Roman, the co-organizer of the Babylon Pride Parade, will walk the red carpet on Friday, September 30 at 5 p.m. She’ll perform before Knock Out Blonde debuts at Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center. It’s one of three selections being shown that night as part of the Voices Rising Film Festival, a weekend offering through Sunday Oct. 2, celebrating Independent, new and Alternate filmmakers. Other performers include Andrew Vass and Raquel Castro with the poignantly heartfelt “You Will Be Okay” as well as Chris Milo and Tim Eletto
“Twenty-five people are flying in for the Knock Out Blonde opening from London, a mix of film crew and family friends,” said Jaret Martino, who envisioned Voices Rising in association with Awareness Media, Love Wins Productions, and My Mind Enterprises. “They will be in the audience and will participate in our Question and Answer panel.”
Patchogue will have lots of visitors, Martino pointed out. “We have people coming in from Belgium and other locations and they’ll be looking for places to eat and stay,” he said.
Plaza MAC executive director Catherine Oberg was asked if she envisioned film festivals when the non-profit was formed over ten years ago.
“I knew film festivals were a full-time job,” she said. “As a filmmaker, I’d send in my entries to upcoming festival organizers to be judged and knew the process was overwhelming. I met with Jaret in February and he already had a platform. It’s a good partnership. We offer quality mainstream and independent films. But these are truly independent and the topics are important and engaging. What’s unique is getting the artists as well as the audience to discuss the topics. And there are panels with resources to improve their worlds.”
Oberg thanked the Greater Patchogue Foundation for its financial support and Patchogue Arts Council.
The first film, Knock Out Blonde chronicles the life of Kellie Maloney, formerly Frank Maloney, a famed boxing promoter who guided Lennox Lewis to become the heavyweight boxing champ of the world.
Two films subsequent films to be shown that evening include Saving Mary Alice about an abuse survivor, and O’Kelley Legends: 2E Behind the Scenes about 13-year-old Jordan O’Kelley who adapts his book into a show fundraiser supporting the emotional needs of the gifted.
The films range from one and a half hours to 19 minutes. With some, it’s less.
“It’s a mix between feature and short films,” Martino explained.
What’s particularly pivotal with this film festival is that advocates will be in the audience to discuss the films’ topics. Eric Lella, DO RPCV Senegal, Assistant Clinical Professor, Family Medicine, and Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Medical Director of the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center at Stony Brook will be on hand Friday night and For Saving Mary Alice, Amanda Myczkowsk from The Safe Center and Vicki Cooper, Lily Cooper and Sarah Sampson will be there from The Retreat – All Against Abuse as well as Ashley Nicolls from EOC-Suffolk. Also, Robert Vitelli and Brian Rosen from LGBT Network will attend.
Four more films will be shown Saturday, Oct. 1; Bring Her Home, which follows three Indigenous women who fight to vindicate their missing and murdered relatives, Culture and Community, which shows an American Indian family near San Francisco who dance and participate in pow wows to honor their ancestors, and Resilience, which chronicles an Indigenous family’s efforts to rebuild their sacred gathering place after a huge wildfire destroys it. Martino has reached out to local tribes for their representation and was waiting to hear who their speakers would be. From Darkness to Light: The Peter Krueger Clinic, tells the story of this amazing clinic and its HIV efforts over three decades.
“Stony Brook University Hospital has connected with us and several of their professionals will attend,” Martino emphasized. That includes Adam Gonzalez, Ph.D, Director of Behavioral Health; Allison Eliscu, MD, FAAP, Associate Director of Clinical Pediatrics (Dr. Eliscu is very involved in LGBTQ+ health care for adolescents); and Rose Cardin, M.S.N. R.N., Director Patient Education, Stony Brook Medicine.
Four more films, Look In My Eyes, Uprooted, After Laughter, A Paid Connection and This is What New Yorkers Say are scheduled for Sunday. Plus there are bonus shorts.
Martino said there has been much more support since the Love Wins series in June at Plaza MAC. “We continue to climb and get support,” he said.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of hard work involved. Oberg pointed out that operations manager Rick Eberle works to convert every film, to top quality and they’re audio checked. (Eberle has a wide breadth of experience including publicist, agent, musician and marketing.) “It takes a lot of time to do the digital work,” she said.
Voices Rising was specifically targeted towards Black, minority filmmakers and trans, Martino said. But with the multitude out there, how are the films chosen?
“We have 25 assistant programmers that judge in 12 technical categories,” Martino said. “They write notes on overall quality. Then industry professionals take a look.” As for the Plaza MAC venue, “Voices Rising needed a safe and inclusive space to be heard,” Martino said. “The filmmakers can walk away feeling empowered and move on to their personal journey.”
Sidebar: The Voices Rising General Film Festival is playing Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. Admission is $9 a film; members pay $9 per day; an All Access Pass is $125.
Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center is located at 20 Terry Street, Patchogue.
For more information, click on www.plazamac.org.