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The Reel Queens: Queens Film Festival has local color, international scope

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Borough residents will get a glimpse of the world’s cultures next month at the seventh annual Queens International Film Festival, where this year’s lineup includes a new movie by a prominent Turkish filmmaker, a documentary on professional radio control car racers and a live music performance by Kris Kristofferson.

The festival, which was established in 2003, will screen more than 200 films of varying lengths and formats at Astoria’s Frank Sinatra School of the Arts from Nov. 12-15. Marie Castaldo, executive director and founder of the festival, said this year’s lineup will include films from every corner of the planet and feature filmmakers from Astoria, Jackson Heights and Bayside.

“We have created a festival like no other festival in the world,” Castaldo said. “We’re definitely not an elitist film festival and I think that’s why filmmakers say they prefer our festival to others in the city.”

The festival will showcase a variety of films, ranging from three-minute shorts to two-hour features, documentaries, animation and music videos. Films this year hail from Iran, Afghanistan, the United States, Turkey, Ireland, Iceland, Australia, Germany, Guatemala and Mexico.

“We’re really making our stride in the international film community,” Castaldo said of the festival’s roster. “But plenty of filmmakers come from Queens, so we’re focusing on their diversity. Every year, we want to be able to showcase our own filmmakers.”

The festival’s opening night selection will be “I Saw the Sun,” a feature film about three families trying to survive in a desolate area of Turkey. The premiere, which will take place at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts on Nov. 12, will include an appearance from filmmaker Mahsun Kirmizigul and will be followed by a Turkish-themed party.

“It’s a story of generations,” Castaldo said of the film. “It’s a beautiful film about a family’s life in a mountain village on the border of Istanbul.”

The festival will screen 12 other feature films, including the Nov. 13 world premiere of “Carpet Racers,” a documentary that explores a subculture of men and women who are professional radio-controlled race car drivers, and the Nov. 14 New York debut of “Bare Knuckles,” which follows the story of a single mother who enters a fierce female fist-fighting competition to support her daughter.

This year’s program will also include “My Queens,” a youth-oriented film competition during which Queens students, ages 12 to 17, will direct their own short films on the theme of how they view the borough. The films will then be edited at Frank Sinatra School and screened at the festival, where a winner will receive a grant of several hundred dollars.

The festival will also host several musical and dance performances this year and honor a long-time character actor. Country music legend Kris Kristofferson will play with Guy Forsyth and Waylon Payne on Nov. 15 in a tribute to Levon Helm, former drummer for The Band. Bayside’s Martin Kove, a character actor in more than 70 films including “The Karate Kid” and “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” will receive the this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Castaldo said she expects several thousand people to attend this year’s screenings and that the festival is attempting to draw more producers and distributors.

“We want to bring in people who can address the young filmmakers and give them advice,” she said. “We want to bring the film industry to Queens. Our ambition is to be among the top 10 film festivals in the world by our 10th year.”

Tickets for the festival, which can be purchased at queensfilmfestival.com or at Frank Sinatra’s box office as of Nov. 2, include a $100 pass that would grant attendees entry to all festival screenings as well as a $40 pass for students and $20 passes for a single day of screenings, the opening night film and party or the awards ceremony that closes the festival. Most of the screenings will take place at Frank Sinatra or PS 166. The festival’s complete schedule can be viewed online.

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at criticalconditions.net.

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