NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) hosted its annual InFocus: Dutch Cinema program with presenting partner Dutch Culture USA (Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in New York). The October event began with a limited-seating screening of InFocus: Dutch Cinema, a collection of new work from Dutch short film directors curated in partnership with SEE NL.

The program is representative of new voices, genres and themes in filmmaking coming out of the Netherlands. It includes stories of fighting for autonomy, confronting loss, finding strength and comfort, fighting darkness, choosing our own path, and healing trauma.

Also in October, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) hosted its annual InFocus: Veteran Cinema program. The day began with Fall Shorts, presented as part of NFMLA’s ongoing monthly program. The block opened with a sampling of films from this year’s McMinnville Short Film Festival, which is held annually each February in McMinnville, Oregon and is internationally recognized and focuses on a diverse range of narrative topics and voices, while raising visibility for local Willamette Valley and Pacific Northwest filmmakers. The block included stories of mistaken identity, blackmail, body horror, fetishization, mental health, family relationships, public service and gentrification.  

The afternoon’s programming continued with the North American premiere of director Ray Izad-Mehr’s feature debut, Guillotine. The gory, clever, fast-paced horror comedy tells the historic tale of the guillotine through five dynamic and stylistically diverse vignettes. 

The evening concluded with InFocus: Veteran Cinema Shorts, which spotlighted the talent of military veterans in front of and behind the camera in a program that included vignettes, intimate portraits, fantasy and science fiction. 

NFMLA showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year, across both our general and InFocus programming. All filmmakers are welcome and encouraged to submit their projects for consideration for upcoming NFMLA Festivals, regardless of the schedule for InFocus programming, which celebrates diversity, inclusion and region by spotlighting communities of filmmakers within our filmmaking community as part of our monthly program. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

“Ethnic Slut” directed by Chris Blanco 

About Chris: Chris is a New York City based, self-hating Cuban-American comedy writer, director and actor from Miami, with an MFA from Columbia University. Chris was honored with the 2021 Phil Johnston Comedy grant for the script of his short film “Ethnic Slut.” His imaginative storytelling comes to life in his co-directed, written, and acted web series, Not Quite It, which can be watched on the platform Kold Open. Through his work, Chris navigates the complexities of ego and identity, offering a view of societal outcasts caught in absurd yet relatable circumstances.

About “Ethnic Slut”: In the midst of an identity crisis, Laz (slut) joins a threesome app and uses his Cuban ethnicity to secure a date with a “woke” white couple who have a bad case of ethnic fetishism. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Chris Blanco, director of “Ethnic Slut”:

“Gush” directed by Juliette van Ardenne

About Juliette: Juliette van Ardenne is a well-known Dutch actress who has starred in award-winning feature films including The Fury and Ferry. She played leading parts in critically acclaimed series including Stanley H. Kerstgezel, Smeris and Incognito. She taught herself how to act, write and direct. Juliette is stepping both in front and behind the cameras for “Gush,” a debut short psycho-thriller about the dark side of becoming a mother, based on her own experience. 

About “Gush”: Psychological thriller about a young mother on the verge of psychosis.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Juliette van Ardenne, director of “Gush”:

“The Last Waves of Eugène” directed by Dylan Werkman

About Dylan: Dylan Werkman is a Dutch director based in Amsterdam. In film, Werkman primarily explores the boundaries between fiction and documentary. Along these boundaries he uses nature, poetry and archival footage as tools for contemplation. Sometimes the two genres intersect, and oftentimes they inspire each other.

About “The Last Waves of Eugène”: When a long and destructive period of wild nights comes to an end, Terrance is left with an uneasy silence. Together, he and his girlfriend Sanne embark on a journey in their motorhome to the south of France to visit an old friend, only to be confronted by the reality of a changing world. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Dylan Werkman, director of “The Last Waves of Eugène”:

“Days of Spring” directed by Arianne Hinz

About Arianne: Arianne Hinz studied Psychology and Media Studies at the University of Utrecht. She studied directing at the filmArche independent German film school and has extensive professional experience working for Dutch broadcasters. Arianne’s films and documentaries – for which she also wrote the screenplays – have been selected at numerous international film festivals and have won prizes including the EVO promotional award at Kurzfilmtage in Oberhausen. Arianne currently lives in Amsterdam and continues to make films and documentaries. She’s working on her first feature film.

About “Days of Spring”: Eleven-year-old Roos invites best friend, Ella, to join her enigmatic group of friends in their mysterious games. The short film looks at the price of conforming and the sacrifices of treading our own paths.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Arianne Hinz, director of “Days of Spring”:

“Aidan” directed by Donovan Wilson

About Donovan: Donovan Wilson, an emerging filmmaker, is captivated by film’s transformative potential and artistic essence. Inspired by Akira Kursawa’s “Sanjuro,” he ventured into art house cinema, embracing narratives and poetry within. Armed with a simple camera, he created short films with family, progressing to ambitious goals like self-funded festival submissions. Collaborating with professionals fueled his passion for cinematic artistry. Donovan aims to master filmmaking craft, using scripted actors to explore authentic human expression within fictional tales. By merging documentary-like observations with storytelling, he strives to weave intricate narratives and layered meanings, pushing the boundaries of film’s power.

About “Aidan”: A languishing click-bait reporter decides to go on her own and kidnap a strangely malfunctioning android to find the truth of its existence.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Donovan Wilson, director of “Aidan”:

“A Way Home” directed by Claire Chubbuck

About Claire: Claire Chubbuck is an award-winning director who creates actor-forward films that focus on truth. Her process of Cathartic Realism structures filmmaking as a spiritual experience that allows the audience to witness the authentic transmutation of  shame. She is the daughter of world renowned acting coach Ivana Chubbuck and the late film director Lyndon Chubbuck. Claire works with actors to use the traumatic events in their lives in order to make art — as a director, and a teacher at the Ivana Chubbuck Studio, where Claire is also the vice president.

About “A Way Home”: “A Way Home” is the story of an Army sergeant who went missing during the military withdrawal from Afghanistan. A year later, he returns to America, seemingly coming back from the dead, only to find that his wife, and the rest of the country, have moved on. He fights to understand where he belongs, and redefine the relationship with his wife.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Claire Chubbuck, director of “A Way Home”:

“La Ultima Ascensión” directed by Kevin Osepa

About Kevin: Kevin Osepa is a photographer born and raised on the island of Curaçao. His work revolves around his identity and the identity of Afro-Caribbean youth in a post-colonial world. The visuals he creates and the stories he tells are highly influenced by his youth. While the themes he explores are autobiographical, his work can also serve as a quasi-anthropological study. Using different experimental techniques, he creates colorful visual stories that explore themes such as religion, African diaspora, and family. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions, including Steenbergen Stipendium, Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst prijs, the Unseen photography festival, and FOAM Editions — as well as publications such as the Trouw newspaper, Volkskrant Magazine and Unseen Magazine. He was also nominated for multiple awards and in 2018 became the youngest person ever to be nominated for the prestigious Volkrant fine art prize.

About “La Ultima Ascensión”: Every day Rowin goes to the rocky coast of Curaçao to catch fish. Though his mother Gracia doesn’t want him to, he keeps going, magnetically drawn to the water. There he meets an apparition from the precolonial world. Wordless encounters follow, full of magic, rituals and synchronicity. Mother and son appear to be involved in a grieving process that drives them apart, but the natural forces of Curaçao, with its mystical and charged history, ensure that their pain can be healed. “La Ultima Ascensión” is a layered and symbolic ode to the island and its countless untold stories, carried by Afro-Caribbean and indigenous spirituality.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Kevin Osepa, director of “La Ultima Ascensión”:

“This one is for the neighborhood” directed by Miguel Melo

About Miguel: Miguel Melo is a writer and filmmaker based in L.A., originally from Mexico. His work is heavily influenced by the queer and immigrant experience, identity, and flawed family dynamics. He studied Directing and TV Writing in the UCLA Extension Program. He’s a Berlinale Talent, received the NALIP Emerging Content Creators Scholarship in 2019, and was selected for the 2021 HBO’s Tomorrow’s Filmmakers, Today program. His debut short film “Valiente (Brave)” premiered at the 2021 Outfest Fusion Film Festival, and his short “This One is for the Neighborhood ” is in the film festival circuit. He worked as a writers’ PA and showrunner’s assistant on the Apple TV+ show Acapulco

About “This one is for the neighborhood”: An unlikely pair, a non-binary painter and a controlling woman, bond through the power of story, leading them to rediscover the meaning of home and close circles that burden them.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Miguel Melo, director of “This one is for the neighborhood”:

“Guillotine” directed by Ray Izad-Mehr

About Ray: A refugee of the Iran-Iraq War, Ray Izad-Mehr settled in Los Angeles as a child during the winter of 1983. Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Douglas Sirk, Steven Spielberg and Mel Brooks shaped the narrative stylings that later informed Ray’s work. He formed his production company while in school, and directed/produced over 150 music videos and short films. Most recently he co-produced and DP’d the award-winning feature length documentary on global sports sensation Ronda Rousey, Through My Father’s Eyes, winner at the Crystal Palace London International Film Festival. Ray has now shifted his attention to developing several new narrative projects, culminating in his feature film directorial debut, Guillotine.

About Guillotine: An elevated horror anthology film musing on the most feared and iconic instrument of death, the guillotine.  

Watch the NFMLA interview with Ray Izad-Mehr, director of “Guillotine”: 

“Men Grieving” directed by Adam Peltier

About Adam: Adam Peltier is one of those self proclaimed writer/director/actor types who unenthusiastically served in the U.S. Army and (sort of) got kicked out of The United States Military Academy at West Point (it’s a long story). He also worked at a box factory in Piqua, Ohio. It was there that he discovered that making boxes… (prepare yourself)… was not fun… so he decided to make movies instead (because that made total sense at the time). Recently, Adam received his MFA in Acting from CalArts. He has two smooshy-faced dogs who fart a lot. 

About “Men Grieving”: Sitting in a waiting room, Harrison and Percy confront their emotions and each other as they attempt to fill out paperwork for an experimental drug that might have the power to take their grief away… forever.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Adam Peltier, director of “Men Grieving”:

“In The Gray” directed by Alexandra Hensley

About Alexandra: Alexandra was raised on a diet of Anne of Green Gables novels and Tarantino movies.  A former rifle and pistol coach in the Marine Corps, Alexandra spent her early adulthood on the rifle range teaching Marines the basics of the M4 rifle. After the Marines, Alexandra moved to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking and discover what it was like to be on the sets she had imagined as a child. “In the Gray” is her first short film, completed while attending the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC. She is developing a feature script about female Marines during the Afghan war, currently on the Black List Top List. 

About “In The Gray”: When a 33-year-old wife of a pastor becomes pregnant with her sixth child, she realizes that another baby would be an impossible burden and decides to have an abortion in secret. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Alexandra Hensley, director of “”In The Gray”:

“Ignition” directed by Derek Toombs

About Derek: Derek, a native of South Florida, spent his childhood directing movies with friends and using his toys as actors when playmates were unavailable. After dedicating eight years to the U.S. Coast Guard, during which he dabbled in web series creation, standup comedy, and crafting murder mystery plays, he decided to chase his ultimate dream: to study film. Derek earned his degree from the University of Central Florida. Now based in Orlando, he passionately creates films and shapes the next generation of creators as an instructor at the Los Angeles Film School.

About “Ignition”: The sun is dying. It’s up to one guy to save it. It’s cool, he skimmed a book on fusion.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Derek Toombs, director of “Ignition”:

“Bad Day” directed by Michael D. Aguilar

About Michael: Michael D. Aguilar is from Middletown, New York. In 2013, he enlisted in the U.S Army as an Airborne Cavalry Scout. After serving, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and graduated in 2018. Michaels writing and directing debut was a semi-autobiographical military play that premiered at the New York Theatre Festival. The play explores the idea of what it means to be a Veteran in today’s society by talking about stereotypes, self-perception and facing the world without armor. He later moved to Los Angeles and wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the short film “Bad Day.” 

About “Bad Day”: Alex realizes he could have been there for his best friend, Junior, who killed himself after going through suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Michael D. Aguilar, director of “Bad Day”:

“Diaphony” directed by Selle Inti Sellink

About Selle: Selle Inti Sellink, a seasoned sound designer and upcoming director at STILL, brings nine years of film industry expertise. His work spans acclaimed films like “Beyond Sleep” (2016) (Golden Calf for Best Sound Design), “Buladó” (2020), “Huda’s Salon” (2021), “Shadow Game” (2021), and “Crossing” (2023). Sellink also crafts auditory experiences for prestigious museum exhibitions, including Allard Pierson, De Appel, TAC Eindhoven, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Notably, he composed a 12-hour Panamanian jungle soundscape for “Where There is Light,” showcased during ADE 2022 at Amsterdam’s Westerkerk. His online projects include sound design for “De Tuin der Lusten” and “Beleef de Nachtwacht,” paying homage to Dutch master painters.

About “Diaphony”: A pandemic animated documentary highlighting three individuals’ diverse coping strategies, ultimately revealing their common solace in music.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Selle Inti Sellink, director of “Diaphony”: 

“Jimmy Boden” directed by Christopher Pickering

About Christopher: Through early adolescence, Chris’ father was constantly filming him and his siblings on a video camera. At the age of 10, Chris and a friend took control of this camera and filmed their first movie, editing by starting and stopping directly on tape. As he connected the camera to the family television and showed his creation to his family, he found himself utterly hooked to a future in filmmaking. Learning basic filmmaking techniques from both guerrilla experience and practical YouTube guidance, Chris would later hone his skills over four years in Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

About “Jimmy Boden”: What has led this imprisoned government asset to reach his breaking point?

Watch the NFMLA interview with Christopher Pickering, director of “Jimmy Boden”:

Main image: A still from “Ignition,” by Derek Toombs.