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Queens World Film Festival brings global movies to the borough

The 11-day festival includes screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image and Kaufman-Astoria Studio’s Zukor Screening Room.

Queens-based artist/actor/author Louie Gasparro is the subject of

Queens-based artist/actor/author Louie Gasparro is the subject of the film "Louie (KR. ONE) Gasparro 5Pointz," directed by Eirini Alligiannis and being screened at the Queens World Film Festival, which kicks off March 21. Photo Credit: Eirini Alligiannis

It was the final days of 5 Pointz, the outdoor graffiti mecca in Queens and homegrown artist Louie Gasparro was adding his own colorful work to its doomed walls.

Eirini Alligiannis, a young photographer visiting from Australia, asked to take his photo. Moved by Gasparro’s passion for the art form, it turned into an impromptu interview and then a short documentary film.

Alligiannis’ homage, titled “Louie (KR. ONE) Gasparro 5Pointz” will be screened at the Ninth annual Queens World Film Festival which kicks off on March 21. The beloved Long Island City gathering spot was torn down in 2014.

“Five Pointz was a conduit to freedom,” said Gasparro, 53, who is also an actor and author. “It was a place for me to go and express myself.”

Gasparro is one of the unforgettable characters featured in the festival which boasts 200 films from 31 nations. Women helmed 79 of the productions and 18 of the selections have roots in the borough.

“We screen 100 percent of what is submitted,” said Katha Cato, executive director of the festival. “We do not cherry pick. We do not get a bunch of people to submit. We curate completely from what is submitted.”

Cato’s filmmaker husband, Don, the festival’s artistic director, works with a hand-picked committee to view each of the 814 submissions this year and organized them into 61 thematic blocks

There’s the Local Express, focused on New York City filmmakers; Out and About with an emphasis on LGBTQ stories and the self-explanatory, It’s All about the Dance.

The 11-day festival includes screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image as well as Kaufman-Astoria Studio’s Zukor Screening Room.

“It’s very important to us that we get these young filmmakers into the museum, in front of an audience that doesn’t know them,” Cato said. “We want them to have an experience that propels them to the next step.” 

Jingjing Tian is excited for festival audiences to see her short narrative titled “Cowboy Joe,” which follows the story of a Chinese cowboy in New York City.

“I grew up in China and Texas and always wanted to try to belong to that world, to be accepted,” said Tian, who lives in Brooklyn. “I really liked that cowboy culture.”

Like the title character, who is rejected by his father, Tian dealt with teasing, even from her teachers who struggled to pronounce her name.

But the film is also full of heart and laughter, she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about pursuing who you are,” Tian said.

Cato pointed to the diversity of the lineup, ranging from the feature narrative “Rag Doll” by director Bailey Kobe about a woman’s foray into mixed marital arts as she deals with family and personal issues to a whole evening of films made by children under the age of 11 whom the Catos work with in local schools.

Three people will be honored with special “Spirit of Queens” awards including filmmaker Nancy Kelly and husband, film editor Kenji Yamamoto. Their 1991 film “Thousand Pieces of Gold” will be screened in a 4K restoration courtesy of IndieCollect. David Schwartz, the former chief curator at the Museum of the Moving Image, is being honored with the award for being a champion of independent films. He is hosting a screening of the 1992 film “In the Soup” followed by an interview with its director Alexandre Rockwell.

If you go: The Queens World Film Festival runs from March 21-31. For a full schedule of screenings, locations and ticket information, go to queensworldfilmfestival.com.

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