By Merle Exit

The sixth annual Queens World Film Festival kicks off March 15 with more than 120 feature length and short movies on tap.

Earlier this month, Katha and Don Cato, founders of the festival, welcomed filmmakers, politicians and movie fans to the Museum of the Moving Image to announce this year’s lineup and to name Melvin Van Peebles this year’s winner of its Spirit of Queens Award.

“He is a maverick,” Katha Cato said. “He started going in a direction that he didn’t even know what it was going to be. That epitomizes our festival.”

Van Peebles’ ground-breaking feature, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” will be screened March 16.

Then on March 19, fellow honoree Susan Seidelman’s “Smithereens,” her break-through feature centered on the New York City punk scene in the early ’80s, receives the festival treatment complete with showing and a Q & A.

“It is so gratifying to see that as the [number of] screens shrink all over the world, the opportunity to screen your work has come back to the community,” Cato said. “It’s the impulse to gather. The impulse to tell your story.”— Merle Exit

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