The 5th annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) kicks off at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, on Tuesday, March 17, with a special opening night tribute to director Leon Ichaso and a sampling of the many films in competition.  The Festival runs through Sunday, March 22, with daily screenings at MoMI, at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City and at PS 69 in Jackson Heights.

This year’s program features 117 feature films and shorts from 30 countries, including 19 films made in the Borough of Queens. The Festival awards prizes in all categories for those films that are in competition.  The winners will be announced at the closing night ceremony to be held on Saturday, March 22, at the Museum of the Moving Image in its beautiful Redstone Theater. The closing night film, shown out of competition, is the highly acclaimed Dukhtar (Daughter) by Afia Nathaniel.

“‘The World’s Borough’ is thrilled to be home to the Queens World Film Festival,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “It’s now bigger and better in its fifth year, with 21 Queens natives and residents among this year’s distinguished filmmakers.  Films can play an important role on society and culture around the globe, documenting and shaping our collective conscience. We welcome film enthusiasts and all New Yorkers to come indulge here in this intersection of the world called Queens.”

Every year, the Queens World Film Festival pays tribute to an outstanding ‎filmmaker for his or her body of work. This year’s “Spirit of Queens” honoree is Leon Ichaso, whose films include the groundbreaking El Super, Crossover Dreams, El Cantante, Paraiso and Bitter Sugar. ‎ At the opening night ceremony on March 17 at the Museum of the Moving Image, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will deliver opening remarks, and Cynthia Lopez, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment, will bestow the “Spirit of Queens” award.

Mr. Ichaso, who lives in Los Angeles, will present Bitter Sugar in person on March 18 at the Museum.‎ The film chronicles the political disillusionment of a Cuban revolutionary, and is particularly timely in view of the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations and the controversy that has engendered.

The original film negative for Bitter Sugar was recently found in the vault of DuArt Film & Video by IndieCollect and has since been archived at the Academy Film Archive. The QWFF and Museum of the Moving Image are taking this opportunity to salute IndieCollect’s film preservation and documentation campaign.

In announcing the line-up of films, QWFF Artistic Director Don Cato said: “I love picking films for this Festival because we get to bring the world to Queens and Queens to the world.”  Highlights of this year’s film line-up include:

David Schwartz, Chief Curator of the Museum of the Moving Image, added: “The Queens World Film Festival is a vibrant, energetic event, showing an exciting array of new films while also highlighting the achievements of established filmmakers. We’re pleased to partner with the Festival on the screenings of Bitter Sugar and Dukhtar, and also to be a venue for many of the other screenings.”

Festival Director Katha Cato reflected on the organization’s 5th birthday: “I’m proud that we got our official non-profit status from the IRS this year, one of several milestones we are celebrating.  I’m also so grateful for the support of New York City Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, and that of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, as well as that of our corporate sponsors, especially Investors Bank. I admire our independent filmmakers, many of whom have overcome enormous odds to complete their films.”

Tickets for all QWFF film presentations are available now at


A distinguished jury consisting of Josh Green, Michael Lieber, Don Torrance, Tom Lowenhaupt, Patrick DiRenna, Laurence Hoffman, Sarah Alli, and Elizabeth Pasieczny selected the 2015 QWFF award winners, to be announced on the evening of March 21.  Audiences will have an opportunity to see all the winning films during a day-long marathon on Sunday, March 22, at the Museum of the Moving Image.


The closing night film is Afia Nathaniel’s DUKHTAR. Taken from today’s headlines, this is a gripping, beautifully-shot and touching story about the practice of marrying pre-pubescent girls to much older men for tribal, political and economic reasons. In DUKHTAR, the girl’s mother kidnaps her daughter on the eve of such marriage, and they run for their lives. Entirely shot in the disputed areas of Pakistan with brilliant performances by well-known actors, DUKHTAR was acclaimed at the Toronto Film Festival and is fast becoming a festival favorite among those who love arthouse films.


Barrio Boy                                                                                                         Dennis Shinners

Big Girl                                                                                                                 Lisa Melodia

Blood Memory                                                                                                 Marc Macaluso

Chosen Family                                                                                                 Neha Guatum

Clean Break                                                                                                       Michael Chmiel

Comic Book Heaven                                                                                      E.J. McLeavey-Fisher

Dirty Laundry Day                                                                                         Jamil Lahham

Diwali Dream Garage                                                                                    Johnny Pik

Dressed                                                                                                               Neal Hemphill

Juice It                                                                                                                 Christina Raia

Love Express                                                                                                    Patrick Chen

Millie and the Lords                                                                                       Jennica Carmona

Paradise Found, Paradise Lo$t                                                                 Conrad Stojak

Short Steps                                                                                                         Laura Aguinaga

The Lives of Hamilton Fish                                                                        Rachel Mason

The Way You Love                                                                                         Lydia Darly

TNT                                                                                                                       Roberto Reyes

Unafraid, Voices from the                                                                           Karin Venegas and Eddie Venegas

Crime Victims Treatment Center

Wild Woman                                                                                                    Joy Shatz


A Broken Man                                                                       Ellen Andries & Thomas Maddens

A Teen’s Guide to Understanding &

Communicating with People with Autism

Big Girl                                                                                   Lisa Melodia

Bright in Here                                                                        Julia Thompson

Chosen Family                                                                       Neha Gautam

Come Back Hailey                                                                 Ela Thier

Coming Back to the Hoop                                                                Jane Pittman

Destination Home                                                                 Maria Seppälä & Veera Lehto-Michaud

Dukhtar                                                                                  Afia Nathaniel

Enhebrado (Threaded)                                                        Tatiana Pinzón Salavarrieta, Sandra Marcela, Obando Morales

Erstwhile                                                                                Beatrice Copeland

Gaspar & Son                                                                         Hannah Jayanti, Jen G. Pywell, Miguel A. Rodriguez

Getting through to Syria: Those Who Dare                       Lucy Chapman

Hanging By a Thread                                                            Catya Plate

Juice It                                                                                    Christina Raia

Memory of Forgotten War                                                  Deann Borshay Liem & Ramsay Liem

Millie & the Lords                                                                 Jessica Carmona

Minus196                                                                               Anna Arlanova

My Kingdom                                                                          Debra Solomon

Not New Russians                                                                 Abigail Spindel

Semiotics of Islam: A Primer For Kuffar                            Fouzia Najar

Short Steps                                                                            Laura Aguinaga

Something You Can Call Home                                            Rebecca Kenyon

The Dum Dum Capitol of the World                                   Holly Hey

The Last Piece                                                                       Rosalyn Coleman Williams

The Lives of Hamilton Fish                                                  Rachel Mason

The Park Bench                                                                     Ann LeSchander

The Way You Love                                                               Lydia Darley

Truth Has Fallen                                                                   Sheila M. Sofian

Unafraid: Voices From the Crime Victims                          Karin Venegas and Eddie Venegas

Treatment Center

We Came to Sweat                                                                Kate Kunath & Sasha Wortzel

Wild Woman                                                                          Joy Shatz