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Queens Chronicle

Caught red-handed, and soon, on film

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:00 pm

It’s been five years since his company, Rooftop Films, was taken in by Marie Castaldo — a con artist who as director of the Queens International Film Festival stole money from so many that she was eventually deported — and filmmaker Dan Nuxoll, Rooftop’s program director, says he’s moved on.

“Whatever thirst for revenge I might have felt years ago, I really don’t feel that anymore,” Nuxoll said.

It helps that Rooftop eventually regained the more than $2,000 Castaldo owed the film company once that sum, and thousands more she owed others, was returned to her victims when she was convicted of fraud in 2010.

But Nuxoll, a Bayside native, and his filmmaking partner, Martha Shane, might be getting an even bigger last laugh: they successfully raised $25,545 last week via Kickstarter, a fundraising website, for a documentary about Castaldo the pair have been working on since 2009, called “The Mystery of Marie Jocelyne.”

“Our objective at this point ... is to tell an interesting story, to tell a story that is as honest and truthful, factually and emotionally, as we can,” Nuxoll said.

As first reported in the Chronicle, Castaldo, who has gone by a number of different names — she was born Marie Jocelyne, according to Shane — scammed vendors and participants out of thousands during 2007 and 2008 QIFF events. She was eventually hit with 13 charges in Queens, including nine felonies, and pleaded guilty to fraud as well as animal cruelty for a boarding kennel she ran upstate. A French national, she was deported to Paris. And as Nuxoll and Shane discovered, tracing Castaldo’s life has meant encountering disgruntled people in many different places.

Before their fundraising drive, the Brooklyn-based filmmaking duo had already conducted several interviews, and managed to nab a major get: a marathon, 30-plus-hour face-to-face session with Castaldo herself, who was in London at the time.

“She’s very compelling; she made a very persuasive case for her innocence,” Shane said. “In so many situations, it’s like the truth is not black and white. There’s many sides to every story and everybody remembers things a little bit differently than how they actually happened.”

With the money they’ve now raised, Nuxoll, 36, and Shane, 28, said they will buy additional equipment, and will also be able to do some of the traveling required when following Castaldo’s trail, such as going to Los Angeles.

“We definitely have a vision for the film. How we want to structure it, and sort of the kind of pacing and sense of excitement,” Shane said. The pair plan on finishing the film by 2013.

Originally from Baltimore, Shane previously co-directed the feature-length “Bi the Way,” a documentary which premiered at South by Southwest in 2008 and screened at festivals worldwide.

But Shane noted the Castaldo film’s conclusion is not yet set in stone. “It’s exciting because we don’t really know how it will end, “ she said.

Both Nuxoll and Shane said they would be filming at the opening tonight, March 1, of the Queens World Film Festival, which two former QIFF volunteers — Katha and Dan Cato — launched last year.

“I think there’s a lot that can be done to erase the memory of some of the things that went wrong,” Nuxoll said of Castaldo’s film shenanigans. “And I’m sure that Queens will be just fine.”

Welcome to the discussion.