NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) presented a DocuSlate documentary program that included films about a play led by actors with Parkinson’s, trans people fighting for acceptance, and the growing demand for abortion pills by mail.
The November morning began with the paired presentation of Jim Bernfield’s debut feature Me To Play about a production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame put on by two actors with Parkinson’s, as well as Anthony Scalia’s short documentary “Bendix: Site Unseen,” about a blind restaurateur.
Next came the West Coast Premiere of Jack C. Newell’s “How (Not) to Build a School in Haiti” about the troubles of an international aid project. The afternoon’s programming continued with Dante Alencastre’s feature documentary “AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman,” about the crucial LGBTQ+ and AIDS activist. and Alberto Amoretti’s short documentary “Goor-Jigeen (Man-Woman),” about gay men in Senegal fighting for the right to love.
The line-up next presented the pairing of Juliana Curi’s feature documentary “UÝRA – The Rising Forest,” about a trans indigenous artist on a journey of education and self discovery, and Chiara Hollender’s short “Women of the Earth, Twila,” about women’s stewardship of indigenous land.
The evening continued with “With This Breath I Fly” by Sam French and Clementine Malpas, a portrait of two Afghan women in prison for “moral crimes” that analyzes the systems complicit in their suffering.
The night concluded with DocuSlate Shorts, a collection of documentary short films on subjects ranging from one man’s life in the Canary Islands, a cinephile’s journey to honor Akira Kurosawa, and more.
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 writer and producer Carolyn McDonald.
“Women of the Earth, Twila,” directed by Chiara Hollender
About Chiara: Chiara Hollender is an Iranian-American filmmaker and storyteller based in New England. Hollender’s work is deeply empowered by the voices of women, and the beauty of land and nature as a whole. She seeks to disrupt the homogenization and colonization of women’s bodies, and has been called to capture stories that focus on healing. In the documentary space, Chiara has produced work for the Discovery+ and PBS. She’s also worked for Radical Media, AMC Networks, and SLMBR PRTY in NYC.
About “Women of the Earth, Twila,”: On the San Carlos Apache Reservation, master forager Twila Cassadore has made it her life’s mission to reintroduce young people to their ancestral lands. Through teaching and mentoring, Cassadore is reigniting her tribe’s passion for traditional practices as a vehicle for food sovereignty and generational healing.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Chiara Hollender, director of “Women of the Earth, Twila”:
“UÝRA – The Rising Forest,” directed by Juliana Curi
About Juliana: Juliana Curi is a Brazilian-Latina film director and visual artist. She began her career in the creative department of MTV Brazil developing socio-cultural impact campaigns. Since then she was a Bric Brooklyn Film+TV Resident and UN Women’s Award winner, and her projects include the documentary film UYRA-The Rising Forest and the filmmaking inclusion program EUETU Lab.
About “UÝRA – The Rising Forest,”: Uýra, a trans-indigenous artist, travels through the Amazon forest on a journey of self-discovery using performance art and ancestral messages to teach indigenous youth and confront structural racism and transphobia in Brazil.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Juliana Curi, director of “UÝRA – The Rising Forest”:
“Abortion: Add to Cart,” directed by Jessica Sarah Flaum
About Jessica: Jessica Sarah Flaum is a director, actor, and writer living in Los Angeles. She directed “Abortion: Add to Cart,” a 35-minute documentary about access to abortion pills online. As an actor, she has worked on projects for HBOMax, Netflix, Showtime, and more. She wrote a horror-comedy feature currently in production with Cinedigm and Roundtable Entertainment. She currently works at Saville Productions, a documentary production company, as an associate producer.
About “Abortion: Add to Cart,”: In the digital age, self-managed abortions come in a new form: pills ordered online. With increasing burdens on clinics, activists are combining the powers of abortion pills and the internet to provide abortions in a revolutionary way. This movement highlights how harnessing this technology could transform accessibility in the United States.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jessica Sarah Flaum, director of “Abortion: Add to Cart”:
Me To Play, directed by Jim Bernfield
About Jim: Before producing and directing Me To Play, Jim Bernfield wrote, directed, and produced award-winning films that were broadcast and exhibited nationwide. “Rally Behind the Virginians” aired on public television. He wrote “It’s Best Not to Know,” a two-part miniseries about two sisters who survive at Auschwitz. The two shorts he wrote and directed won awards at festivals around the country. His pilot won the Creative World TV writing competition and his short screenplay won the Nickelodeon Comedy Writing Award at when he was at Columbia. Jim earned his MFA at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
About “Me To Play,”: Two actors with Parkinson’s disease put up an off-Broadway production of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece, “Endgame,” the play Beckett wrote after his own mother died of the disease as a metaphor for living with Parkinson’s.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jim Bernfield, director of “Me To Play”:
“Kurosawa’s Grave,” directed by Ben Lopez
About Ben: Born in Mexico City, raised in Tucson and based in Los Angeles, Ben López is a recognized leader in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space in Hollywood. His formal entry into filmmaking as an independent producer gave him real-world insight into the challenges faced by Latino/a/x/e and BIPoC filmmakers, especially when he himself wrote, produced and directed content in multiple languages resulting in a critical pivot for López, making him one of the main advocates for Latino creatives. As an in-demand content expert, curator of Latino/a/x/e and Latin American talent, as well as a consultant to major Hollywood studios, López remains active in creating channels to fund, support, and drive content focused on diverse communities.
About “Kurosawa’s Grave,”: Viewed through the eyes of an expert cinephile, this pilgrimage to Japan and love letter to Akira Kurosawa will transport the audience to a moment where modernity meets nostalgia.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Ben Lopez, director of “Kurosawa’s Grave”:
“La Isla de Alfredo (Alfredo’s Island),” directed by Curtis Matzke
About Curtis: Curtis Matzke is an Emmy-nominated screenwriter and director based in Chicago who in the fall of 2021 was mentored by legendary director Werner Herzog. Curtis has contributed to numerous short films, documentaries, and micro-budget features recognized at dozens of film festivals, including Chicago International, Cinequest, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, and more. In 2018, Curtis was named “Most Diabolical” by the National Academy of Sciences and Austin Film Festival. Curtis holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Media Arts and Technology from Michigan State University.
About “La Isla de Alfredo (Alfredo’s Island),”: “La Isla de Alfredo” was created as part of Werner Herzog’s Filming a Strange Planet accelerator program in the Canary Islands and features Alfredo Mora García as he describes his life on the island of Lanzarote while exploring environmentalism and the importance of nature. The film is a love letter to Lanzarote and the beauty that surrounds it.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Curtis Matzke, director of “La Isla de Alfredo (Alfredo’s Island)”:
“Gone,” directed by Kyle Ward
About Kyle: Kyle Ward is a filmmaker based in San Antonio, Texas, who attends John Marshall High School. At 17, his directorial debut short film “Gone” was accepted into the 2022 SXSW Texas High School Shorts category. He went on to win multiple awards including the Audience Choice Award at the Indy Shorts International Film Festival and Best San Antonio High School Filmmaker Award at the San Antonio Film Festival. He has been selected to be in many notable festivals around the country as well. He plans to attend film school and to continue to tell emotionally motivated films.
About “Gone,”: As development encroaches on a farming community, they struggle with the loss of their heritage and land.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Kyle Ward, director of “GONE”:
“Goor-Jigeen Man-Woman,” directed by Alberto Amoretti
About Alberto: Alberto Amoretti is a screenwriter and director. He graduated at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Milan in 2010, and he started his career writing for Italian television. He debuts as director with the documentary ATOPOS, generi teatranti (2016). In 2017 he was a guest of Thread, the artist residence of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, for which he developed, in collaboration with Giovanni Hänninen, the video “Anni’s Loom” (2017) presented at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the short movie “A Touching Sight” (2019), and the doc-series “Senegal/Sicily” (2018-2020). In recent years he has worked on video direction of concerts for Italian symphonic institutions, including the Fondazione Toscanini and Filarmonica della Scala.
About “Goor-Jigeen Man-Woman,”: In an homophobic country, young Senegalese men fight for their right to love.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Alberto Amoretti, director of “Goor-Jigeen Man-Woman”: