was accepted by the Queens World Film Festival. “We’re excited to have a Western short in the festival, which you don’t see as often.”

“The Last of the Munny Gang” will be screening at the Secret Theater on Thursday, March 17th, at 8:00 pm. Tickets are available at the link.

Independent film lovers, or those who wish to support local creatives and the programs offered by the Queens World Film Festival, can purchase an All Access pass to blocks of their choice at any venue through Brown Paper Tickets.

Note: The Queens World Film Festival is an advertiser of the Jackson Heights Post.

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