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The Reel Queens: Queens goes downtown with six flicks in Tribeca Film Fest

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The ninth annual Tribeca Film Festival will feature blockbuster premieres and independent films that could go on to be award winners, but this year’s selection of screenings will also feature a smorgasbord of Queens-centric movies.

The festival, founded by actor Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2002 as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will screen nearly 150 films, from shorts and indies to classics and foreign pictures, April 23-30.

Six films either shot in Queens or made by directors from the borough are among the 2010 festival’s highlights, including a high-school comedy, a film about a child custody battle and a new movie by director Edward Burns as well as documentaries on salsa dancing, stand-up comedians touring the Middle East and Shea Stadium.

“We’re an international film festival,” said David Kwok, director of programming for Tribeca. “This year, we have a great showing from France, Ireland, Iran, Italy as well as a good Asian presence, including Vietnam, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.”

Tickets for the festival go on sale April 13.

Kwok said most of Tribeca’s screenings sell out each year because of its diverse mix of films as well as an atmosphere that caters to both dedicated cinephiles and more recreational filmgoers.

“We’re a populist festival,” he said. “Other festivals often have a feel of exclusivity, but we want to get the most diverse group of films and audience members. The greatest thing about Tribeca is it has an eclectic mix of people.”

The festival will host the world premiere of “Beware the Gonzo,” a comedy about a teenager who is kicked off his high-school newspaper and enacts revenge by setting up his own underground publication. The film, which stars Jesse McCartney, Amy Sedaris and Campbell Scott, was shot in sections of Queens and Brooklyn, including scenes at the Clinton Diner in Maspeth.

“Meet Monica Velour” will also screen in the festival’s narrative feature competition. The movie, which stars Kim Cattrall and Brian Dennehy, follows the story of a 50-year-old single mother and 1980s soft-core porn star who befriends an awkward teenager in Indiana. The film’s director, Keith Bearden, is a Queens native.

Woodside actor and director Edward Burns will introduce his latest film, “Nice Guy Johnny,” at Tribeca. Burns stars in the movie as a womanizer who intends to find a fling for his titular nephew as the two of them spend a day in the Hamptons. The director uses his parents’ home as a locale after having done so on his 1995 debut, “The Brothers McMullen.”

The 2010 slate also includes several prominent documentaries with Queens connections.

“El Espiritu de Salsa (The Spirit of Salsa)” will make its debut at the festival. The film, partially shot throughout the borough by Queens native Francisco Bello, chronicles the lives of several lonelyhearts across the five boroughs, such as an emergency-room doctor and an equities trader, who meet in Spanish Harlem once a week where they learn how to salsa dance.

The dancers undergo a six-week training program before taking part in a public performance. Local salsa dancers and bands will perform prior to the film’s screening April 22 at Manhattan’s Tribeca Drive-in.

Queens College graduate Ahmed Ahmed will show his documentary “Just Like Us,” which follows a group of stand-up comedians as they take part in a tour that makes stops in Dubai, Beirut, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Performers in the film include Maz Jobrani, Tom Pap, Ted Alexandro, Tommy Davidson and Omid Djalili. In the film, the Egyptian-American comedian/director observes jokes and humor Arabs in the Middle East consider funny.

Paul Crowder and Jon Small’s documentary “Last Play at Shea” tells the story of the Flushing stadium’s musical and sports history, from The Beatles’ first arena concert to Billy Joel’s farewell concert to the stadium, and provides a chronicle of the New York Mets’ seasons there.

The movie, narrated by Alec Baldwin, features interviews with Joel, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Steven Tyler, Roger Daltrey, Don Henley, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett and Garth Brooks.

Other mainstream films to play the festival include the Bill Murray period piece “Get Low”; the comedy “Micmacs” by French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie”); “Ondine” by acclaimed filmmaker Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”); Turkish director Fatih Akin’s “Soul Kitchen”; “Please Give” from director Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing”); Michael Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me,” which caused a scandal with its violence at January’s Sundance Film Festival; and repertory screenings of David Lean’s 1965 classic “Dr. Zhivago” and Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending 2001 film “Memento.”

“It’s always my hope when someone can’t get a ticket to a big film that they end up buying one for something they’ve never heard and end up enjoying it,” Kwok said. “That’s the whole purpose of the festival.”

A complete schedule of this year’s film screenings can be viewed at tribecafilm.org.

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at criticalconditions.net.

Updated 5:54 pm, October 10, 2011
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