Film festival celebrates Jamaica, Black History Month
by Sara Krevoy
Feb 21, 2020 | 16582 views | 0 0 comments | 1566 1566 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This Saturday, local nonprofit Queens Underground 718 will welcome hundreds to the Jamaica Performing Arts Center for the first-ever International Black History Month Film Festival.

After a successful four-day festival in October, the organization is back full throttle, with an event featuring submissions showcasing black and brown history from 12 countries around the world, including Australia, France, China, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Starting with a Hollywood-style red carpet, the night is set to unfold with screenings of movie shorts, music videos, web series episodes and tapings of poetry readings, as well as live performances by local and international talent.

An animated submission “iRony,” focuses on the role of social media and what consequences may come of it in the future, while another called “Wonderland” tells the story of someone going through time within their own mind.

From France, “D’une rive à l’autre” touches on what it’s like to be a minority and immigrant to a new country.

Music videos from artists like Dimitri & The Scarecrow and Koleurz give the evening a further dimension of international flavor.

The festival’s review team boasts members such as Grammy nominee Mikey Jay, industry professionals Kavika and B. Elise, singer-songwriters Hide Inaba and Oxygen Box Band, along with other community leaders and creatives across the tristate area.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, Councilman I. Daneek Miller, and other city officials will also be in attendance presenting awards.

Among those to be honored are Detective Tanya Duhaney, Deputy Taylor Jackson, State Senator Leroy Comrie and retired Detective Ruth Whaley, who had a 45-year career in the NYPD as one of the first black women to serve.

Though the event bears the name “film festival,” this weekend’s festivities constitute more than that.

Queens Underground 718 is partnering with local businesses and vendors to create a well-rounded experience, complete with food and dessert, pop-up shops, face painting and booths manned by the Queens Public Library and the Queens Historical Society.

Guests will have a chance to play a game of Inequality-opoly, an elevated version of Monopoly that teaches players about finances and structural discrimination.

Sponsors for the festival include the Jamaica BID, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Greater Jamaica Merchants Association, St. Albans Civic Association, Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Southeast Queens Scoop, among many others.

Queens Underground 718 founder Adrienne Whaley, who runs the nonprofit with her son, is a neighborhood native herself. Whaley is a former special education administrator, but grew up in a creative family and has always been drawn to the arts.

“Realizing that Black History Month was coming up and knowing that very few are remembering the greats that came from this area, I would be remiss to not have another festival,” explains Whaley.

She sees this weekend’s festival as an opportunity to foster inter-genre, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration by bringing them all to one platform. Whaley also hopes the festival will help to keep the arts alive and thriving in the community.

“We can still make history and we can make it together,” she says. “We need to mentor the up-and-coming artists, and to remind people that we all have talent. Being able to come out and celebrate that together is an uplifting, beautiful thing.”

Saturday’s red-carpet event begins at 4:15 p.m. and will run until 10 p.m. For tickets, visit

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