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.

From the Cuban film Bitter Sugar.

From the Cuban film Bitter Sugar, directed by Leon Ichaso that opens the Queens Films Festival 2015.

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. ‎ Cynthia Lopez, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment, will bestow the “Spirit of Queens” award at the opening night ceremony on March 17 at the Museum of the Moving Image.

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film negative for Bitter Sugar was recently found in the vault of DuArt Film & Video by IndieCollect and has since been archived at the Academy Film Archive.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 include:

  • 32 films directed by women (see attached list),
  • 9 films by Latin directors (see attached list),
  • 19 films by Queens Filmmakers (see attached list),
  • 2 films that debuted at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, the documentary Hole in the Sky (Godka Cirka) about genital cutting in Somalia, and narrative short, Our Blood by Max Chan,
  • 2 films that deal with our criminal justice system, including Truth Has Fallen by Sheila M. Sofian and Unafraid: Voices from the Crime Victims Treatment Center by Karin Venegas,
  • Dirty Laundry Day by Syrian filmmaker Jamil Lahham, who was the senior animator of Oscar-winning film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Nesmore‎,
  • Reuber, from Germany, starring Heiko Pinkowski, who won QWFF Best Actor in 2013 for Heavy Girls,
  • Adagio by Rafael Escobar, from Argentina, whose last film, Uomo, won Best Feature at QWFF 2013.

Queens Film 2015
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.
DUKHTAR (Daughter)


Abriendo Puertas                                                                  Tomás Bases (Spain),

Adagio                                                                                     Rafael Escolar            (Argentina)

AZUCAR AMARGA (Bitter Sugar)                                     Leon Ichaso (Cuba)

El Mal Trato                                                                             Daniel Vivanco (Chile)

El Marioneta Ciega (BLIND PUPPET)                              Jaime Fidalgo (Mexico)

ENHEBRADO (THREADED)                                              Tatiana Pinzón Salavarrieta & Sandra Marcela                                                                                                                                                                  Obando Morales (Columbian)

NJINGA – Rainha De Angola (QUEEN OF ANGOLA)   Sergia Graciano (Portugal)

Tras Bambalinas (Three Scenes)                                        Rafa Garcia (Spain)

Trato Preferente (Preferential Treatment)                       Edna Fontana, Antonio Gómez (Spain)


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