The Queens World Film Festival


And it’s a wrap for the ninth annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) after another amazing showcase series in the Museum of the Moving Image, featuring 200 films spanning across 31 nations with 16 world premieres from March 21st to March 31st.

The QWFF is almost a two week-long festival exhibiting both local and international films by independent directors. This year there were 814 submissions, which were reviewed by Artistic Director Don Cato and his screening committee. He then curated 200 films and divided them into 61 thematic blocks of imaginative works. “We curate specifically from what comes in. We don’t cherry pick and we don’t invite people. But we do let it be known that we are interested in films that take a stand and films that are of our time. We are trying to also promote women filmmakers and people of color,” said Katha Cato, the Executive Director of QWFF.

Katha and Don Cato of QWFF

Inclusion, diversity, and just authentic voices were much sought after characteristics for these submissions. The QWFF contained about 79 films directed by women, 14 with LGBTQ themes, 15 were by Asian filmmakers and 11 of these films were by kids for kids. Of this select group of independent artists, many of them were either filmed in New York or by directors from one of the five boroughs (18 were from Queens).

“The arts always respond to change or lead change. It’s a tremendous time of change right now. So if I was to discern what [theme] it is this year, I would say a glimpse of each other’s true vulnerability, to take a moment to truly glimpse the pebble in that other person’s shoe. We all have one. These films give a glimpse into 31 countries and the conversations that they are having,” said Katha Cato.

On March 18th, the Spring Creek Sun attended a press conference that introduced many these independent directors to the media. The festival is divided into an array of thematic blocks with evocative titles, and after each segment there is a conversation between the audience and directors through a Q&A session. This post-screening dialogue allows artists to connect with their audience, and find out what the viewers gained from the experience.

The Spring Creek Sun was able to speak to two directors who are from Brooklyn. Eudemonia is a short narrative written and directed by Julia Ngeow, starring Amy Everson and Alexandra Nell. The film explores a bond that is accidentally made through a single action, which involved a rambunctious Australian traveler bursting into the Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment of a reclusive artist. “It’s a short narrative on how two people come together, and how a single moment can basically extrapolate and change the outcome of a person’s life,” said Ngeow.

Director Julia Ngeow

Ngeow decided to use the title Eudemonia after coming across a traveler’s blog. “This guy’s intention was to travel around the world, but not with the intent of coming back home, basically to just stay away and to have the travel be his home. The word that he used to describe flourishing was Eudemonia, which is a Greek word that translates to human flourishing. So he was trying to seek Eudemonia while he was traveling the world,” Ngeow said.

A screenshot of the short film, Eudemonia

It took about one week of rehearsals before shooting for three days with a Brooklyn based crew. With the help of art design and a makeup artist for fake tattoos the film had a very gritty but also an ethereal ambiance. “The film can be interpreted in a few ways, but what I did want it to express was a sense of wonder, magic, and the power of a human connection,” said Negow.

Director Jingjing Tian

Cowboy Joe is a short narrative by Brooklyn based director, Jingjing Tian, who was also this year’s winner of the Emerging Filmmakers Award from QWFF. Her film is set in New York City, and follows a Chinese cowboy as he grapples with his identity and stands up to this father for the first time. This short narrative features funny and silly scenes, but there is a very important message that Cowboy Joe sends, which is about finding your true identity and to not let anyone put you down. “It’s an externalization of me wanting to be accepted as a part of an American identity and to be a part of the culture that I grew up in,” said Tian, who is an Asian American raised in Texas.

Tian wants her audience to know, “that you can do anything that you want to. You can be anyone you want to be. Just have fun. Express yourself freely no matter who looks down at you or tells you that you don’t belong. Identity is not segregated to one group of people. It’s for everyone,” she said.

Photos by Dean Moses