A lonely woman confronts her aging self, an older couple go on a first date at an art museum, a married man tries to decode unanswered questions, two people join forces in a dystopian future, and a neglected hero deals with the consequences of his revolutionary invention.
These are just a few of the stories highlighted at the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival that celebrated emerging directors tackling stories that focus on aging, love and personal autonomy.
The January NFMLA festival also included the feature directorial debut of actor and writer Stephen Keep Mills, and began with the InFocus: Counter-Ageism Shorts program, which explored how one’s perspective and place in society are shaped by time.
This section was followed by the InFocus: Counter-Ageism screening of Stephen Keep Mills’ film Love Is Not Love, an ambiguously poetic and romantic exploration of finding love and personal truth in the midst of conflicting desires.
The festival concluded with the Autonomy Shorts program, which examined how how human beings endure and prosper by adhering to their personal autonomy.
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 are the filmmakers profiled and some detail about their films.
“Younger,” directed by Denise Dove
About Denise: Denise worked for many years as a network television editor. She has a BA from Northeastern University and a MFA in Film from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her writing often centers on Black characters and outsiders.
About “Younger”: A lonely woman jilted by love and time, confronts the loss of both to find her way forward.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Denise Dove, director of “Younger”:
“Wish You Were There,” directed by Kieran Thompson
About Kieran: Kieran directed his first short film, “It From The Pit,” during his tenth birthday party, using his friends as cast and crew, and shot it on his parents’ old VHS camera. That spirit of making films with his friends has carried through to his work today. He exposes human existence for all that it is—as complex and fragile, scary and beautiful—yielding experiences that require everyone involved, from the cast and crew to diverse audiences, to tap into a place of vulnerability and introspection.
About “Wish You Were There”: An older couple on a first date at an art museum explore love both new and old.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Kieran Thompson, director of “Wish You Were There”:
Love Is Not Love, directed by Stephen Keep Mills
About Stephen: Stephen left the Yale Drama School in the spring of 1969 to act with the Guthrie Theatre. He performed on and Off-Broadway and guest-starred in over 25 episodic shows and movies. Mills made his directorial short film debut with “A Cigar at the Beach” (2005), which screened world-wide in 166 festivals, winning 47 awards. He followed that up with another short, “LIMINAL,” in 2008, accumulating 84 festival screenings and 30 awards. “Love is not Love” is Mills’ debut feature as director.
About Alejandra Gollas: A completely bilingual actress, was the recipient of an Ariel Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress (the Mexican equivalent of an Academy Award) for her role in Efectos Secundarios (Side Effects), the first Warner Brothers’ premium feature produced and filmed entirely in Mexico. She began her career as a child actress on the Mexican stage, coming to prominence at age 11 for her acclaimed portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.
About Love Is Not Love: It’s early December in New York City, and everyone is on the hunt for love. Why? Because they haven’t found it — and because of this, they make it into a myth and chase the myth instead. Love Is Not Love is a romantic drama of fantasy, fate, and yearning, where a married man is caught in the divide between the erotic and the domestic, leading him to forfeit one for the other.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Stephen Keep Mills and Alejandra Gollas, director and stars of Love Is Not Love:
“Oasis,” directed by Matthew Wassong
About Matthew: Matthew has produced content for Disney, Netflix, HBO, ESPN and Complex. He has overseen projects from conception to completion and to their subsequent airing on national and worldwide networks. His experience also includes Marvel, Valhalla Entertainment, Blumhouse, and Joint Effort. During the pandemic, he co-founded BoxFort.TV, a creative content distribution channel for shorts, sketches and music videos.
About “Oasis”: In the near future, Earth has completely run out of fresh water. In a world of dehydration and desperation, a curious young man and a mysterious woman both go to great lengths to get the one thing everyone needs to survive.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Matthew Wassong, director of “Oasis”:
“Sweet Potatoes,” directed by Rommel Villa
About Rommel: Rommel is a Bolivian writer/director who grew up producing award-winning plays based on social issues within the Latinx community. Winner of a Directing stipend from Lionsgate-Televisa, Rommel has a degree in Systems Engineering and an MFA in Film/TV Production at USC. In the last few years, Rommel won a couple of grants that funded his award-winning LGBTQ+ thesis film “Teddy Mate,” and “Sweet Potatoes,” a historical film that is a Winner at the 2020 Student Academy Awards. Rommel is currently developing a series based on “Sweet Potatoes” called Revolutionary Lives.
About “Sweet Potatoes”: In this film set in 1951 in Mexico City, Luis Miramontes, a young scientist, deals with the religious and personal consequences of his groundbreaking invention: synthesizing the main component of the contraceptive pill.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Rommel Villa, director of “Sweet Potatoes”:
“On Wenlock Edge,” directed by Jeremy Hamway-Bidgood
About Jeremy: Jeremy Hamway-Bidgood is a filmmaker, puppeteer and animator based in Oxford, UK. Jeremy spends much of his time making and puppet and animation content for theatre, film, and TV. His work draws on traditional shadow-puppet forms, especially wayang kulit and karagoz, as well as animators such as Lotte Reiniger and Jan Svankmajer. Jeremy trained as a puppeteer in the UK and Japan and holds a practice-led PhD in traditional Japanese puppetry.
About Daniel: After studying Engineering at Oxford, Daniel Norman trained as an opera singer in Banff, Tanglewood, and at the Royal Academy of Music. He has an international career on the concert and operatic stage. Becoming a film producer was a result of his passion to find new ways of opening up classical music to new audiences. “On Wenlock Edge” was originally made to accompany live performances of the Vaughan Williams song cycle it is based on.
About “On Wenlock Edge”: A story of love, loss, and learning to let go. Based on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ song cycle from 1909 and the poetry of A. E. Housman, the story is told through a visually striking blend of traditional shadow-puppetry and contemporary animation.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jeremy Hamway-Bidgood and Daniel Norman, director and producer of “On Wenlock Edge”: