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The Reel Queens: Socrates’ outdoor film series kicks off new season

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Manhattan has long been one of film’s most prominent backdrops, but Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park has utilized the city’s skyline to promote international cinema in a unique way for more than a decade.

The park’s Outdoor Cinema series, which is marking its 12th year, will host four screenings of movies from around the world this month as well as several more in August at dates yet to be determined. Each film will be accompanied by a musical performance and food from the movie’s country of origin.

“It’s the only one of its kind because of its international programming,” said Shaun Leonardo, the park’s special events coordinator. “It’s the best way for anyone coming to Queens to experience Queens. They can taste the food, see the dances, hear the music and watch the films from other countries. With the Manhattan skyline in the background, it’s unbeatable. And we’re mixing it up this year. We wanted to pick countries that represent Queens that we have not spotlighted before.”

Musical performances start at 7 p.m. and all films are screened at sunset. The events, which are held each Wednesday, are free but a plate’s worth of food will cost attendees $5 to $8.

The series is programmed by the sculpture park, Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image and, for the first time this year, Brooklyn’s Rooftop Films.

The Brooklyn-based nonprofit, which screens films on rooftops through Brooklyn during the summer, is presenting the first film in the series, “Flood Tide,” at the sculpture park July 7.

The film, which is making its world premiere at the park, is a road movie that was partly filmed near Socrates. It follows four musicians who build boats out of junk and embark on a voyage down the Hudson River.

The art film relies heavily on music and concert sequences, so the band Dark Dark Dark will provide a live musical score for the movie during its screening. Food at the event will be provided by Brooklyn’s Soule Restaurant, which serves home-cooked Southern and Caribbean food.

On July 14, Socrates will screen “The Secret of Kells,” an Irish film that was nominated for Best Animation Film at this year’s Academy Awards. The picture follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy on a mission to complete a magical illuminated manuscript.

The movie is almost completely hand-drawn in the style of medieval art.

“You can’t imagine it being hand-drawn because it is so gorgeous,” Leonardo said. “We try to show animated films each year because they look amazing on the big screen in the park.

Food at the event will be catered by Mad Donkey, a new Irish cuisine restaurant, and accompanied by Jameson’s Revenge, a traditional five-piece Irish band.

Rooftop Films will present the third screening, which will feature award-winning short films from Sweden, on July 21.

“The subject matter of all of them is very wild,” Leonardo said. “There’s everything from magicians skewering their assistants to bank robberies going awry and trains falling off their tracks.”

Among the films will be “Instead of Abracadabra,” which was nominated this year at the Oscars for Best Short Film.

The event will include food from the West Village’s Smorgas Chef and music by Detektiv Byran, a band that Socrates has flown in from Sweden for the screening.

On July 28, the park will screen Vera Chytilova’s “Daisies,” an eccentric Czech New Wave film from 1966 about two young women who play a series of pranks as acts of societal rebellion.

That screening will include food from Astoria’s Zlata Praha and music by Ondrej Pivec, a Czech trio that plays a mixture of jazz, soul and funk.

Socrates has not yet released its schedule of films for August, but Leonardo said two selections could be from Italy and India.

“We are still unsure as to how many dates we’ll play due to budget reasons,” he said. “There will be August dates, but we just don’t know how many yet.”

He said funding has become increasingly difficult for the arts amid the current economy and that the park has a new program called Cinema Stars. Visitors can choose to give $25 donations and have their names projected on the screen before the films begin.

The donations can be made at the screenings or online at the park’s Web site socratesculpturepark.org.

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at criticalconditions.net.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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