2012-02-24 / Community

Rockaway Filmmakers Take The Mainland

By Susan Hartenstein

“A good documentary opens a door. Viewers gains access to a world they never knew existed.”

Robert Sarnoff, who spoke these words, and Kevin Breslin are both acclaimed, award-winning documentarians. Both live in Rockaway; in fact, just six blocks from each other. Both have made short films that are being honored as Official Selections of the 2012 Queens World Film Festival; both films are being screened in the same theater, in the same time block. Want more of a coincidence? Last year, both men had films that were Official Selections of the Palm Beach International Film Festival. In fact, Sarnoff won QWFF’s first Spirit of Queens Filmmaker Award.

Friday, March 2 the public will have the opportunity to see the two films; Sarnoff’s “Green: An AmeriCan Dream” at 6:30 p.m. and Breslin’s, “#WhileWe- Watch” at the end of the 77-minute time block. Screened in the Jackson Heights Cinema, 40-31 82nd Street, each fulfills Sarnoff’s definition of a good documentary.

Each is hauntingly timeless, yet could have only happened in the world of the 21st century.

You’ve seen them – perhaps out of the corner of your eye, perhaps trying to divert your vision – what Sarnoff calls, “The Army of Foot Soldiers, with mountains of cans and bottles in pouring rain, fluorescent slickers and umbrellas, garbage bags covering them, diligently working …shoving their hands through the gaping holes of the recycling machines.” Sarnoff saw them, too. But he didn’t divert his eyes. He wondered, who are they, what are their stories? In “Green” he pulls back the curtain.

He found several recycling centers and the people who ‘feed’ them and who operate them. He discovered a multimillion dollar business. And he discovered among the dawn caravans walking, cycling, pushing carts to the centers a cross-section of individuals – all walks of life, motivations, circumstances. “I was a baker,” said Richard, whom Sarnoff found to be “intriguing and articulate ... and very moving.” As an important aside for the filmmaker, these ‘soldiers’ help to clean the Earth; they reduce the ‘plastic sludge’ that pol- lutes our oceans. For Sarnoff, “You will never look at these people the same way again. We just see them as other discarded vessels on the street. When you get to know who they are, they are valuable, redeemable.” For more on Sarnoff: www.robertsarnoff.com

Kevin Breslin focuses his lens on the “media revolution” he witnessed that was fostered by the original Occupy Wall Street movement in Zucotti Park – a movement initially shunned by the mainstream media; Breslin and crew spent a few days in the park to give us an up-close, no holds barred view. “Zucotti Park was loud, dirty, wet, cold, and exhilaratingly alive with passion and energy,” says the filmmaker. “Intelligence, imagination, information and raw emotion ruled every second.”

Breslin, initially exploring a documentary on the OWS movement, was fascinated by the fact that the movement essentially said they didn’t need mainstream media to tell or “validate” their story.

They used “the power of the Internet and digital platforms to transcend” the mainstream media; to tell the “real, raw, inside” story of their movement, from their point of view, while the regular media was literally and figuratively on the outside.

The filmmaker says this was the first time he’d ever seen anything like this, and that was the story he wanted to tell. Breslin’s camera also gives us a raw view, on both sides, from being shoved by protesters to police tossing him and his crew out of the park during the police evacuation of the protesters.

For more on this film: #whilewewatch.com.

In a Rockaway triple play, a film by Robert Snyder, film critic for The Wave, is also an Official Selection of the Queens World Film Festival. Snyder co-produced the short with his brother Philip. A “Hemingwayesque” spoof of a father-son arm wrestling match, it stars Snyder and his son, Robert Jr. It will be screened on Saturday, March 3 at 6 p.m., at PS 69, 77-02 37th Avenue, in Jackson Heights. A Q & A will follow each time block. For more on the festival: www.queensworldfilmfestival.com. For information/tickets: kathacato@gmail.com

Sarnoff suggests, “It’s time for an RIFF, Rockaway International Film Festival.”

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