NFMLA No Law, No Heaven

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles celebrated emerging Asian and Asian American filmmakers with stories about transitioning into womanhood, a Christmas celebration in space, a man who sings everything he says and more. 

NFMLA also featured Alana Waksman’s acclaimed feature film We Burn Like This, a harrowing tale about a descendant of Holocaust survivors who gets targeted by neo Nazis in Billings, Montana.

The lineup started with a retrospective shorts program from the archives of NFMLA partner, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), in advance of their 20th Anniversary edition. The program continued with InFocus: Asian Cinema Shorts I, a selection of films that spans an impressive range of genres from comedy to drama to experimental to sci fi. The night continued with InFocus: Asian Cinema Shorts II, a collection of stories that explore the idea of fitting in, and how our environments shape us. 

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).

“Sing (to me),” directed by Andrew Acedo

About Andrew: A recipient of the “2021 Impact-Maker to Watch” award from the City of Los Angeles, a UCLA graduate and a first-generation Filipino American, Andrew is passionate about empowering BIPOC and the disabled communities to tell their stories through film & TV as well as the art of filmmaking. He’s interested in making dark comedies and dramedies about mental health and flawed characters who feel neglected by the world. “Sing (to me)” is his second short film.

About “Sing (to me)”: The story of a man ready to sing (to someone).

Watch the NFMLA interview with Andrew Acedo, director of “Sing (to me)”: 

“What We Find In The Sea,” directed by Anika Kan Grevstad and Sasha Faust

About Anika: Anika Kan Grevstad is a biracial Asian American director from Seattle, now based in Los Angeles. Her documentary short, No One Ever Really Dies, won a Special Jury Award for new voices at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival 2019. She has worked as a cinematographer and editor on numerous films including the feature documentaries  Never Catch Pigeons (editor, Newport Beach Film Festival 2021), and The Job of Songs cinematographer, DOC/NYC 2021). She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Colorado College with a B.A. in Asian Studies and Film Studies.

About Sasha: Sasha Faust is a writer, director, and avid journal keeper. She is a founding member of Broken Slate Productions and has written and produced multiple short films including “Uprooted” (2018) and “Half” (2019). Raised by the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Trinity University, where she was the recipient of the Baker Duncan Theater Scholarship.

About “What We Find In The Sea”: Mia, an Asian-American teenager, navigates her transition into womanhood while working on a dangerous, fast-paced Alaskan fishing boat.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Anika Kan Grevstad, co-director of “What We Find In The Sea”: 


“Anything For You,” directed by Matt Ferrucci

About Matt: Matt Ferrucci is an award-winning Filipino-American writer/director from San Francisco and a graduate of USC. He created the indie TV series Companion, which won Best Director, Best Comedy at the Catalyst Content Festival and is now streaming on Aperteur TV. He directed the project Kensington, which won Best TV Pilot at the 2019 SOHO International Film Festival. Film Threat called it “a love letter to Philadelphia.” His latest project Anything For You was an official selection of four Academy qualifying festivals. Matt also wrote and directed for two seasons on the Comedy Central sketch show Triptank.

About “Anything For You”: It wouldn’t be cheating, it would be experimenting. Richard desperately wants to have an affair and needs his best friend George to help him. However, when George is asked to go beyond the call of duty, he questions Richard’s sanity.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Matt Ferrucci, director of “Anything For You”: 

“No Law, No Heaven,” directed by Kristi Hoi

About Kristi: Kristi Hoi is an award-winning writer-director, filmmaker, and artist from Los Angeles, California. A recent graduate from the UCLA MFA directing program, their most recent short film, “No Law, No Heaven,” is the winner of the 2021 Student Academy Award Narrative (Domestic) Bronze Medal, 2020 Gotham x JetBlue x Focus Features Student Filmmaker Award, and is BAFTA Student Film Award nominated. Kristi is an artist by trade and a storyteller by nature whose work is a deep dive into vivid worlds, with a focus on themes of duality, family, and identity, featuring ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

About “No Law, No Heaven”: A man’s life in three vignettes as he navigates his sexual identity amidst tradition in Hong Kong’s notorious Kowloon Walled City.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Kristi Hoi, director of “No Law, No Heaven”: 

“Americanized,” directed by Erica Eng

About Erica: Erica Eng is a fifth-generation Chinese American director based in Los Angeles. Her latest film “Americanized” screened at the Cleveland International, Urbanworld, and Atlanta Film Festival, among others. The film, based on her experiences playing high school basketball, took home 11 wins, including Palm Springs ShortFest (Young Cineastes Award), Bentonville Film Festival (Best Short Film), and the Oscar-qualifying award at Cinequest (Best Dramatic Short). Inspired by her Oakland roots, Erica creates work that reflects the diverse community where she grew up. Currently, Erica is a participating in Disney’s Launchpad, where she will be mentored by executives from Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm as she directs a coming-of-age ghost story for Disney+.

About “Americanized”: A high school basketball player struggles to fit in, on and off the court.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Erica Eng, director of “Americanized”:

We Burn Like This, directed by Alana Waksman

About Alana: Alana Waksman is an Ashkenazi writer, director, and first generation descendant of Holocaust survivors from Poland. She is an alum of the USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA in Film & Television Production, and trained at the O’Neill National Theater Institute under Colman Domingo. Alana was chosen as one of ten top directors to co-direct USC’s feature, Don Quixote: The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha (Palm Springs International Film Festival). We Burn Like This, Alana’s debut feature, premiered at Santa Barbara International Film Festival, internationally at Deauville American Film Festival in competition, and is currently in the festival circuit.

About Madeleine: Madeleine Coghlan has been acting since she was a young girl in both drama and comedy. The first film she starred in, Holidays, premiered at Tribeca in 2016. She can be seen in TV shows such as Fox’s Lucifer and ABC’s Castle. She hosts the Disney Channel show, Movie Surfers, and, in addition to acting, she also writes and stars in her own films. She is excited to be a part of the ensemble cast of the upcoming Untitled Miranda July Project premiering 2019.

About We Burn Like This: When 22 year-old Rae, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, is targeted by Neo-Nazis in Billings, Montana, her ancestors’ trauma becomes real.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Alana & Madeleine, director & star of We Burn Like This:

“The Cho Stories,” directed by Anna S. Park

About Anna: Anna Sang Park is an award winning-filmmaker whose work focuses on the complexity of immigrant families and intergenerational trauma. She is writer and director of The Cho Stories, centered around a Korean American family struggling with personal and financial loss in New York City. Born in South Korea, Anna grew up in Seoul and then immigrated with her family to Philadelphia. She has an MFA in Directing from Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Brooklyn College, and a BFA from Emerson College. She is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, the PGA and the Film Fatales.

About Adam: Adam Vazquez is an award-winning filmmaker and content creator with a history of diverse high-profile projects across NYC. He co-created and co-produced the documentary series Other Boys NYC, which is about the lives of fifty queer and trans men of color living in New York City. The series has received much buzz and has been written about by NBC News, Vice and Time Out NYC. He was an Associate Producer and Casting Director for the short film “Luz Marina,” which premiered at the 2019 HBO’s New York Latino Film Festival. He wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning short film “Keep Me Safe,” featured in the Katra Film Series, Videology Local Filmmaker Showcase “Select Shorts,” and the Fall 2014 Series at NewFilmmakers NY.

About Ho-Jung: Ho-Jung (pronounced ho-joon) is an LA-based actress. She was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Honolulu. As a creative and expressive person, Ho-Jung showed an early interest in fashion and an eye for fine art and craft, but it was not until later in life that she decided to pursue acting. Were it not for a chance meeting with the legendary acting teacher and director Gene Frankel, Ho-Jung might have never stepped into the spotlight.

About “The Cho Stories”: A Korean American mother’s gambling addiction has dire consequences, leaving the rest of her immigrant family to pick up the pieces.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Anna S. Park, Adam Vazquez & Ho-Jung, director, producer & star of “The Cho Stories”: 

“The Rose of Manila,” directed by Alex Westfall

About Alex: Alex Westfall is a Filipina-American artist interested in inner worlds, cultural histories, and the space between dreaming and memory. She graduated from Brown University in 2020 with a B.A. in Modern Culture & Media and is an alumna of the Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium. Her work has screened on the Criterion Collection and at the British Film Institute. She is writing her debut feature film.

About “The Rose of Manila”: As one half of the dictatorial regime that ruled the Philippines, Imelda Marcos would become infamous for embezzling billions from the country to sustain her extravagant lifestyle.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Alex Westfall, director of “The Rose of Manila”: 


Orbital Christmas,” directed by Mitsuyasu Sakai

About Mitsuyasu: Mitsuyasu Sakai is a seasoned writer working for the Japanese anime industry since 1990s. His works as a script writer and a sci-fi supervisor include over 20 shows from Outlaw Star (1998) to Batman Ninja (2018) to The Duel of Star Wars: Visions. He went to USC School of Cinematic Arts to study movie/TV production and got his M.A. in 2010. Orbital Christmas is his first short film after he graduated. He crowdfunded the budget through his fans in Japan. He did preproduction and postproduction in Tokyo and production in Los Angeles with both Japanese and American staff.

About “Orbital Christmas”: A Muslim astronaut celebrates Christmas with a Japanese girl in a space station.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Mitsuyasu Sakai, director of “Orbital Christmas”:

“Gulmira,” directed by Ainamkoz Yemzharova

About Ainamkoz: Ainamkoz Yemzharova is an NYFA alumni 2020 with a master’s in fine arts. She turns social issues into dark dramas. Ainamkoz has three short films. Her very first movie romantic comedy, “Sister’s Race,” was a finalist in the Cinecafest Central American short film Festival and a Lift-off Film Festival Official Selection. Her historical drama “Qÿyrshaq” was accepted into several festivals.

About “Gulmira”: After years of being abused by her husband, Gulmira decides to take her future into her own hands only to face the cruelty of a brainwashed, patriarchal society.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Ainamkoz Yemzharova, director of “Gulmira”: 


Main image: “No Law, No Heaven” by Kristi Hoi