NFMLA Celebrates Immigrant Filmmakers With Stories of Family, Camp and Weightlifting

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles celebrated emerging Immigrant filmmakers with stories of a woke YouTube instructor, two men competing in a weightlifting challenge to win American citizenship, fighting the patriarchy, and a relationship between a girl and her car. 

The day began with the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective Spotlight, a collection of shorts showcasing recent work from NFMLA partner the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective. Next,  InFocus: Immigrant Stories presented a collection of films that captured an array of stories about immigrant experiences. The evening continued with the L.A. premiere of writer-director Ice Mrozek debut feature film, him & her, an ’80s romance based on a true story. The night concluded with Spring Shorts, a selection of short narratives from NFMLA’s ongoing programming, which includes a mix of genres from comedy to music video to thriller to drama. 

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). 

“Mojosito and Me,” directed by Lidieth Arevalo

About Lidieth: Lidieth Arevalo is a Salvadoran multimedia producer with a commitment to impact the world and use audiovisual media to evoke change and promote diversity, inclusion, equity and justice for all. She specializes in non-fiction storytelling, digital media and documentary filmmaking. Her recent films include “Mojosito and Me” (2021), PBS’ “Growing in the Shadows” (2020) and “Alpharaoh” (2019). An immigrant herself, she is an active leader of the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective (UFC), which aims to assert the talent and expertise of undocumented filmmakers in the artistic landscape. Lidieth holds an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking from Chapman University and a B.A. in Film Media Arts from CSU Long Beach.

About “Mojosito and Me,”: An uplifting story of an immigrant and her sixteen-year-old American car, and the experiences they share.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Lidieth Arevalo director of “Mojosito and Me”:

Instagram: @lidietharevalo

Twitter: @lidietharevalo

“AmeriGirl,” directed by Samina Saifee

About Samina: Samina Saifee graduated from NYU’s Stern-Tisch BS/BFA dual degree program, where she studied film and business. Her first short film, “AmeriGirl,” is a recipient of the inaugural NYC Women Filmmakers microgrant. It premiered at the New York Shorts International Film Festival and played at Brooklyn’s renowned Nitehawk Theater. Her feature script of the same name was a semi-finalist for the Stowe Story Labs Diverse Voices Fellowship, and her TV pilot script was recently selected to participate in The Orchard Project’s 2022 Episodic Lab. She has worked at Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures and Lilly Singh’s Unicorn Island Productions. She currently assists veteran literary agent Lucy Stille at Lucy Stille Literary. 

About “AmeriGirl,”: While away at Camp AmeriGirl, 11-year-old Aaliyah Khan has one goal: make a friend. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Samina Saifee director of “AmeriGirl”: 

“Still Rolling,” directed by Liang-Chun Lin

About Liang: Liang-Chun Lin was born and raised in Taiwan. She earned her BA of Radio and Television at Chengchi University in Taipei and MFA from Chapman University in Film Production, with an emphasis on directing. After nine years of experience in the industry both above-the-line and under-the-line, and directing many short films, she now works with both Taiwanese and American productions as a writer-director, a bilingual coordinator, and as an assistant director. Liang-Chun is also currently in development on Grandmas’ Bikini, a new feature film focused on the identity crisis and self-recognition of elderly women.

About Cynthia: Editor, film lover and a working machine with a good vibe.

About “Still Rolling,”: A rookie filmmaker finds it hard to celebrate at the wrap party when questioning a career decision.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Liang-Chun Lin & Cynthia Yuxin Zhong, director & editor of  “Still Rolling”:  

Instagram: @liangchun8066

“Encaged Love,” directed by Carlos Mendez

About Carlos: Carlos Alberto Mendez Velazquez Is a DACAmented filmmaker born in Mexico City residing in Los Angeles since three years of age. Carlos has worked on live television shows and for news stations, and has directed live sports, documentaries and short films. Carlos graduated from CSULB with a B.A. in film and television studies. His films have won Best Picture awards at campus film festivals, and his work has been recognized in a variety of media outlets, including Univision, Telemundo, EFE, Uproxx and La Opinion. He has dedicated his filmography to telling stories of the undocumented community. Carlos is the founder of UndocuCinema, an organization dedicated to advocate for undocumented artist in the film and TV industry.

About: A stop-motion short film that follows the innocence of a child who migrates in order to find his mother.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Carlos Mendez director of “Encaged Love”: 

“Refrigerate After Opening,” directed by Kevin Ung

About Kevin: Kevin Ung is a Television Academy fellow and was also the first fellow for Star Trek’s Command Training Program. His short film “Chubby Can Kill” was nominated for several awards, including the Golden Reel, and the Linda Mabalot New Directors Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. His most recent film at USC, “Refrigerate After Opening,” is now making the festival rounds, and just won the Audience Choice Award at the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association Film Festival and the Pittsburgh Film Festival. He is the son of Cambodian genocide refugees, and while his filmmaking subjects are varied, they are often influenced by his family’s refugee experience in Cambodia and America, as well as his time in Hong Kong.

About “Refrigerate After Opening,”: A man who is down on his luck finds a second shot at life when he buys himself a magical refrigerator.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Kevin Ung director of “Refrigerate After Opening”: 

“Hiro’s Pizza,” directed by Derek Aiello

About Derek: Born in San Francisco, raised in Colorado, schooled in Boston and now based in Los Angeles, Derek is a filmmaker whose work embodies his mixed FilipinX identity, living between two different worlds everyday. His work seeks to entertain, educate and explore unspoken characters in unknown worlds. Currently, Derek is working on his next film and is volunteering with the Tuesday Night Project in Little Tokyo.

About: A down-on-his-luck pizza delivery guy makes a treacherous cross-state journey to help an old friend.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Derek Aiello of “Hiro’s Pizza”: 

Instagram: @derekaiello

Twitter: @derekaiello

“COVER/AGE” directed by Set Hernandez Rongkilyo

About Set: Set Hernandez Rongkilyo is a filmmaker and community organizer from Bicol, Philippines. Set directed and produced the award-winning short documentary “COVER/AGE” (2019) about healthcare for undocumented adults. An alumnus of the Disruptors Fellowship, Set is also developing a TV comedy pilot and a feature-length screenplay. Set served as Impact Producer for projects including “In Plain Sight” (2020) and “Call Her Ganda” (Tribeca, 2018). Their work-in-progress documentary, “unseen,” has been supported by the Sundance Institute, Field of Vision and NBCUniversal, among others. Since 2010, Set has been organizing around migrant justice issues, from deportation defense to co-founding the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective.

About “COVER/AGE,”: Two immigrant leaders (one an elderly caregiver, the other a policy advocate) fight for the Health4All Movement to expand healthcare coverage for everyone in California.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Set Hernandez Rongkilyo director of “ COVER/AGE”: 

Instagram: @sethernandezr

“How to do Sh!t with Guido Gagootz,” directed by Adriano Valentini

Guido: An actor, stand-up comedian and writer known for The Offer, Minx, “How To Do Sh!t with Guido Gagootz,” Little Italy and eating pizza for breakfast. Born in Boston to immigrant parents, Adriano quickly learned how to be a person and grow in life and enjoy the moments and be grateful for things such as the end of the sentence. He also enjoys being sarcastic.

About “ How to do Sh!t with Guido Gagootz”: With the help of his diverse neighbors, an argumentative, tracksuit-wearing, oddly woke Italian-American, known as Guido “Gagootz” Gaguzzi, starts a one-minute “how to” YouTube show that never actually teaches anyone “how to” do anything. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Guido Gaguzzi, star of “How to do Sh!t with Guido Gagootz”:

Instagram: @guidogagootz

Twitter: @guidogagootz

“Lift,” directed by Abraham Amkpa 

About Abraham: Abraham is an actor and filmmaker from New York City. His directorial and writing debut short “The Loop,” about a young Black man who goes to extremes to reconnect with his estranged father, is currently being submitted to festivals. His second film, “Lift,” is particularly dear to the director’s heart: He is the son of immigrants from West Africa and has lived across three continents — Europe, Africa, and America. He deeply understands the unique pressure immigrants face as they attempt to assimilate and chase a better life for their families through citizenship. “Lift” looks to bring these stories to life.

About “Lift”: Two Nigerian weightlifters must compete against each other in order to gain U.S. citizenship.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Abraham Ampka, director of “Lift”:

Instagram: @callmejmallory

Twitter: @AbrahamJAmkpa

“At Dawn,” directed by Fany De La Chica

About Fany: Fany De La Chica 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 and 2020 Gotham x JetBlue x Focus Features Student Filmmaker Award. It is also BAFTA Student Film Award nominated. As an artist by trade and a storyteller by nature, Fany creates work that is a deep dive into vivid worlds, with a focus on themes of duality, family, and identity, featuring ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

About “At Dawn,”: Triana is an Andalusian woman who needs to fight against the patriarchy and free the women of a small town. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Fany De La Chica, director of “At Dawn”:

Main image: “COVER/AGE” by Set Hernandez Rongkilyo.