The Reel Queens

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Queens moviegoers who are already tiring of summer blockbusters and the special effects-induced headaches they bring will not want to miss out on Socrates Sculpture Park's 10th annual Outdoor Cinema festival of international films this summer on the Long Island City waterfront.

From a South Korean horror film to a French-produced, animated Iranian bildungsroman, this year's selection of films — all of which were chosen by Astoria's Museum of the Moving Image — represent eight countries, include traditional cuisine served by neighborhood eateries and are coupled with musical performances, ranging from Palestinian hip-hop to Mexican wedding ballads with a punk flavor.

"We've got a great lineup this year — a lot of heavy hitters," said Shaun Leonardo, the film series' production manager and park's special events coordinator. "The overall objective is to give people a sense of the diversity in Queens. So, we are trying to give people a sampling of films."

Leonardo said he expects Outdoor Cinema will draw more than 1,100 people each Wednesday to the park, at 32-01 Vernon Blvd. on the Long Island City waterfront. Once a Queens-only event, Outdoor Cinema now draws numerous residents from Brooklyn and Manhattan to watch films on a 14-foot high by 24-foot wide screen with the city's skyline as a backdrop, he said.

The festival, which features free admission for all screenings, will kick off July 9 and run through Aug. 20.

"It has a community feel — a low-key atmosphere where people can have a picnic," Leonardo said.

The series, which has represented 20 different cultures during the past decade, opens July 9 with a double screening of "Slingshot Hip Hop," a Palestinian documentary about youths who attempt to use hip-hop as a means to escape poverty and occupation, and "Who's On First?," a Greek documentary about that country's attempt to round up a baseball team in a nation with no professional league for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Several musicians from the Palestinian film will perform before the screenings and food will be provided by Opa! Souvlaki, an Astoria eatery.

The sculpture park will screen its second film, the critically acclaimed African film "Bamako," July 16 and will include African beats and rhythms by DJ Stone prior to the show as well as Moroccan cuisine by Astoria's Mundo Cafe.

The third film in the series will be "Chop Shop," the sophomore film from Ramin Bahrani, who is of Iranian descent but grew up in the United States. The film, which will be screened July 23 following an introduction by the director, drew praise from critics upon its release earlier this year for its bleak tale of Puerto Rican youths attempting to make a living while working at the Willets Point locale. Food will be provided by Josephine's Soul Food Cafe at the screening, which will also include music by The Robe Crowe Situation, a folk, rock, country and jazz band.

On July 30, the park will screen "The Host," director Bong Joon-ho's popular South Korean eco-horror film about a rampaging mutant fish that rises from Seoul's Han River after being exposed to toxic chemicals. Korean cuisine will be provided by Astoria's Go Wasabi restaurant, but musical performances for the event are yet to be decided.

The series will include a French double feature Aug. 6 that will kick off with Albert Lamorisse's beloved 1956 classic "The Red Balloon," which follows a young boy and the titular orb through the streets of Paris, and culminate with Marjane Satrapi's critical smash "Persepolis," an Academy Award-nominated animated film about a young Iranian girl's struggles with love, religion and politics that was adapted from a popular graphic novel.

On Aug. 13, the sculpture park will screen Federico Fellini's legendary "8 1/2," an autobiographical fantasy about a filmmaker wrestling with his inability to come up with a new idea for his next movie. The 1963 film is frequently listed as one of the best and most influential of all time. Long Island City's Manetta's will provide Italian food for the screening, while five-piece band Le Nozze di Carlo will perform Italian pop and folk music.

The festival's final screening will take place Aug. 20 with "Duck Season," a comedic Mexican film about two teenagers who fight boredom after their parents leave them home alone in their apartment for an afternoon. Mexican cuisine will be provided by Astoria's Mojave restaurant and Bachelor Sound Machin will play traditional Mexican music with a punk twist.

Aug. 27 will be the rain date for all canceled events, Leonardo said.

He said he believed the festival will provide a much-needed service to borough aficionados of foreign films since the Museum of the Moving Image is not screening films in Astoria during its renovation project.

"Culturally speaking, Queens is growing and the public is really expecting to try different things as far as art and culture go," he said.

All musical performances at Outdoor Cinema will begin at 7 p.m. and screenings will take place at sunset. Admission for all films is free, but attendees must pay an average $5 to $7 for a full plate of food at all events, Leonardo said.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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