A still from "Blue and White" directed by Hiroyuki Nishiyama, courtesy of NFMLA

Stories about a beloved sex-ed teacher and a secret boyfriend who foils his girlfriend’s mother’s plans were among the highlights from NewFilmmakers Los Angeles’ InFocus: Counter-Ageism Program.

The January edition of NFMLA’s Monthly Film Festival spotlighted the fight against ageism with a selection of short film highlights from its ongoing program, as well as Dalila Droege’s debut feature No More Time.

The day started with January Shorts, a collection of comedy, sci-fi, drama music video and documentary work. Films in this block covered topics ranging from following your heart, resisting assimilation, challenging traditions, facing a painful past, poignant losses, bittersweet regrets, and journalists seeking to expose genocide.

The evening continued to InFocus: Counter-Ageism, a collection of films that feature aging protagonists, narratives that challenge stereotypes about age and filmmakers whose work challenges those same stereotypes. This program showed its protagonists seizing life, celebrating their bonds, navigating painful life transitions, working through intergenerational trauma, navigating a world with pointed rules about aging and embracing their passions. 

The night concluded with Droege’s feature directorial debut No More Time. The suspenseful horror film is set in the midst of a strange virus that affects people differently and makes it hard to know who to trust. “Our inspirations were films and works of art that dealt with the past sins of humans catching up to them in unexpected ways,” Droege said of her team’s creative vision.

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. 

NFMLA InFocus: Counter-Ageism program

Here is some information on the filmmakers and their films, as well as their video interviews with NFMLA Board Chair Danny De Lillo.

“Castles in the Sky” Directed By Pearl Gluck

About Pearl Gluck: Pearl Gluck is a filmmaker with a blend of professional and teaching experience. Gluck’s work has been part of the Sundance Lab, Cannes, PBS. She teaches screenwriting, directing and producing in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University.

About “Castles in the Sky”: Living in a cloistered Hasidic milieu in Brooklyn, Malke is a Holocaust survivor and a beloved sex-ed teacher who has never been able to have children of her own.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Pearl Gluck, the director of “Castles in the Sky”:

“Hollow” Directed By Pierce Thomas

About Pierce: Pierce is the quiet presence in a room, watching, listening and learning. This salutatorian turned filmmaker now gears the inquisitive mind he once lent towards academics towards the creative, reveling in the exploration of complex psyches and heavy dramas. He currently attends Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts in pursuit of becoming a full-fledged filmmaker. 

About Hollow: Painted memories overwhelm Elliott as he reads a premeditated letter left by his abusive late father, forcing him to relive a traumatic past.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Pierce Thomas, the director of “Hollow”:

“Blue and White” Directed By Hiroyuki Nishiyama 

About Hiroyuki: Born on October 20, 1974, in 1996 he made his debut as a director of TV commercials. After that, in 2011, he became a part-time lecturer at Toho Gakuen Junior College of Arts, Department of Stage Creation, until 2014. In 2015 and 2017, he directed, composed, and produced the stage performance “In the BOX” in New York. The BOX 2, performed at La MaMa was selected by the New York Times as one of the New York Times’ Top 10 Stages to Watch. His first film, “20dB” was selected for the Golden Goblet Award in the Short Film category at the 23rd SIFF.

About “Blue and White”: The film is about a craftsman who loses his beloved wife and continues to make salt using traditional methods, preserving its history even on the day of his farewell funeral.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Hiroyuki Nishiyama, the director of “Blue and White”:

Also Read: A Fishmonger’s Sex Pact, a Psychopath, and Too Much Cologne Highlight NFMLA’s InFocus: Middle Eastern & Arab Cinema Program

“Un Paseo” Directed By Anahita von Andrian-Werburg

About Anahita: Anahita hails from Boston with German-Iranian roots. She fuses activism, business insight, and VFX expertise, balancing creative flair with tech savvy across a diverse portfolio of work. With a directorial portfolio covering documentaries on equality and climate justice, experimental dance narratives, mixed media music videos, and tech ads, she’s a senior at NYU’s Tisch Kanbar Institute of Film & Television, minoring in the Business of Entertainment, Media, & Technology.

As an editor, colorist, & VFX supervisor, she has post-production credits with Warner Brothers and Sub Pop Records hits. As the founding producer of Saffron Vigilante Pictures LLC, her NY-based “small footprint big impact” short-form production company, Anahita’s currently focused on managing indie productions with guiding principles of sustainability and empathy, both on and off-screen.

About “Un Paseo”: In a whimsical chase through New York’s East Village on Valentine’s Day, a young man follows his runaway heart, leading to encounters that reveal the interconnectedness of love and loss.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Anahita von Andrian-Werburg, the director of “Un Paseo”:

“Take Good Care” Directed By Dedi Felman

About Dedi: Dedi Felman is a writer and director born and raised in the wilds of New Jersey. She loves character-driven genre-crossing stories that confront profound human truths with a sense of humor. A member of the inaugural class of the HBOAccess Writing Fellowship, she teaches TV and feature writing for Genre Masters. Her short film “Allegiance” was a finalist at the USA Film Festival. “Take Good Care” the short, premiered at Hollyshorts Film Festival and screened at Burbank International. Dedi is currently in development on two features, including a female-forward heist film about risk in America.

About “Take Good Care”: In a world where older people are expected to quietly die at 65, a single-minded scientist, desperate for more time, needs her long-neglected artist daughter to take good care — of her.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Dedi Felman, the director of “Take Good Care”:

“No Vows, No Cows” Directed By San-San Onglatco

About San-San Onglatco: San-San Onglatco is a Los Angeles-based Filipinx-Chinese filmmaker. She is a 2022 Film Independent Project Involve Directing Fellow and a 2021 Sundance Uprise Grantee and a graduate of the AFI Conservatory MFA Directing Program. She holds a Screenwriting Certificate from UCLA and a B.A. in Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University. Onglatco is an advocate of amplifying underrepresented voices both in front and behind the camera. She gravitates towards stories about the human condition within a sociopolitical context, with an emphasis on the immigrant experiences of the Southeast Asian and Filipino/x/a diaspora.

About “No Vows, No Cows”: A South African mother brings her ideal, future son-in-law over for lunch, but her rebellious daughter has a surprise in store–a secret boyfriend.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Joyce Liu-Countryman, the producer  of “No Vows, no Cows”:

No More Time Directed By Dalila Droege

About Dalila: Dalila Droege recently completed No More Time, her feature film writing and directing debut. She made the film while participating in the 2021 Women in Film Mentorship Program. Her short films include “Tehachapi” starring Amy Seimetz, and “Heads or Tails” which she made as a directing fellow at Film Independent’s Project: Involve. Her films have screened at festivals around the world.

Dalila received an MFA in Writing and Directing at Columbia College Chicago. She co-produced the award winning Sun Don’t Shine and has also assisted her mentor Nicole Holofcener on Enough Said and The Land of Steady Habits.

About “No More Time”: A couple seeks refuge in a remote mountain town to escape a mysterious disease that makes some people disappear and others turn into hateful murderers.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Dalila Droege, the director of “No More Time”:

“Development” Directed By Chloe Caudillo

About Chloe: Chloe Caudillo is a writer, director, and producer who hails from the vast cornfields of DeKalb, Illinois. A graduate of The Second City’s Harold Ramis Film School and a 2023 LALIFF/Netflix Inclusion Fellow, Chloe is passionate about using genre for social commentary. She aims to create compelling visual stories featuring unconventional protagonists who are agents of change. Her experience as a bicultural woman is infused in her storytelling, and themes of identity and classism are prominent in her work. Other short films that Chloe has written, directed, and produced have been Official Selections at several national film festivals.

About “Development”: Struggling to climb the corporate ladder, a Latina office worker finally lands a leadership training seminar, only to realize that to be successful, trainees must become clones of the boss.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Chloe Caudillo, the director of “Development”:

“Things I’ve Made My Roommate Do” Directed By Mylissa Fitzsimmons

About Mylissa: Mylissa spent her early childhood in Utah before moving to Oregon as a teen. While in high school she started photographing bands and making skate videos. She spent her twenties in Seattle documenting the music scene before moving to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking. As a writer, producer and director, her films include the shorts “That Party That One Night” and “Who Decides.” She is the 2017 Sun Valley Film Festival short film lab winner and an alumni of the 2018 Reykjavik Talent Lab in Iceland.

A Screencraft finalist for her short story writing and short films, in 2020 she was a top 3 finalist for the Lynn Shelton “of a certain age” grant and is a 2023 Ryan Murphy Half Initiative mentee. She is the co-founder of The Los Angeles Women’s Film Collective and a WIFLA member. In 2021 she made her debut feature film, Everything in The End, filmed in Iceland on a micro budget. She is currently in post production for her second feature, In The Long Run.

About “Things I’ve Made My Roommate Do”: Max loves Samantha, Olivia loves Max, Samantha is leaving town. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Mylissa Fitzsimmons, the director of “Thing I’ve Made My Roommate Do”:

“Look At The Stars” Directed By Aris Kouvaras

About Aris: Aris Kouvaras was born and raised in Athens. He studied Film Studies and Management at Clark University in Massachusetts, and Directing/Film Production at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. He has worked in advertising in Spain and Greece while simultaneously running projects such as a stop motion web-series. His script “Inversion” qualified for the semi-finals of the Slamdance Festival. Now, after a break of a few years, he returns with “Look at the Stars”.

About “Look At The Stars”: In the twilight of his life, an elderly man revisits a bittersweet memory, and reshapes it in the way he would have liked to have lived it.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Eva Papadakou, the producer of “Look At The Stars”:

Main Image: A still from “Blue and White” Directed By Hiroyuki Nishiyama, NFMLA