Saturday, March 2, 2013

The QUEENS WORLD FILM FESTIVAL 2013 It's back -- and (much) bigger than ever: Elliot Bassman, Winfred Rembert -- & more!

It's true: Some of us were wondering just how viable and necessary was this new QUEENS WORLD FILM FESTIVAL when it suddenly appeared in 2012. Well, last year came and went, and the films -- almost all of them short -- were shown, awards given and parties had. Now it's March of 2013 and guess what? Not only is this little festival back again, it seems to have more than doubled its roster of movies, which now include full-length films from, as the festival's web site tells us, "around the world and around the corner."

You can quickly take a look at what's in store by first clicking here (to get an overview), here (to view the complete roster of films being shown), here (to see the various venues) and here (to buy tickets and/or the attractive and official QWFF T-Shirt). Or you can just click on any of these links, and then start browsing at your own speed and interest.

Unless his eye missed something, TrustMovies has seen only two of the films being shown in the fest this year, both of them worth a look. One, in fact -- ALL ME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WINFRED REMBERT (pictured above) -- was one of his choices for the best films of the past year when it received a one-time showing in Harlem at the Maysles Cinema a little over a year ago. I am so glad this fascinating and moving documentary is receiving another chance to be seen. You can read my entire coverage of it here.) All Me plays once, Saturday, March 9 at 12:15, at The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd Street Long Island City, NY. 

The other work I've managed to view in this fest is the new short film/memory piece by Elliot Bassman, whose earlier movie -- The Word Never Mentioned, based on his short story, Sylvia -- won Best Documentary Short at last year's Queens World Fest. Bassman, shown below, is an interesting fellow, and is also, like me, a resident of Jackson Heights, Queens. (In the interests of disclosure, I must admit to knowing the man slightly -- not well enough to call him a friend, but certainly an acquaintance.) A fine artist of some renown, Bassman (shown below) is also a writer, and now a filmmaker.

The artist's new film, IN THE WIND, though not as immediately accessible as his earlier work (which centered around Bassman's late mother), is still worth watching and grappling with. If I am not mistaken, both his short films are based on his own writings, and in taking them from word to film, he has decided to read, in his own voice, the story and to try to find the proper visual images to accompany the words. This technique gives the films an intimate, homemade quality that will entice a number of viewers and probably put off some others. But, at this point, this is how Bassman elides words and images, and the result is a legitimate composite, I think. It'll be interesting to see how his film-making either changes or coalesces more strongly in this same direction as he moves along.

The movie, for those viewers old enough to have some nostalgia for old Brooklyn, is consistently interesting and full of images, both impressionistic and sometimes rather literal: in a section that talks of a door opening, sure enough, a door opens! Bassman is fascina-ted with a lot of things, I think, and many of them come to the fore here: formality, tradition, ceremony (ah -- that hot tea taken in a glass, à la the Russians and Eastern Europeans), religion, life, death -- the works!

The movie also provides the opportunity to see a number of the artist's paintings, which is always a treat. And the film's musical score includes some good trumpet soloing and composition by Greg Hammontree.  I had some questions for the filmmaker, and I also asked him to comment on my own comments, and below is what Bassman had to say -- which provides, I think, an interesting look into the artist's creative process.

"I like very much how you described -- as I see it, as well -- this slew of universal themes, from and including ceremony, tradition, life and death....... 'the works,' as you best put it!  I guess, in thinking about these films, which are guided and motivated by leaving a strong and meaningful legacy, I am trying to be the best I can formally, as well as inserting my ideas and perspectives on religion, philosophy, etc.

"My paintings, they are my soul, too, and they are there to play a personal and aesthetic role. The images that show up in the film, about the apartment house, the lobby and the stairs and the big door I open up by myself-- these are the 'real McCoy.' In the summertime, I took my digital camera back to Brooklyn and there, I managed to photograph the building I grew up in. Also, I was allowed entry into the lobby, which has not changed in so many decades!

"As I was thinking of adding music to this video, in a more significant role than in last year's DVD, I thought about what instrument could capture the ancient world, herald God's voice and the roles of the Old Testament patriarchs, and also play the ceremonial role in the film's rituals. And the trumpet seemed to be the perfect instrument to fill this role. Then it occurred to me that my friend, Greg Hammontree, is a terrific trumpet player. So he created the score and performed it as well.

"I believe, too, that the cinematic contribution and editing of my videographer, Ryan Tully, who also worked on The Word Never Mentioned, is enormously successful. With the set design vignettes I put together, mostly in my studio and apartment, he managed to interpret the narration with great sensitivity, empathy and creativity."

In the Wind, Bassman's new film, can be seen at the festival but once: at 6:00 pm, this Thursday, March 7, at The Renaissance Charter School, 35-59 81 St., Jackson Heights.


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