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Queens Chronicle

Festival of Cinema returns to Queens

Nora Ephron-inspired short and feature starring Jaleel White kicked things off

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:15 pm, Thu Aug 15, 2019.

The third annual Festival of Cinema NYC got underway with a short and a feature film last Friday at the Midway in Forest Hills.

“Nora Ephron Goes to Prison,” directed by and co-starring Hannah Elless, is about two women behind bars and how they cope by using imagination. Ally, played by Elless, tells Mary, played by Kaye Tuckerman, to “pretend you’re in a movie.”

So a number of fantasies ensue with a tribute to the romantic comedies of Nora Ephron including “When Harry Met Sally...,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.”

“Where do those rom-coms fit into our lives today? What if two women sort of bonded over that in different ways?” Elless said.

The eight-minute film was shot around the city, including the Empire State Building and Central Park, recreating shots from the classics.

The feature film shown on opening night was “5th of July” starring Jaleel White, Steve Urkel of “Family Matters” fame.

Orlando Leal, played by White, runs into all sorts of bad luck after he curses while spreading his father’s ashes in the national park they used to visit each year.

When Monty Fisher wrote the movie, he thought back to his annual camping trip and how one year he was robbed of his cell phone, wallet and car keys. Fisher hitchhiked with success. The movie’s protagonist is not as lucky.

Though there was a script, a lot of what made it into the movie was improvised.

“You could feel there was this sort of joy on the set. There was a lot of playfulness and it let us kind of just dive in,” said Jose Maria Aguila, one of the actors in the movie.

The enjoyment the actors had shows up on the screen.

“I show up to LA,” Aguila said. “I’m like, ‘OK, I’m a serious actor. And I’m going to do this thing.’ And you get to the set and it’s so playful and it was a lot of fun.”

Welcome to the discussion.