NewFilmmakers Los Angeles celebrated emerging filmmakers both near and far with stories of family and trauma, surreal horror and magical fiction, and representation of the Latinx and Hispanic communities in celebration of Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month.
The day in September began with InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Shorts I – Connection and Disconnection, a rich collection of narrative and documentary work about the nature of connection and disconnection. The afternoon continued with InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Shorts II – The Surreal, a selection of stories expressed through horror, science fiction, magic and narratives that blur the line between the real and surreal. The evening concluded with InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Shorts III – Representation, a line-up of films that explore the idea of representation from a variety of angles and ask what it means to represent and be represented – in media, geographically, in the crafting of an onstage persona and in the way individuals choose to engage with their culture and what it means to them..
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).
“Bertie the Brilliant,” directed by Gabriela García Medina
About Gabriela: Gabriela Garcia Medina is a Cuban-American filmmaker. Her short “Little Con Lili” won Best of Fest at HBO Women in Comedy Fest, Best Short (NBC), and is available on HBO. Her short “The 90 Day Plan,” won Best of Fest at HBO Women in Comedy Fest, and is also available on HBO. Gabriela’s musical-comedy “Bertie The Brilliant” was made in collaboration with WarnerMedia OneFifty & Latino Public Broadcasting. Gabriela is a Film Independent Directing Lab fellow, and an Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences Film Accelerator Lab fellow. She received a BFA from UCLA’s School of TFT, & holds two MFAs from CalArts.
About “Bertie the Brilliant”: A young boy takes on chores and small jobs around his neighborhood to raise money for a ticket to a magic show, but when his grandmother loses her job, he is faced with a difficult decision.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Gabriela García Medina, director of “Bertie the Brilliant”:
“Bad Hombrewood” directed by Guillermo Casarin
About Guillermo: Guillermo Casarín is a Mexican film director. Casarín has directed several shorts, commercials, and PSAs. Among his work is the campaign “Este año, tu voto es Cosa Seria,” which reached 43 million people. Some of his clients were HBO, The City of Los Angeles, Pasadena, CVS Health, the America Cancer Society, etc. He co-directed the film Phantom of the Opera, financed by the six-time Emmy winner John Wells.
About “Bad Hombrewood”: For decades, the film industry has confined minorities to stereotypical characters. Now, filmmakers fight to change the Latinx role in Hollywood.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Guillermo Casarin, director of “Bad Hombrewood”:
“No Soy Óscar” directed by Jon Ayon
About Jon: Jon Ayon is a Mestizx (Comcáac/Pipil/Xicano/Salvadoreño) filmmaker from LA. He began his career directing music videos for punk and indie bands in the Pacific Northwest. His work has earned him awards and recognition from Francis Ford and Roman Coppola, The Annenberg Foundation, SFFILM, NewFilmmakers LA, the Points North Institute, and the International Documentary Association. Ayon’s films highlight issues pertaining to the Latinx Diaspora such as Indigeneity, colonialism, & generational trauma.
About “No Soy Óscar”: A Salvadoran-American father films a letter to his daughter as he travels along the southern border.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jon Ayon, director of “No Soy Óscar”:
“Mancha” directed by Nicole Mejia
About Nicole: Nicole Mejia is a Los Angeles-based director, writer and producer. She is the inaugural fellow for the Adelante Lab, a television shadowing fellowship in partnership with The Latinx House, Netflix, Sundance and Shondaland. Her first feature “A Place In The Field” premiered at the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Originally from Honduras, she is the first in her family to hold an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute, where she was awarded the Audi Fellowship for Women.
About “Mancha”: Cursed by generations of the Mancha, Cory must fight this dark presence to protect her daughter from the same fate.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Nicole Mejia, director of “Mancha”:
“Sabor Ártico: Latinos En Alaska” directed by Indra Arriaga Delgado
About Indra: Indra Arriaga Delgado is an artist, writer, and filmmaker from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico who lives and works in Alaska. Indra has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. In 2019, she received a Rasmuson Individual Artist Award for her Etimologías Opacas/Opaque Etymologies project. Her recent film Sabor Ártico was co-produced with Latino Public Broadcasting. Her film reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes. Her current projects include films, cultural projects, and writing that explore queer, Latinx, and indigenous identities.
About “Sabor Ártico: Latinos En Alaska”: Sabor Ártico (Arctic Flavor) is a short documentary by Indra Arriaga Delgado that provides a unique narrative about the evolving identity of the Latino community in Alaska through a series of interviews on food and culture.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Indra Arriaga Delgado, director of “Sabor Ártico: Latinos En Alaska”:
“Aion” directed by Giulio Meliani
About Giulio: Giulio Meliani is a Los Angeles-based Brazilian-American filmmaker. Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Giulio attended art school, where he discovered his passion for image-making and storytelling. After moving to Los Angeles in 2006, he completed his photography education at Santa Monica College in 2010 and began pursuing filmmaking assisting for commercial productions in Los Angeles. In 2012, Giulio started his own production company, Joy Per Second, where he is a director, DP, editor, and colorist for commercials, music videos, and mini-documentaries. “Aion” is his narrative short film debut as both writer and director.
About “Aion”: A story about a single father and his ill son defying the unstoppable power of time through their relationship and love for each other.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Giulio Meliani, director of “Aion”:
“Preggers” written by Marco Parra
About Marco: Marco Parra is an actor/filmmaker born and raised in Nogales, Arizona. Marco’s acting credits include network shows such as: Showtimes critically acclaimed series Shameless, John Singleton’s FX crime-drama Snowfall, Hulu/Freeform’s new Party Of Five, and most recently The Shrink Next Door, working alongside Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd. Although Marco was booking acting work, there was still something missing. He found the missing piece in volunteering for the Young Storyteller’s program, where industry professionals help elementary students write a short screenplay. Marco learned the basics of screenwriting along with his 10-year-old mentee, and has been writing and producing his own projects ever since.
About “Preggers”: Isabella’s life is flipped upside down after a chance meeting with a bruja.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Marco Parra, writer of “Preggers”:
“Más Latina” directed by Janeva Zentz
About Janeva: A multicultural storyteller, Janeva was born in the San Fernando Valley and raised by her Guatemalan single mom. In response to Latine stereotypes onscreen, Janeva created the series “Más Latina,” which fuses smart comedy with authentic storytelling. She wrote, produced, directed, and acted in the pilot presentation of “Más Latina,” winner of the Audience Award at Stareable. Since 2015, she has been performing stand-up.
About “Más Latina”: In a male-dominated comedy scene, a Latina struggles to make her mark. She breaks through by imitating the strong women in her family, unwittingly bringing them into her stand-up comedy adventure.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Janeva Zentz, director of “Más Latina”:
“Noche Del Infierno” written by Vee Saieh
About Vee: Vee was born and raised in the seaside town of Barranquilla, Colombia, and identifies as non-binary (she/they). She blends her passion for the unknown with the stark realities of life to tell stories of ghosts, broken people, and their one shot at redemption. Vee’s work has received multiple awards, including being recently nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2022 Best of NFMLA Awards. She is an MFA graduate of USC’s John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television.
About “Noche Del Infierno”: Three freshman pledges must denounce cultural stereotypes and survive a magical test to gain entry into the most prestigious Latina sorority.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Vee Saieh, writer of “Noche Del Infierno”:
“Pool Boy” directed by Luke Willis
About Luke: Luke Willis is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker. He comes to filmmaking after 12 years as a classical ballet dancer primarily for the San Francisco Ballet. He developed his passion for queer cinema while working as an assistant on the 2019 Tribeca Audience Award-winning feature documentary Gay Chorus Deep South. Luke loves stories of magical realism, romance, and adventure, and as a gay man who grew up in the conservative South in the 90s, is committed to stories of hope and healing for queer communities and other historically excluded communities.
About “Pool Boy”: Austin, a college jock home for the summer, unexpectedly develops feelings for Star, his parents’ non-binary pool cleaner, and struggles to hide his growing feelings from his clique of straight friends.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Luke Willis, director of “Pool Boy”:
“Ember” directed by Manuel Del Valle
About Manuel: Manuel Del Valle is a Mexican film director and producer based in Los Angeles. Del Valle’s focus is on narrative form, primarily independent films but extends to commercials and music videos. His early but intensive education includes ArtCenter College of Design, California College of the Arts, New York Film Academy, and HBO’s sponsored workshop, Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today. His narrative work is often described as bedtime stories crafted for adults where genre-blending takes center stage.
About “Ember”: A grieving family is at odds when a traumatized young woman comes into their lives claiming to be the daughter that was taken from them a decade earlier.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Manuel Del Valle, director of “Ember”:
NFMLA Stage 5 Filmmaker Interview | Manuel Del Valle
“Tundra” directed by Jose Luis Aparicio
About Jose: José Luis Aparicio Ferrera (Cuba, 1994) is an independent filmmaker, critic and curator with a B.A. in Film Directing from Cuba’s University of the Arts (ISA). He has directed fiction and documentary shorts like “Tundra,” “El Secadero’” and “Sueños Al Pairo.” His films have been selected by festivals such as Sundance, Locarno, Miami, BAFICI, Guanajuato, Curta Cinema, Lago and World Cinema Amsterdam. He has been awarded at Fantaspoa, Pendance, New Jersey and New York City Independent film festivals.
About “Tundra”: Walfrido Larduet, a lonely electrical inspector, dreams of the Red Woman, whose image persists and becomes an obsession.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jose Luis Aparicio, director of “Tundra”:
“Tejano Night” directed by Alexander Rosales
About Alexander: Originally from the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Alexander is based in Texas utilizing intimate and creative storytelling as a film and commercial director. After graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2015 with a BFA in Film/Video, he freelanced in the film industry as a camera operator, traveling worldwide for various projects. But in an effort to narrow his focus, Alexander has spent the last few years as an MFA candidate in Film & Media Production at the University of Texas at Austin. His work as a graduate student has been screened at the Austin Film Festival, deadCenter Film Festival and Palm Springs International ShortFest. His pre-thesis short film “Tejano Night” is a recipient of an Austin Film Society Grant.
About “Tejano Night”: While at a family gathering in South Texas, an awkward Mexican-American, Mijo, is forced to tag along on his cousin’s night out after butchering his Spanish pronunciation in front of his family.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Alexander Rosales, director of “Tejano Night”:
“Breathe” directed by Victor Velasco
About Victor: Victor Velasco is a Venezuelan writer and director based in Los Angeles. His newest short film, “Spoon,” played in competition at more than 30 festivals, including the Oscar-qualifying festival SITGES, Interfilm Berlin, and the USA Film Festival, where it got the Honorific Award. His cyberpunk action-adventure short film “Shinobi” was nominated at multiple festivals, including the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland Film Festival. It was also featured on Director’s Notes, CGSociety and Filmshortage. It stars Maximiliano Hernandez (The Walking Dead, Sicario, Captain America: Winter Soldier).
About “Breathe”: A stray astronaut with low oxygen is ready to die when a cosmic monolith drives him into a surreal journey.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Victor Velasco, director of “Breathe”:
Main image: “AION,” directed by Giulio Meliani.