By Lina Zeldovich
Once just another city neighborhood, Astoria/Long Island City blossomed with art galleries, film studios and theaters once New York artists moved across the river for spacious lofts and cheap nightlife. Known for Astoria Kaufman Studios and Silvercup Studios, this diverse and eccentric neighborhood will host Astoria/LIC International Film Festival over the weekend of October 22-24, 2010.
“People from at least 120 countries live and work in Astoria, dubbed The United Nations of New York City,” says Dennis Cieri, once a Manhattanite and now a long-time Astoria resident, the founder of the festival and owner of Cieri Media International. “They are a terrific audience for this newly established annual tradition promoting emerging voices in film, spoken word and art.”
The festival will take place at The Secret Theatre, an independent off-Broadway venue in the heart of the Astoria/LIC creative mêlée, two blocks away from MoMA PS1, and a short walk from the Socrates Sculpture Park and The Isamu Noguchi Museum. With three rooms and twenty four screening sessions each including a full-length film, a short and a super short, the festival will feature over fifty independent movies. At a special Saturday event, mystery and thriller writers from the NYC Chapter of Sisters in Crime, will read excerpts of their work. From the Friday night opening bash at Da Gianni’s, a stylish brownstone Italian restaurant-bar, to the Sunday Awards Party, the festival is jam-packed with quality entertainment and fun. “Filmmakers are a party crowd,” Dennis says. “There will be drinks, live music and more.”
All selected films reflect on cultural heritage, political issues and lifestyle views from around the world. A humorous be-careful-what-you-wish-for-you-may-get-it Hungarian movie Polygamy tells the story of a man’s proverbial wish miraculously granted – to his own misery. A nearly sold-out documentary The Rubber Room, where disgruntled NYC teachers get their detention, received a mention from The New York Times. Featured in Huffington Post and Daily News, an award-winning Apostles of Park Slope, unfolds the philosophy of a Brooklyn friendship through a dudes’ night out and Sunday mass survival, much like Queens Logic deciphers its own borough’s psyche. Smoking with Abe Lincoln, a Queens version of American Pie, is a comical tale of two borough desperados embarking on a sex flick production to rid themselves of their virginity. Filmed entirely inside of a humongous derelict building, the British Fellini-like psycho-flick The Lark, delivers the post-ecological disaster feeling with a frightening authenticity and a shocking surprise at the end. Another British film, a documentary Speakers’ Corner, famous for being the most free speech spot on the planet, reveals that it had once been a location of public executions. Shooting for Democracy, a documentary of Bhutan’s 2008 king’s resignation and first voting experience draws interesting parallels with the U.S. elections of 2008. Love in the Age of Dion, once a book and a play, is a man’s pensive romantic journey back to the Bronx – twenty six years too late.
Last Rain is a film about a man whose love for a woman is so strong he is able to go back in time to save her life. Zaritsas, Russian Women in New York, by Elena Beloff, once an exchange student and now a New School filmmaker, follows five émigrés and a spiritual recovery of an exotic dancer, rebutting the stigmatized image of Russian girls. Familiar Voices, the documentary about Darfur, aims to deliver messages of responsibility and hope to its audience.
“With such great variety there’s something for everyone,” Dennis says. “This festival’s for an independent-minded audience seeking non-formula plots, innovative stories and cultural insights. It’s a celebration of the New York indie spirit on the international scale.”
The Secret Theater
44-02 23rd Street, LIC Queens
E to 23/Ely Ave or #7 to Court Square.
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