Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

kew gardens festival of cinema

August 9, 2017.  Presenting 150 films from 24 countries, the ”Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema,” the first ever film festival to be held in the borough of Queens, is now running through August 13. It is a veritable cornucopia of films which run the gamut from documentaries to narratives to experimental, feature length films and shorts. It is a varied collection which has something for every taste. This festival is a great way to see a lot of films in a short amount of time, but, most of all, it is about discovery.

I have, so far, seen many films at the festival, but feel I have not even scratched the surface of what this unique and eclectic festival has to offer. Then again, that is what a film festival should be. While one cannot see everything, I will admit to being partial to documentaries.

Supergirl so far, is one of my favorites. “Supergirl” is a feature length documentary about Naomi Kutin, who, at the age of 10 becomes a world champion power lifter, beating women in their 30s and 40s, in her weight class.

Naomi pursues her sport with the encouragement of her parents and her brother, Ari. Throughout the film we see Naomi’s triumphs and set backs, and even get to see her pick out a bat mitzvah dress. What makes “Supergirl” flow so well is that it is continually surprising. I mean, one normally does not think of orthodox Jewish girls (from New Jersey no less) as power lifters.

Editor Eric Dugger, along with co-editor, and director, Jessie Auritt, have done a masterful job of balancing the film’s many story elements. One of the things that makes “Supergirl” work so well is that it peels back, layer by layer, the back stories of the Kutin family. This makes “Supergirl” much more than a “Will she win the big game?” story, although that is part of it too. The filmmakers, including cinematographer Carmen Delaney, were given incredible access to the Kutin family and they have fashioned a portrait that is unique, funny, warm and a great sports story, all at the same time.

Posture, a short documentary, was appropriately paired with the “Supergirl” screening. “Posture” is about the USA Yoga Competition. Right there we have the film’s main conflict – perhaps a contradiction in terms. Should yoga, a practice that is very much about the individual being in the moment and finding inner peace, be about competition? Is making yoga into a competition a form of cultural appropriation..or should I say “misappropriation”? Against this question we are shown the stories of various competitors in the USA Yoga 2016 – 2017 competition. We learn about their personal stories and their reasons for competing. At only 26 minutes in length, directors Nathan Bender and Daniel Nelson have fashioned a compelling and visually striking look at a highly unusual, and highly demanding, competition.

The Last Jew in the Village is a short documentary about tradition and commitment. Meyer, an elderly man, is the last remaining resident of a once thriving Jewish mountain village in Azerbaijan. Even though his children have long left the village, Meyer stays to tend to the graves of his parents, his wife and many of the villagers with whom he has spent his life. Meyer’s reason for having stayed so long is that he cannot leave his parents and his wife. We see Meyer cleaning off elaborate headstones and basically leading a self sufficient, yet lonely, existence while we learn of the 19th century village’s once thriving Jewish population. Meyer is a man with a strong sense of duty, but also one living with ghosts and unable, or unwilling, to let go of the past.

Tne screening venues for the “Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema” include the Kew Gardens Cinemas, the only art movie house in Queens (8105 Lefferts Blvd. In Kew Gardens), and the Queens Museum, Flushing Meadow Corona Park, Corona New York.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 9, 2017, in Documentary, Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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