NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) celebrated Middle Eastern, Arab & Dutch cinema with stories of a fracturing foster family, a Nazi war criminal, and a big, snoozing pig.
With presenting partners The Arab Film and Media Institute (AFMI) and Dutch Culture USA (Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in New York) , NFMLA’s annual NFMLA Film Festival InFocus: Middle Eastern, Arab & Dutch Cinema showcased emerging filmmakers with three short film programs.
The day began with InFocus: Dutch Cinema, featuring rising Dutch short film directors, curated in partnership with SEE NL. The films included examinations of poverty, war crimes, and policing.
The programming continued with films curated in partnership with The Arab Film and Media Institute (AFMI). It included stories of leaving and returning to a place that was once home.
The night concluded with InFocus: Middle Eastern Cinema, which included stories of family, friendship, political upheaval, and gender transition in seemingly impossible circumstances.
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).
“It’s Nice In Here,” directed by Robert-Jonathan Koeyers
About Robert-Jonathan Koeyers: Koeyers studied animation at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and graduated with a visual poem titled “Here” (2018), for which he received a Threshold Award. He uses film, photography, animation, music, and other mediums. His work explores and dissects the human condition and tries to examine why we work as we do.
About “It’s Nice in Here”: A fragmented portrait of a moment, a person, and a place, seen through the subjective memories of a young Black girl, Imani, and a rookie police officer, David, who have wildly different recollections of the same faithful moment in a corner store that will leave their lives altered forever.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Robert-Jonathan Koeyers, director of “IT’S NICE IN HERE”:
“Spotless (Vlekkeloos),” directed by Emma Branderhorst
About Emma: She graduated as a director from the University of the Arts Utrecht in 2019, and has worked as an assistant director for larger Dutch film productions and as a casting director. Emma is enthusiastic and full of passion, and fights for the stories that are close to her heart.
A progressive feminist, she is fascinated by themes of youth and nurturing. Her short film “Onderhuids (Under the Skin)” had its international premiere during Berlinale Generation 2020 and won a Wildcard at the Netherlands Film Festival. Emma just finished making her new film “Ma Mere, et Moi,” and developing several other projects and directing commercials.
About “Spotless”: When 15 year old Ruby realizes she is having her period, she doesn’t want to ask her mother to buy her period products, because she knows their financial situation doesn’t really allow it. To make sure she doesn’t bother anyone with her problem, she tries to solve it herself.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Emma Branderhorst, director of “Spotless”:
“Pig (Varken),” written and directed by Jorn Leeuwerink
About Jorn: Jorn Leeuwerink tells seemingly sweet fables about serious themes, with dark humor and a playful visual style. He studied animation at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and graduated in 2017 with the film “Flower Found!” which was selected for over 70 festivals worldwide, won 16 awards and was included in the 20th Animation Show of Shows.
In 2022 he finished his first professional film “Pig,” which so far has been selected for 34 festivals and won eight awards. He works as an animation director and shares a studio in Amsterdam with other animation artists. In 2018 he co-founded the FluXus Animation Film Festival, where he is responsible for the film selection and artistic direction.
About “Pig (Varken)”: A group of animals hook up a power grid to the socket-shaped snout of one big, sleeping pig.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jorn Leeuwerink, writer and director of “Pig (Varken)”:
“Foster,” written and directed by Jordi Wijnalda
About Jordi: Jordi Wijnalda (Haarlem, 1990) is an itinerant filmmaker, constantly impressed by everyday life. His Columbia University graduation film “Southwest” was shortlisted for a Student Academy Award (2014) and premiered at MoMA for New Directors/New Films.
Once back in Europe, he translated his love for film and people into the short films “Now What?” (2014), “Lukas Aan Zee” (2016) and “Gilles” (2017).
About “Foster”: An all-male foster family tries to enjoy one last morning together before their unity will be broken by what was inevitable all along.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jordi Wijnalda, writer and director of “Foster”:
“Man In The Morgue,” written and directed by Omar Kakar
About Omar: Omar Kakar is an interdisciplinary architect-turned-filmmaker and a first-generation Afghan American. His cross-cultural upbringing and holistic nature led him into the arts.
He holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from Woodbury University, where he exhibited experimental & documentary films, in addition to design work, later featured on Archdaily and the Arquiteturas Film Festival Lisboa. Omar earned his MFA in Film from Columbia University, and was awarded the Directing Fellowship under filmmaker Ramin Bahrani.
About “Man in the Morgue”: An embalmer discovers a renewed sense of life upon the uncovering of a mysterious doppelgänger on his mortuary table.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Omar Kakar, writer and director of “Man in the Morgue”:
“Before Dawn, Kabul Time,” starring Gilda Momeni
About “Before Dawn, Kabul Time”: Inspired by true events, the story of an Afghan prosecutor fleeing from the Taliban.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Gilda Momeni from “Before Dawn, Kabul Time”:
“Hedgehog,” written and directed by Ye’ela Rosenfeld
About Ye’ela: Ye’ela worked as a director in the Israeli film and TV industry. In Prague she worked with Roman Polanski directing the behind-the-scenes featurette for “Oliver Twist.” Ye’ela graduated from AFI, where she directed “The Evening Journey,” starring Malcolm McDowell.
Ye’ela directed multiple theater shows including “Ferdinand!” “The Physicists,” “No Exit,” and Howard Zinn’s “Marx in Soho.” Her shorts “Just in Case” and “Hedgehog” played in film festivals worldwide and won multiple awards. Her debut feature script “The First Day of Spring” was developed with the help of Sundance Institute mentors Joan Darling and Gyula Gazdag.
About “Hedgehog”: A young caregiver at a senior home accidentally discovers that one of her patients is a former Nazi criminal, hiding under a false identity.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Ye’ela Rosenfeld, writer and director of “Hedgehog”