Interview with Katha Cato, Festival Director Queens World Film Festival

Get to know the Queens World Film Festival. March 15-20 2016


Matthew Toffolo interview Festival Director Katha Cato:

What is the goal of your film festival?

First and foremost: The films are the stars. Every decision is driven by what will result in the best screening possible. We are always asking ourselves: What is best for the filmmaker?  What is best for the film? What is best for the screening?

 We work to build a sustainable community around independent films; between the film lovers and the filmmakers. The festival is curated into thematic blocks that are marketed to appropriate audiences. At Q5 (March 17 – 22 2015) we had 43 blocks with a range of themes, hosted by QWFF moderators who facilitated talk backs.

 We are proud of the support and attendance of the international filmmakers from over 30 nations including Syria, France, Korea, UK and Russia. We are honored to introduce the local and international filmmakers to local press and NY industry professionals.  Each year we feature a block of Queens Filmmakers ensuring that filmmakers who live here are networking and growing together.

 The festival also draws attention to our other programs including the Young Filmmakers Program that puts media programs in a local school, our free Encore Screenings that extend the life of many of the festival films and the Old Spice Screening Series that produces free lunch time screenings for Senior Centers.

 It would be a shame not to mention that our submissions are open through Dec. 7, 2015.Go to our website and hit submit. We love hearing from filmmakers from all over the world and we currently have just shy of 500 submissions from 15 nations including Germany, Croatia, Ireland and Iran and we find it thrilling to be part of the conversation.

 How has the festival changed since its inception until your upcoming 2016 festival?

We learned from the experiences of our earlier years, but we have not changed so much. We remain focused on the films and continue to prioritize creating the best possible experience for everyone. Our commitment to make sure that the films look and sound just the way the filmmaker intended has only deepened and continues to drive us

 Our aesthetic has not changed, we are still interested in films that take a unique stand and present a unique perspective. We are even more interested in stories and films that push some boundaries, use new media, twist themes or mount a new genre.

 And we still love the filmmakers.

 How many films do you anticipate showcasing at your 2016 Film Festival?

We are thinking that it should be around 80 hours, which could be between 110 – 120 films.

We are locked into the Museum of the Moving Image, Ps 69 and the Secret Theatre with a total of 4 screens, so we have lots of options for the 6 days and we are going to be throwing some outrageous images up there.

Can you give us a sneak peak of what to except for the 2016 Festival?

 March 15 – Opening night at Museum of the Moving Image, with VIP reception for 2016 Spirit of Queens Honoree Director Melvin Van Peebles, other special guests and a sampling of films that let people know what to expect at the festival.

 March 16 Wednesday

Opening night at Secret Theatre and PS 69 with special Dinner and a Movie screenings. At MoMI we will screen Mr. Van PeeblesSweet-Sweetbacks-Baadasssss Song

 March 17, 18

Screens running at MoMI, PS 69 and Secret Theatre

 March 19

Closing night at MoMI with a special screening of Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens as part of our tribute to her and IndieCollect, followed by our 6th Annual Awards.

 March 20

Winner’s Circle screening of the Best of the Fest award winners at MoMI.

 Is there going to be an overall theme for the 2016 festival?

The themes that are emerging in reviewing this year’s submissions center on a concern felt around the world for the weakest among us, the disenfranchised, the marginalized. We have some films that represent some incredibly risky artistic choices. Admirable, really.

 The screening committee is reporting that we have risky films, some very lush films, some stark and jarring pieces and some very wonderful features from all over the world.

 Where do you see your festival in 5 years?

Permanently housed within a complex that provides office and screening spaces alongside classrooms, production labs and low cost equipment rental services. Our ancillary programs serving youth, seniors and struggling filmmakers will be thriving and the annual Film Festival continuing to present films, lovingly paired and curated into events that are sure to engage our audiences.

 What’s the current status of the Film Scene in your city?

It’s NYC and every borough in this city has a film culture, so it is very dynamic. There are big trucks and big shoots in every boroughs, there are gorilla filmmakers in every boroughs. …There are film schools, film clubs, film festivals, art houses, chains and everything in between. There are screenings somewhere every night.

 Now, remember, in Queens, we also have 2 huge film studios and 2 airports so our film community in this borough is thriving,

 Our screening events are well attended and we are grateful, because it is a noisy city and it is exciting to know that we are carving out a niche with a loyal fan base.

 What film have you seen the most in your life?

Paper Moon or Idiocracy 


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