After a particularly stressful stretch of work, actor and filmmaker Shara Ashley Zeiger decided it was time to lighten up with a romantic comedy.
“I often write things that are very socially and politically charged,” said Zeiger, who lives in Kew Gardens. “I really personally needed joy. A lot of people in this country are finding they need some joy.”
Zeiger responded with the short film “Joe,” which screens on Saturday at the Midway Theater in Forest Hills as part of the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.
It tells the story of Jillian, a 20-something in New York City who has just lost her corporate job and works as a barista. She meets the “man of her dreams” and fudges her job status — only to find out she works at his favorite coffee shop.
“I describe it as ‘Cheers’ meets “‘Sex and the City,’” said Zeiger, who is marketing “Joe” as a series pilot. “People watch it and they feel good.”
Zeiger said while “Joe” has been screened at several festivals, there is something special about seeing it at her neighborhood theater. She hopes it connects with local audiences.
“I think a lot of people find themselves doing things to make money that don’t necessarily define who they really are,” she said. “There are millions of people walking around the planet who dream of doing something else.”
The festival, which is in its second year, features more than 100 films from Friday to Aug. 12 as well as industry workshops and panels.
The offerings include narrative features, documentaries, short films, animation, experimental and music videos and web series.
“You are going to see some of the best independent films you have ever seen from around the world and this may be your only chance to see them,” said Jayson Simba, founder and executive director of the festival.
“Joe” will be featured as part of the “Shorts from the Neighborhood” block at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Along with a full slate of films at the Midway, there’s an outdoor screening at the Queens Museum, as well as trivia contests, comedy and karaoke at local venues in the area.
“It’s hard for some filmmakers to get noticed at the larger festivals,” said Simba. “And some of the smaller festivals, which treat filmmakers incredibly, don’t get a lot of attention. We are bringing the best of both worlds.”