A look at the upcoming Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Jul 07, 2017 | 21948 views | 0 0 comments | 502 502 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jenna Boyd and Tequan Richmond in “Nowhere, Michigan.”
Jenna Boyd and Tequan Richmond in “Nowhere, Michigan.”
In “The Witness,” Kitty’s Genovese’s  brother, Bill, visits the site of her murder to unravel the truth behind the infamous crime. Photo by Trish Govoni. Courtesy of The Witnesses, LLC.
In “The Witness,” Kitty’s Genovese’s brother, Bill, visits the site of her murder to unravel the truth behind the infamous crime. Photo by Trish Govoni. Courtesy of The Witnesses, LLC.
The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema recently announced the film lineup for its inaugural 10-day festival in August.

From August 4-13, attendees will be able to screen 150 local and international independent films at Kew Gardens Cinemas, Maple Grove Cemetery and the Queens Museum.

“We hope our festival will help this historic hamlet of Queens continue to thrive and prosper both economically and culturally, and plan to keep this tradition going every year hereafter,” said Founder and Executive Director Jayson Simba.

The festival’s opening feature film on Saturday, August 5, will be the world premiere of Zachary Raines’ comedy “Accidents,” followed by the narrative short “A Man Full of Trouble” directed by Michael Johnston. The festival’s closing film, screened on Sunday, August 12, is the New York Premiere of Francesco Calogero’s “Second Spring,” paired with the narrative short “This Way to Wonderland,” which is directed by Zenas Cao.

Queens-made films will be screened at the festival, including the world premiere of Forest Hills filmmaker Louie Cortes’ “Good Day,” and Kew Gardens Hills resident Jermaine Manigault’s narrative short “Language is Dead,” the feature “Nowhere, Michigan” by Robert Vornkahl of Woodhaven, the short “Choices” by Rick Hamilton of Long Island City and more.

The films will compete for awards in the categories of Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Narrative Short, Documentary Short, Animation & Experimental Film. Each winner will receive a personally engraved unique statuette at the Grand Awards Gala on the final night of the festival.

On Saturday, Aug.12 at Maple Grove Cemetery's The Center, the festival will present three one-hour Panel Discussions covering important and relevant topics in today’s independent film industry. The free panel topics include: Wonder Women, the challenges and importance of women in independent film; Film Distribution in this modern day and age featuring sponsor Synimatica, and other distribution professionals; and Production Resources, making the best of your low budget.

The Queens Museum will play host to specially selected programming, such as “The Witness” on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 2:00 p.m., which will be followed by a discussion with Director James Solomon and guests. On Thursday, Aug. 10 at 4:00 p.m. there will be a special presentation of Joe Minion’s “Trafficking,” an indie film made in the 1990s, but never shown publicly till now. Minion will lead an in-depth discussion after the film. Then at sundown that evening, there will be an outdoor screening of Adam Irving’s “Off the Rails” on the lawn in front of the Unisphere. “Off the Rails” follows the story of Queens’ own Darius McCollum, a man with Asperger’s syndrome imprisoned for his love of the New York City transit system.

A free festival kick-off party will be held at Austin’s Ale House on Friday, August 4 beginning at 8 p.m. At the party, there will be a plaque dedication ceremony in honor of Rodney Dangerfield. Those wishing to attend must RSVP at www.kewgardensfestivalofcinema.com.

Film spotlight

“The Witness” - Dir. James Solomon, 89 min.

The name Kitty Genovese became synonymous with bystander apathy after “The New York Times” reported that 38 witnesses watched her being murdered – and did nothing to help. “The Witness” follows her brother Bill’s search for the truth. In the process, he unravels a myth that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era. “The Witness” debunks one of America’s most chilling crime stories as a brother reclaims his sister’s forgotten life from her infamous death.

“All I Want” - Dir. West Liang, 89 min.

The anxiety of modern love and life among friends in a big city. Mel and Andrew have been married for ten years – in fact, today is their wedding anniversary. To celebrate this special occasion, they’ve invited their family and closest friends to their home for an evening together. Yet, as the night grows, Mel reveals surprising news that will shake those relationships around them forever. One of those films (co-written by director West Liang with Melissa Center, who plays Mel) where you feel like you’re right there at the party with them. It all feels effortlessly natural, and the acting is strong.

“In Winter” - Dir. Alexander Gutterman and Aboubacar Camara, 97 min.

Annika is a young woman left alone to deal with her aging and senile grandfather, while also confronted by poverty, isolation and sexual oppression. When Mark, a wealthy, married stranger on his way to a sailing competition visits her bleak lakeside town during the dead of winter, a quiet but intense entanglement develops. Opened and transformed as a result of the affair, Annika faces possibilities normally unavailable to people of her class, while Mark gradually falls into a forlorn, cold solitude. A stately drama of stillness and silences, even with roiling emotions under the surface.

“Nowhere, Michigan” - Dir. Robert Vornkahl, 107 min.

David (Tequan Richmond, Emmy-nominated actor from “General Hospital”) is fleeing from a murder with a pair of deadly con-men after him…and is inadvertently toting a bag full of meth and cash with him. He comes to a small, frozen, nowhere town in upper Michigan, where he becomes entangled in a love triangle between pregnant bartender Madison, who longs to get out of Michigan, and chatty, cheerful waitress April, who can barely conceive of a world outside her hometown. David forms a tentative friendship with his grumpy ice-fishing neighbor, Martin, and finds himself in the middle of a do-it-yourself meth ring with the local drug dealer, Erin. In time, David feels at home for a moment in this “nowhere,” until a wrong move tips off the deadly con-men to his location. David must choose between running for his life again, or trying to save the local people he has come to love.

“A Bridge Between Two Worlds” - Dir. Pascal Gélinas, 51 min., Canada - New York Premiere

“A Bridge Between Two Worlds” relates how Muslim and Catholic farmers, on the Island of Flores, Indonesia, overcome poverty and enhance their environment with the support of North American and European families. This astonishing chain of solidarity was initiated by Gilles Raymond, a Canadian volunteer from Québec who has forged deep bonds in Flores over the past 15 years. This engaging adventure builds a living bridge between our two hemispheres, at a time when foreign aid is too often being questioned.

Narrative shorts to watch include “Conversations on Cold Coffee,” directed by Diana Baron (Israel), “For Better or For Worse,” directed by Rembert Evenepoel (Belgium), “The Joyous Farmer,” directed by Hiran Balasuriya (Sri Lanka), and “Thrust to Throat,” directed by Byungseon Kong (South Korea).

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