NewFilmmakers Los Angeles celebrated emerging Black filmmakers with stories of mental health, collective power, and the mystery of what lies beyond — including stories of a musician’s journey through L.A., an astronaut in peril, and Black women talking about mental health.

The lineup started with a captivating block of films from The Black TV & Film Collective 2021 Black Producers’ Fellowship. The program continued with InFocus: Black Cinema Shorts, a selection of films that explore joy, community, grief, and love. The night continued with the Los Angeles premiere of writer-director Christian Rozier’s debut feature film Apache Leap, the story of an Apache artist navigating unfair challenges. The event concluded with a visually rich collection of music videos that celebrates the relationship between film and music on the big screen.

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).

“Golds,” directed by Moses Lawi

About Moses: Moses Lawi is a filmmaker who specializes in directing and writing. Many of the films he creates are stories that are very grounded and authentic and told from various perspectives. His goal is to make sure the stories he tells cover the world. Born in 1997 in Tanzania, he is fluent in both English and Swahili, and was raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He was very active throughout high school, from being involved in clubs and competitive sports, then went to Arizona State University to study film and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in film media production in 2020. Since then he has continued to work on multiple films projects.

About “Golds”: Mercy tries to raise money for his mom’s medical needs.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Moses Lawi, director of “Golds”:

“Cary in Retrograde,” directed by Priya Domfeh & Phillipp Yaw

About Phillipp and Priya: Philip Yaw + Priya Jane are a husband and wife team. They founded their production company, Cosmic Otter, in 2018, and they develop, write, direct, and produce their film and television projects. Their debut short film, “Rudeboy’s Restaurant,” was funded by Ghetto Film School, through the 2019 Emerge! Filmmaker Lab and screened in both the 2020 American Black Film Festival and the 2021 LA Shorts Fest. Their follow-up project, “Cary in Retrograde,” a musical dramedy, went on to screen at the Nashville Film Festival, where it won the best produced digital series, and Austin Film Festival, where it won best episodic.

About “Cary in Retrograde”: A tale about ALMOST never giving up, “Cary in Retrograde” follows a failed musician as he traverses a surrealist Los Angeles in hopes of a second chance.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Priya Domfeh and Philipp Yaw, directors of “Cary in Retrograde”: 

“Muscle Memory,” directed by Saladin White II

About Saladin: Saladin White II is an actor, writer, and director from Philadelphia.When he was six years old, his parents enrolled him at the New Freedom Theatre, a performing arts training program. After his studies at Freedom, Saladin continued his training at Point Park University, receiving his BFA in Acting. Soon after, he decided to begin his studies at the Columbia University MFA Film Program. While at Columbia, he wrote and directed two short films, produced two short films, and wrote a feature and television pilot. Currently, he is developing his first feature film, Blacked Out.

About “Muscle Memory”: Tariq dedicates a tap dance to his father on the anniversary of his death.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Saladin White II, directors of “Muscle Memory”: 


“Blackout,” directed by Andrew Reid

About Andrew: Andrew Reid was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He is a DGA Award winning director and graduate from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His award-winning projects have screened at Slamdance, CAA Moebius, Paramount Pictures, HollyShorts and over 50 other film festivals worldwide. Reid is a 2021 ViacomCBS ViewFinder Emerging Director for Paramount TV Studios. He is developing projects that have received support from the Tribeca Film Institute, Film Independent and The Gotham. He was a director in the 2020 class of Film Independent’s Project Involve and RespectAbility Summer Lab program. You can learn more at

About “Blackout”: While on a routine mission, an astronaut soon finds herself battling for command, facing forces known — and unknown — intent on destroying her.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Andrew Reid, director of “Blackout”: 

“Black Women Should Never Humble Themselves,” directed by Maya Gwynn

About Maya: Maya Gwynn is a director, writer, and actress born and raised in Southern California. She performed improv for Second City for eight years, and is the founder of company The 3 Lines Collective. All her life she has loved film, and is attracted to stories that are honest and showcase marginalized communities. Being an improviser, she loves to collaborate, and is very excited to keep honing in on her craft.

About “Black Women Should Never Humble Themselves”: Black women talking openly and honestly about their mental health. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Maya Gwynn, director of “Black Women Should Never Humble Themselves”:

“We Own This Crown,” directed by Shannon Rugani

About Shannon: Shannon Rugani is a singer/songwriter performing under the stage name EMPRESS®. Shannon danced professionally for San Francisco Ballet for 11 years before performing the lead in the Broadway production of An American In Paris. She’s an accomplished composer, actress and writer and she directed the award winning music video, SnowGlobe, that has been an international success. Shannon’s mission is to empower people to be the rulers over their own life and creators of their own happiness.

About “We Own This Crown”: EMPRESS embarks on the universal quest to become the ruler of her own life. Challenged by the four temperaments, she must weave through a mystical labyrinth in order to build her own crown.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Shannon Rugani, director of “We Own This Crown”: 

A Mother’s Soliloquy,” directed by Cameron Kostopoulos

About Cameron: Cameron Kostopoulos is a queer filmmaker based in Los Angeles, where he studies at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His work blends narrative filmmaking with poetic cinema, bringing together unique storytelling devices — including dance, new media, and abstraction — to provide imaginative and thought-provoking stories. His willingness to challenge convention has garnered recognition, including a nomination for the 2020 Student Academy Awards.  Through his work, he aims to give voice to underrepresented characters and stories, while simultaneously sharing a part of himself with you, in hopes that we might all share a small piece of this human experience together.

About “A Mother’s Soliloquy”: A recovering alcoholic must make a moral inventory in order to reconnect with her estranged son.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Cameron Kostopoulos, director of “A Mother’s Soliloquy”: 

“Emeka The One  – Pamu Pamu,” directed by Aubrinae Washington

About Aubrinae: “My start at becoming a director began with someone or something with a power greater than I can ever imagine. It was already decided that this girl was going to have something to say, and more than one way to say it. Growing up in Los Angeles, I saw freedom of expression everywhere. In my family, in strangers, in the media and in art. It was, in my eyes, the most powerful art form and the most powerful influence. I thought, if you want to be a powerful woman one day, you have to express yourself. I started directing things in my imagination. Then eventually I tried it in real life. I loved it.”

About “Emeka The One  – Pamu Pamu”: This video was made as a reminder that your journey can also be a vibe. Watch as Emeka uses his motivation to create as a way to manifest the life he wants by being who he is and remaining humble as his success develops.

Main image: A scene from “Golds,” directed by Moses Lawi.