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Indie flicks return to Astoria with new film festival

Coordinator Bonnie Rush (l.) and President Dennis Cieri produced the second annual Astoria/Long Island City Film Festival over the weekend. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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Intent on establishing a Tribeca-style film festival in Queens, the Astoria/Long Island City International Film Festival returned to the streets of its namesake neighborhoods for the second year over the weekend.

“Long Island City, in some ways, reminds me of how the West Village used to be. Now the West Village has become the Upper East Side,” said festival President Dennis Cieri.

The festival was hosted at three locations, with Friday night’s kick-off party at the Z Hotel, on 43rd Avenue, and screenings at Astoria’s Boys & Girls Club and the performanc­e/production spaces Secret Theatre and The eGarage, both on 23rd Street.

Cieri said this year’s festival contained approximately 50 films, all loosely tied around the idea of provoking discussion.

“I asked, ‘Is there an issue you feel strongly about? Do you have a solution or can you begin a dialogue?’” he said. “Some I just found entertaini­ng.”

The producers of the festival highlighted films such as “Marianne,” a psychological horror drama starring Peter Stormare, and “Down by Haiti,” which documented the devastation of Port-au-Prince following the January earthquake.

“It’s probably very controversial, depending on your stance there,” said coordinator Bonnie Rush. “There are a lot of thinking films this year.”

Several panels were planned throughout the weekend, although some were canceled due to lack of and/or poor attendance.

“That’s one of the most aggravating parts of an indie film festival. It’s hard to know who will show up,” Cieri said.

Director David Eisenberg was not in attendance when his 12-minute film, “Sign of the Times,” was presented at the Variety Boys & Girls Club.

The short is about a man named Mike who becomes frustrated when someone continually steals his morning newspaper because “a guy’s gotta know what’s going on in the world.”

“It’s about a man whose paper keeps getting stolen, and he tries to find out who stole it,” said festival volunteer, comedian and actor Athos Cakiades. “He gets into altercations with his neighbors. It’s a comedy,”

Another volunteer, an aspiring young auteur named Levy Rozman, said he recognized his local deli in one of the scenes.

“It was shot in Astoria; you can see the Best Corner Deli in it. I know it because I live by it. It’s over on 30th Avenue,” said Rozman, who posts his own comedy videos on his YouTube channel, TonyGetsPaid.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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