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Queens Chronicle

Fall Films, From Local Festivals To The Campaign Trail

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Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2004 12:00 am

Most people consider Labor Day to be the end of the outdoor film season, the time to move the picnic blankets, lawn chairs and coolers to the back of the closet until next year. But to do so in Queens this fall would be a mistake, and not just because of the typically beautiful September weather.

Even after Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Center screens the last of its summer outdoor film, “Painted Fire,” on September 1st as soon as the sun sets over the East River, the borough still has some great outdoor movie watching left.

The Sunnyside Film Festival, an inclusive, community-based film and video show now in its fourth year, will be holding its screenings at sunset on Friday, September 17th and Saturday, September 18th at Doughboy Park, on 54th Street between Skillman Avenue and 39th Place, in Woodside.

As with other outdoor screenings, the event is free and viewers are encouraged to bring something to sit on and their own food. Last year’s festival drew over 400 people.

Each evening’s screening will be about two hours long and consist of short films under 20 minutes made by local residents, artists, film students and independent filmmakers.

Seven of the films submitted to this year’s festival were made during the festival’s four-week video workshop, held on Thursdays in August and September at Sunnyside Community Services.

Like the festival, the workshop is free and open to anyone who might like to try his or her hand at directing. Many participants bring their own video cameras, but a shared camera is also available to those who need it. Some filmmakers come in with a clear idea, while others get help finding one during the first sessions.

“Diverse people get together, go through the workshop, meet each other and make videos together,” said Shinichi Murota, the director of the festival and a facilitator of the workshops.

A filmmaker himself, Murota started the festival in 2001 as a way of merging his college major of sociology with his minor in media studies.

“My idea was to try and tie them together, to make media more available to more people, so it is not just like one big corporation owns all the media. More people’s voices should be heard. Our style is to give this opportunity to people who have never had a chance to express their images or feelings in this way, and we have kept that style every year,” he said.

Thought the style has remained strictly grassroots, all-volunteer and community based, the attendance and submissions have increased every year. This year, for the first time, the festival also received a grant from Queens Council on the Arts.

Last year’s films dealt with topics ranging from the immigrant experience to the banalities of city life. Murota’s film showed the anguish of someone trying to communicate with people from other cultures and not knowing how to even buy a pack of cigarettes. In another film, the directors interviewed people in line at the Sunnyside Post Office, to great comic effect.

This year’s schedule is not set, but can be obtained closer to the festival by calling 646-349-9696 or by visiting the web site http://sunnyside.centerofculture.info.

For those ready for some indoor entertainment, the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria presents new 35-millimeter prints of “The Godfather” and “Last Tango In Paris” in honor of Marlon Brando, who died on July 1st.

Widely regarded as the most influential screen actor of the past 50 years, Brando will be the subject of a four-film tribute as part of the museum’s Repertory Nights, an ongoing series of weekend evening screenings of international film classics.

On Friday, August 27th at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, August 28th at 6:30 p.m., the museum presents “The Wild One.” When it came out in 1954, the leather-jacketed, motorcycle-riding Brando defined ’50s cool.

On Friday, September 3rd at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, September 4th and 5th at 4, 5 and 6:30 p.m., the museum presents a new print of “Last Tango In Paris,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial masterpiece that was rated X when it came out in 1973. Alongside Maria Schneider, Brando gives what critics regard as his bravest, most vulnerable performance.

“The Godfather,” which earned Brando his second Oscar for the often-imitated role of Vito Corleone, will be screened on Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th at 6:30 p.m.

Then, as the summer vacations come to an end and the presidential election season begins in earnest, the museum presents a 14-film series, “The Best Man,” examining the spectacle of American politics.

With a mix of feature films and documentaries, the series, from September 5th through 26th, takes place at the museum’s Riklis Theater. It is related to the museum's online exhibition, “The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2004,” in which visitors can watch more than 250 campaign ads in streaming video at www.movingimage.us.

The series features two special preview screenings: John Sales’ new feature “Silver City,” featuring Chris Cooper as a thinly disguised version of George W. Bush as a dimwitted candidate for governor of Colorado, and Robert Altman’s new miniseries “Tanner on Tanner,” a sequel to “Tanner ’88,” that was filmed at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Other highlights include a special screening of Shola Lynch’s new documentary “Chisholm ’72,” about the groundbreaking presidential campaign for Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and “The Great Debates,” a selection of the most significant and memorable moments from past presidential and vice-presidential debates, in honor of this year’s debates, which begin on September 30th.

“Ever since Richard Nixon saved his vice-presidential nomination in 1952 with his heart-tugging, nationally broadcast ‘Checkers’ speech, . . . political campaigns have evolved into a high-stakes, personality-driven form of entertainment that uses all the techniques of film and television to sell a product—the candidate—to the American public,” Schwartz said.

Saturday and Sunday, September 4th and 5th at 2 p.m., it’s “The Best Man,” a 1964 film starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, and Lee Tracy. Based on Gore Vidal’s incisive Broadway play about a showdown between presidential candidates loosely modeled on Richard Nixon and Adlai Stevenson, “The Best Man” powerfully evokes the days when political conventions were filled with real drama.

On the same days at 4 p.m., it’s “Medium Cool,” a 1969 film starring Robert Forster, and Verna Bloom. This seminal 1960s experiment tells the story of a disillusioned newsman and a poor single mother amid the chaos of the 1968 Democratic convention.

On Saturday, September 11th at 1 p.m. the museum presents “Primary,” a 1960 film directed by Robert Drew. This pioneering view of the Wisconsin primary battle between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey ushered in a new genre: the behind-the-scenes documentary.

At 2:30, it’s “Nashville,” director Robert Altman's panoramic 1975 masterpiece following 24 characters in the intertwining worlds of show business and politics. Nashville sums up the traumas of the 1960s and foretells the rise of both Jimmy Carter and Bible-Belt politics. Also screening on Sunday, September 12th, at 2:00 p.m.

On Sunday, September 12th at 5 p.m., the museum presents “Feed,” a unique and entertaining chronicle of the 1992 presidential campaign, incorporating the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal, using footage from TV satellite feeds and showing candidates in the unguarded moments before they went on the air.

On Wednesday, September 15th at 7 p.m., Moving Image presents a special preview screening of “Silver City,” director John Sayles new film with Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Cheech Marin and Darryl Hannah. In this biting and timely combination of lampoon and film noir, a Colorado gubernatorial candidate clearly modeled on George W. Bush is caught in a web of corruption and mystery when the filming of a pro-environment TV ad is disrupted by the discovery of a corpse. Screening courtesy of Newmarket Films. Special guest speaker to be announced. Tickets cost $18 for the public and $12 for members. Call 718-784-4520 for reservations.

On Saturday, September 18th at 2 p.m., it’s “State of the Union,” a 1948 film directed by Frank Capra with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. In the culmination of Capra’s series of films about American politics and society, an idealistic industrialist struggles to keep his integrity after he is drafted to run for president.

Then at 4:30 p.m. it’s the D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’ 1993 film “The War Room,” showing Bill Clinton’s charismatic campaign managers James Carville and George Stephanopoulos in an inside view of the Clinton campaign and the Little Rock "war room."

On Sunday, September 19th at 2 p.m., the museum presents “A Perfect Candidate,” directed by R.J. Cutler and David Van Taylor. The ruthless 1994 Virginia senate campaign of notorious right-wing candidate Oliver North is the subject of this riveting documentary, which gives a candid view of the way that religious demagoguery and the politics of fear are utilized in contemporary campaigns.

Then at 4 p.m., Warren Beatty directs and stars in “Bulworth,” a 1998 film in which he plays suicidal Senate candidate Jay Bulworth in a Hollywood satire on money and race in politics.

On Saturday, September 25th at 2 p.m. it’s “Bob Roberts,” directed by Tim Robbins in 1992. Intended as a provocative statement during George H.W. Bush's re-election campaign, Bob Roberts is a chilling mockumentary about a conservative, folk-singing Senate candidate.

Then at 4 p.m., Moving Image presents a special preview screening of Robert Altman’s new film, “Tanner on Tanner,” with Michael Murphy and Cynthia Nixon. Jack Tanner’s daughter (Nixon) is making her own political documentary in this sequel to Tanner '88.

On Sunday, September 26th at 2 p.m., the museum will screen “The Great Debates,” in which Chief Curator of Film David Schwartz will introduce highlights from televised presidential and vice-presidential debates, just in time for the current series of debates that starts on September 30.

Then at 4:30 p.m., it’s “Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed,” a 75-minute documentary by Shola Lynch showing the the remarkable grassroots presidential campaign of black congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in 1972. Director Shola Lynch will appear in person.

The museum is located on 35th Avenue at 36th Street in Astoria. Admission is $10 for adults and $7.50 for people over 65 and students with identification. Children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 718-784-4520.

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