Stories of “Good Filipino Kids,” a mother reincarnated as a goldfish and a woman’s guilt as she prepares the lunches of her childhood were among the highlight’s of New Filmmakers Los Angeles recent InFocus: Asian Cinema Program.
NFMLA’s May event celebrated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and spotlighted Asian filmmakers and stories from around the world across two shorts programs. The day’s programming also featured the West Coast premiere of Brutal Season by Gavin Fields, presented in partnership with Filmmakers Alliance.
The day began with InFocus: Asian Cinema Shorts I, a collection of films that explores individual identity within a greater culture. It includes stories of queer identity in Asian and Asian-American communities, explorations of immigrant identity, the individual struggling to survive in a dystopian future, as well as motherhood as an identity and context.
The day continued with InFocus: Asian Cinema Shorts II, a selection of films that spans a range of genres as it tells stories of family, memory, loss and the ancient beyond. Through documentary, drama, horror and magic realism, the audience is invited to view these themes through different lenses. The night concluded with Brutal Season, a powerful family drama that explores the rising tensions of an estranged son returning home during a heatwave.
NFMLA showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year in addition to its special InFocus programming, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and region. All filmmakers are welcome and encouraged to submit their projects which will be considered for all upcoming NFMLA Festivals, regardless of the InFocus programming.
Here is some information on the filmmakers and their films, as well as their video interviews with NFMLA Board Chair Danny De Lillo (Twitter/Instagram: @dannydelillo).
“Brutal Season” directed and written by Gavin Fields
About Gavin Fields: Gavin Fields is a writer and director based in Atlanta. Past feature screenplays have been placed in various competitions including Bluecat, Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft, Script Pipeline, Cinequest, and Fresh Voices. Brutal Season is his directorial debut, which premiered at Fantastic Fest in September 2022 before showing with the Phoenix and Fargo Film Festivals. Since its completion, Gavin has written two more features and is working on a third. He currently runs a small video agency, Lil Cowboy, with his wife and producer, Shelby Grady. Gavin received his BA from the University of Mississippi and MA from the University of Arizona.
About Brutal Season: When their estranged son inexplicably returns home, the Trouth’s home is full again, but is their Red Hook apartment big enough for the gambling debts, trauma and substantial life insurance policy that come in his wake?
Watch the NFMLA interview with Gavin Fields, writer and director, and Shelby Grady, producer of “Brutal Season”:
“Confluence: A Meditation in Documentary Form” directed by ETA and Shanhuan Manton
About ETA: ETA is a first-gen Vietnamese-American genrefluid filmmaker raised in Tustin, California by Vietnam War refugees. Their debut feature film, Stockton 2 Malone, infused the mumblecore subgenre with POC representation, premiering via AFROPUNK in 2016. In 2020, they produced a documentary short entitled “Confluence,” exploring ancestry and identity through first-person testimonies and live musical performances that screened at several film festivals around the US and abroad, including Viet Film Fest, DisOrient Film Fest, and the Oscar-qualifying Busan International Short Film Fest and SF DocFest.
About Shanhuan Manton: Shanhuan Manton is a genderqueer Chinese-American filmmaker focused on composting extractive methods of cinematic storytelling into regenerative rituals and making the possibilities of speculative worlds real through collective storytelling. They are currently developing several projects centering the more-than-human world, and the collective crafting of contemporary mythologies for navigating the convergent crises of our time.
About “Confluence”: A meditation on diasporic ancestry and identity.
Watch the NFMLA interview with ETA and Shanhuan Manton, co-directors of “Confluence: A Meditation in Documentary Form”:
“Elite Match” directed and written by Kathy Meng
About Kathy: Kathy Meng is a Chinese-American writer/director who was born in Philadelphia and raised in Beijing and Massachusetts before attending NYU’s film program. She has been an assistant to the CEOs of SOHO China for the past few years and has written and directed several short films. Meng has previously worked at the Tribeca Film Festival, Scott Rudin Productions, A24, and the Weinstein Company. She is gearing up to direct a first feature.
About “Elite Match”: Lily is a single Chinese mother who is online dating. One evening, Lily attends a singles mixer where she must reconcile between her preoccupation with her daughter’s life and her desire to date.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Kathy Meng, writer and director of “Elite Match”:
“Fish” directed and written by Jeremy Hsing
About Jeremy: Jeremy Hsing is a humanistic sci-fi writer, mental health advocate, and second-gen Taiwanese immigrant based in Los Angeles. He specializes in using his psychology background to construct elaborate worlds in which his characters are forced to experience an internal reckoning in the pursuit of an emotional catharsis. He is previously a Get Lit Screenwriters Lab Fellow, RespectAbility Entertainment Lab TV Writing Fellow, Academy Gold Rising Mentee, and Coverfly Best Unrepped Writers List 2022 Honoree. In his free time, Jeremy loves to listen to Kendrick Lamar due to his lyrical exploration of intergenerational trauma and toxic masculinity.
About “Fish”: When one young man’s estranged dead mother becomes reincarnated in the body of his pet goldfish, he must set aside his grievances to help his fish/mom fulfill her final wish: attending the Mother’s Day dance.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jeremy Hsing, writer and director of “Fish”:
“Good Filipino Kids” directed and written by Andrew Acedo
About Andrew: Andrew Acedo is the Community and Impact Manager of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a first-generation Filipino American, an award-winning filmmaker and a recipient of the “2021 Impact-Maker to Watch” award from the City of Los Angeles. He’s passionate about empowering BIPOC and the disabled communities to tell their stories through film and TV, and writes, directs, produces and edits films as well.
About “Good Filipino Kids”: Two Filipino lovers with different upbringings struggle to fulfill cultural and familial expectations, forcing them to face a crossroads in their relationship and individual identities.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Andrew Acedo, writer and director of “Good Filipino Kids”:
“Grandpa Cherry Blossom” directed and written by Maddox Chen
About Maddox: Maddox Chen is a filmmaker, animator and actor originally from New York City. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles. His work has been published in The New York Times and its corresponding book, Coming of Age in 2020. His film, “Grandpa Cherry Blossom,” has garnered numerous awards from film festivals and competitions, including YoungArts and IndieFEST. As an actor, he has been featured in several national commercials. This fall, Maddox will be pursuing a major in Film and Television Production at New York University.
About “Grandpa Cherry Blossom”: The Life of Francis Uyematsu, from his journey to America to his time at the Manzanar Concentration Camp.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Maddox Chen, writer and director of “Grandpa Cherry Blossom”:
“Lunchbox” directed and written by Anne Hu
About Anne: Anne Hu is a Taiwanese American, award-winning director, writer, editor, and actress in narrative film and TV. She completed Netflix’s first Original Series Directors Development Program in 2022. Hu made the 2020 Alice List for Emerging Female Filmmakers who Have Not Yet Directed a Feature. She shadowed director Marc Webb on Netflix’s The Society. Hu is a fellow of the 2019 Space on Ryder Farm Film Lab.
She has directed, written, and starred in award-winning short films. Her short, “CAKE,” was accepted into 38 festivals, earned 9 awards, and was featured in The Washington Post.
Hu hopes to provide catharsis for audiences and inspire them to regard marginalized voices with their whole humanity.
About “Lunchbox”: When a Taiwanese American woman prepares lunches from her childhood, she struggles to forgive herself for pushing away her immigrant mother.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Anne Hu, writer and director of “Lunchbox”:
“Pippi” directed by Mia Walker
About Mia: Mia is a director working across live performance, film, television, audio, and interactive media. She is a Drama League TV Directing Fellow, directed the award-winning short film “Pippi,” and is a performance director for a leading video game company. She was part of the original creative teams for the Broadway productions of Jagged Little Pill, Waitress, Pippin, Finding Neverland, and Porgy and Bess, and traveled throughout the U.S. directing the tours. She was among the first cohort of directors to collaborate with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video series and is currently directing a podcast series with Meet Cute Rom Coms. Her website is miapwalker.com
About “Pippi”: A mother and daughter grapple with their racial self-hatred through their love of Pippi Longstocking.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Hsin-Hua Wang, music composer for “Pippi”:
“Surrender” directed and written by Jess Dang
About Jess: Jess Dang is a Chinese-American writer and director based in Los Angeles. She values collaboration and hopes to continue telling stories that can work as visual conversations. Jess holds an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design. Her work has screened at festivals worldwide, including the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, DOC NYC, and LA Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Jess is committed to amplifying Asian voices and centering underrepresented communities in her work. Dang is also a Film Independent Fellow.
About “Surrender”: A recovering compulsive gambler responds to her past trauma after 100 days of abstinence.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jess Dang, writer and director of “Surrender”:
“To The Lights” directed and written by Emily Kim
About Emily Kim: Raised in South Korea and Hawaii, Emily Kim is a writer, director, producer, and actress. Since graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, she has been working for the president of Sony Motion Pictures Entertainment. Previously, Emily has worked at studios such as CBS, Disney, and the Television Academy Foundation. Emily is passionate about AAPI and Asian stories, having written and directed short films that have been selected at festivals such as the San Diego Asian Film Festival, Philadelphia Asian Film Festival, and the Hawai’i International Film Festival. Most recently, she has produced the 2021 HBO APA Visionaries selected short film NEH.
About “To The Lights”: When a young girl is faced with a chance to escape North Korea, she must confront her loving father, devoted to his nation.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Emily Kim, writer and director of “To The Lights”:
“Your Face” directed and written by Daphne Zelle
About Daphne: An ex-professional ballet dancer, Daphne Zelle attended NYU’s Gallatin program, where she graduated with a BA in drama and creative writing. She wrote and directed “Your Face” (Cinequest, NFMLA), which is her debut short film. Her second film, “Heirloom,” is in pre-production. In addition, she has appeared as an actress on shows including Inventing Anna, Modern Love, Younger, Blue Bloods, and Law & Order: Organized Crimes. This spring, she will appear in recurring roles in HBO’s And Just Like That as well as Starz’ Power Book II: Ghost.
About “Your Face”: Faceless creatures stalk a young man through Brooklyn on a dark summer night.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Daphne Zelle, writer and director of “Your Face”:
Main image: A still from “Fish” directed and written by Jeremy Hsing.