Stories of reincarnation, a close connection with a driver, a punk mom staging a quinceañera and a wish upon a disco ball were all part of the packed InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Film Festival held by NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA).
The September event began with InFocus: São Paulo, a collection of films curated in partnership with SPCINE that highlighted the work of a diverse range of filmmakers from the city of São Paulo, Brazil. The program continued with InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Shorts I – Interdependence, a collection of stories about people relying on each other in beautiful and sometimes perilous ways. The third program, InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Shorts II – The Unexplainable, highlighted narratives about characters grasping for answers.
The day concluded with InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema Shorts III – Through the Eyes of Youth, a selection of stories told from the perspective of children and adolescents.
NFMLA showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year. All filmmakers are welcome and encouraged to submit their projects for consideration for upcoming NFMLA Festivals, regardless of the schedule for InFocus programming, which celebrates diversity, inclusion and region by spotlighting communities of filmmakers within our filmmaking community as part of our monthly program. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Angélica” Directed by Victor Velasco
About Victor: Victor Velasco is Venezuelan writer and director based in Los Angeles. He’s passionate about making raw dramas with fantasy/surreal elements and strong visuals. His work is inspired by the human condition, nostalgia and fantastic elements of Latin American Literature. His short films have played in competition at more than 30 festivals, including Sitges, the Cleveland International Film Festival, Interfilm Berlin, LA Shorts and USA Film Festival, where he got the honorific award. Victor is currently writing a screenplay for his feature debut.
About “Angelica”: Angelica, a disheartened Latina, shares a ride with a charismatic driver. As unexpected feelings emerge between them, they’re left wondering: is their newfound connection worth pursuing?
Watch the NFMLA interview with Victor Velasco and Ginaris Sarra director and writer of “Angelica”:
“Wish Upon A Disco Ball” directed by Anabel Iñigo
About Anabel: Anabel Iñigo is a Cuban-Dominican woman born and raised in Miami, Florida. Adopted by her grandparents at an early age, Anabel learned two things: she loves music and movies. So naturally, she loves making movie musicals. She is a recent graduate of USC’s Film & TV Production MFA. As a writer and director, Anabel creates stories that focus on women of color through a feminine lens of kindness, comedy, and sisterhood. Currently, Anabel works with Mexican comedy writer and producer Brittany Miller at Sony as her development assistant. Her goals in life include staying happy, making movies for the whole family, and plotting eternal life for her cat, Versace.
About “Wish Upon a Disco Ball”: Olivia is sick of her sister, Juliana, choosing her boyfriend over her. After Juliana decides to spend time with Leo instead of going to a disco dance together, Olivia has a dream where she wishes on her father’s magical disco ball that Leo and Juliana would break up.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Anabel Iñigo director of “Wish Upon A Disco Ball”:
“Balam” directed by Guillermo Casarin
About Guillermo: Guillermo Casarín is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, and advocate for diverse representation. He has earned recognition from the DGA, Emmys, and numerous Oscar-qualifying film festivals. His portfolio includes short films, commercials, and public service announcements, including the TV campaign “Este año, tu voto es Cosa Seria,” viewed by 46 million people; the short documentary “Bad Hombrewood,” selected by over 50 film festivals; and a documentary for X44, a company founded by seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He also co-directed the horror film “Phantom,” financed by six-time Emmy winner John Wells.
About “Balam”: Itzel, a young girl of Mayan descent, goes on a camping trip with her father deep in the jungle. As they stargaze together, Itzel’s curiosity leads her to wander off and explore the surrounding area. While wandering, she discovers a Jaguar in captivity and, without hesitation, frees the majestic animal.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Guillermo Casarin, director of “Balam”:
“Next week, I promise you Palmares!” directed by Lux Machado & Lara Júlia
About Lux: Lux Machado graduated in Performing Arts from the School of Communications and Arts of the University of São Paulo. Currently, she is part of the scholarship program of Theatro Municipal, in the production area, and is part of the independent film collective Madrugada Filmes. Lux directed “Atroz”, a miniseries of five episodes, awarded by the SMC’s 2nd Black Culture Supporting Edital. “Next week, I promise you Palmares!,” which she co-directed, was awarded by SPCine’s short film development edictal 2021. Another short film project, “Ela & Elu”, is being finalized.
About “Next week, I promise you Palmares!”: Dandara and Zumbi dos Palmares, two Black historical personalities who lived in the 17th century, are reincarnated in the bodies of a 21st century Black couple.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Lux Machado, director of “Next week, I promise you Palmares!”:
“Piedra Dura” directed by Rommel Villa
About Rommel: Rommel Villa is an Emmy and Student Academy Award-winning filmmaker from Bolivia. He has an MFA in Film/TV Production from USC and his the winner of directing stipends from Lionsgate-Televisa, USC, and the Sloan Foundation. Rommel’s work ranges from magical-realistic LGBTQ+ stories to historical films like “Sweet Potatoes,” which won him a Student Oscar. That caught the eye of Grant Rivers Productions, which hired Rommel to direct the TV pilot Harold and Helen. Rommel is currently developing his first feature, The Mechanical Box, a psychological thriller about obsessions, guilt, and trauma. Rommel is also an editing faculty at USC’s School of Cinema. In 2022, he won an Emmy for editing the documentary Lives Not Grades.
About “Piedra Dura”: An altar boy is disciplined after being caught watching gay porn at church.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Rommel Villa, director of “Piedra Dura”:
“Punk is Punk” directed by Kimberly Bautista
About Kimberly: Kimberly Bautista is a Colombian-American writer, director and educator whose award-winning films include investigative documentaries, queer feminist comedy, ’90s punk coming-of-age dramedies, and surrealist dramas about women’s mental health. Her work has been supported by Latino Public Broadcasting, the Princess Grace Foundation, Ford Foundation, Panavision and more. Her work has been broadcast on PBS, TeleSUR, Univision, and LATV. Kimberly loves telling stories that only she can tell, pulling from her lived experiences with emotional honesty. She is an advocate for women, youth, and BIPOC leadership and is the founder of the nonprofit Justice for My Sister, which offers job placement to low-income emerging filmmakers of color.
About “Punk is Punk”: A genderqueer punkrocker mom reluctantly agrees to organize a quinceañera for her daughter, which sets the stage for her to face her estranged traditional father.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Kimberly Bautista, director of “Punk is Punk”:
“The Ciguapa” directed by Blaine Morris
About Blaine: Blaine Morris is a queer Latina multihyphenate filmmaker. Prior to graduating from Columbia University, she acted on Skins, Master of None, and more. Her films have shown at Slamdance and Outfest and won a DGA Student Jury Award. She wrote, produced and starred in the film Dark Obsession, featuring Mena Suvari. She assisted writer-director Charles Shyer for Netflix’s The Noel Diary and also worked on The Grotto, directed by Joanna Gleason. She graduated USC as a MFA George Lucas Scholar and is a mentee of Good Trouble showrunner Joanna Johnson, whom she shadowed.
About “The Ciguapa”: A queer couple, Manny and Leo, go to a cabin for their anniversary, but a mysterious woman they find in the woods threatens to break them apart.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Blaine Morris, director of “The Ciguapa”:
“The Cookbook” directed by Gabriela Paciel
About Gabriela: Gabriela Paciel is a bilingual writer and director of Cuba and Mexican background. She has written and directed short films including as “El Viejo,” selected by more than 20 festivals around the world including LALIFF, Festival del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano and Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias; and “To Play with Fire”, screened at DishLatino and Lionsgate’s Pantaya. She was part of the Cine Qua Non Lab fellowship and Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today, a program for LatinX filmmakers supported by HBO and The Academy of Motion Picture and Science.
About “The Cookbook”: While trying to sneak out of her house, a Mexican-American girl makes an unexpected friend.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Gabriela Paciel, director of “The Cookbook”:
“Each Lovely Thing” directed by Paloma Nozicka
About Paloma: Paloma Nozicka is a Mexican-American actor, writer and director. Her directing credits include “Each Lovely Thing” (a selection of the Austin Film Festival and Cleveland International Film Festival, among other festivals, and the winner of Best Short at LA Femme and Lady Filmmakers LA. Her debut play Enough to Let the Light In premiered in the fall of 2022 at Teatro Vista and Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. She was voted Best Filmmaker in the Chicago Reader‘s 2022 Best of Chicago poll. She is a company member of Jackalope Theatre Company in Chicago and a proud member of SAG-AFTRA. She is repped by IAG and Zero Gravity Management.
About “Each Lovely Thing”: In the midst of setting up for a mysterious party, a woman tries to stop her flighty younger sister from making a devastating choice.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Paloma Nozicka, director of “Each Lovely Thing”:
“Brownsville Bred,” directed by Elaine Del Valle
About Elaine: Elaine Del Valle is a Brownsville, Brooklyn-bred Puerto Rican multi-hyphenate director and storyteller. She has received awards from festivals including SXSW, Urbanworld, Catalyst Stories, Seriesfest and more. She is also a winner of the HBO Latinx Short Film Director award. Elaine’s most recent directing work is a genre bending dance-drama-thriller feature film airing on Tubi. And she is a WarnerMedia 150 Artist. Her short films, “Me 3.769” and “Princess Cut,” aired on HBO Max. As a writer, Elaine’s original one-hour procedural drama pilot, The System, landed in development at the CBS network. Elaine recently completed the WGA Showrunner Academy program.
About “Brownsville Bred”: A spunky Latina must find her own path as she comes of age to face the grim realities of the musician father she once idolized and the deteriorating neighborhood she calls home.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Elaine Del Valle, director of “Brownsville Bred”:
“Fábula” directed by Hector Ignacio Serrano
About Hector: Hector Ignacio Serrano is a writer/director from Mexico City who is drawn to multi-generational storytelling told through a lens of the magical and the fantastical. Hector focuses his stories on Latinx thematic throughlines that speak about the struggles of race, immigration, love, belonging, and culture. These stories are interwoven with a veil of magic that speak to deeper emotions, trauma, and healing. Hector was a member of the UCLA MFA Producers Program class of 2019.
About “Fábula”: Maria — a young girl processing the trauma of an abusive parent — discovers a world of old magic hidden between the pages of a notebook.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Hector Ignacio Serrano, director of “Fábula”:
“The Ballad of Tita and the Machines” directed by Miguel Angel Caballero
About Miguel: Miguel Angel Caballero is the son of Mexican immigrant farm workers and is an award-winning Queer Mexican-American/Chicano writer, director, and producer. His latest short film, “The Ballad of Tita and the Machines” premiered at the Tribeca Festival in 2023. His short film, “Acuitzeramo” premiered at the Morelia International Film Festival and won 20 awards internationally, including Best LGBTQ Short at the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. Miguel Angel is an Outfest Screenwriting Lab Fellow, Film Independent Project Involve Fellow, and Warner Bros Discovery 150 Artist Grant recipient. Miguel Angel was selected to take part in the 2022 inaugural Academy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Accelerator Program.
About “The Ballad of Tita and the Machines”: When Tita, an elderly fieldworker, reluctantly hires an AI humanoid to fill in for her picking strawberries, she attracts the engineers’ attention because their humanoids cannot do her back-breaking work.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Miguel Angel Caballero, director of “The Ballad of Tita and the Machines”:
“The Astronaut” directed by Damien Apunte
About Damian: As a first generation Ecuadorian raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Damián viewed the world in an unconventional way. His interest in the unique beauty in the darkness influences Damián’s aesthetic vision through his reflective storytelling. Additionally, his discovery of existentialism, paired with life- changing assaults, shaped his compassion for the human soul. This compassion is something he strives to share with the world by making films that make you feel. His lifelong quest is to find out: “Who got the hooch?”
About “The Astronaut ”: A young girl with asthma, Aura, who dreams of becoming an astronaut, uses her imagination to overcome the environmental setbacks of her city.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Damian Apunte, director of “The Astronaut”:
“Hoar” directed by Jeanette Dilone
About Jeanette: Jeanette Dilone is a Dominican-American filmmaker, born and raised in Washington Heights, New York City. Since graduating from Columbia University, she has been selected for the Read Latinx Writer’s Initiative, Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today, and the LALIFF Inclusion Fellowship, where she completed her third short, 2022’s “Hoar.” Her sophomore short, 2020’s “Rizo,” also premiered at LALIFF, and later won the 2020 HBO Latinx Short Film Competition. In 2017, Jeanette made her directorial debut with the short film “Return,” which premiered at NY Shorts International and was acquired by Shorts TV. Her vision is to create compelling Latine-centered narratives exploring family, identity and success themes.
About “Hoar”: When a phone sex operator is accepted into Oxford University, she must confront her live-in mother, a codependent hoarder, about her decision to move across the globe.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Jeanette Dilone director of “Hoar”:
“Death INC” directed by Icaro Barbosa
About Icaro: Icaro Barbosa is a Transmasculine person born in the city of São Paulo, in 2001 who studied audiovisual at Senac University Center in 2019 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree at the end of 2023. In 2020, he began to develop the project “Death INC,” a short film contemplated by public notice at SPCine and the theme project for his Undergraduate Course Completion Work. He has been working with freelance illustration since 2018, and as a filmmaker and motion designer since 2019.
About “Death INC”: Mari and Pam work guiding spirits to their correct Afterlife and discover that a colleague is next named on their death to-do list.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Icaro Barbosa director of “Death INC”:
“Above the Desert With No Name” directed by Sonia Sebastian
About Sonia: Based in Los Angeles, award-winning Spanish director Sonia Sebastian has experience spanning theater, television, and film. Before settling in the United States, she earned a Bachelor of Arts from the Royal Academy of Drama in Spain and then studied film and television at the International School of Film & Television in Cuba, where she met many students from across Latin America. Sonia has co-directed more than 15 multicam episodes for Spain’s TV networks Mediaset and TeleMadrid. She was the showrunner, writer, and director of the first online Spanish web series Girl Seeks Girl, produced by Movistar (Telefonica).
About “Above the Desert With No Name”: After she arrives illegally in the United States, a troubled young Mexican is inspired by spying on an incandescent neighbor.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Sonia Sebastian, director of “Above the Desert With No Name”:
“Dandelion” directed by Lorena R. Valencia
About Lorena: Lorena R. Valencia is Mexican independent filmmaker based in New York. Her directorial debut and MFA thesis film “Cuanacaquilitl (Dandelion)” received the National Board of Review Student Award and was selected by the Morelia International Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, and the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival, among others. Lorena is a member of New York Women in Film and TV, and in 2021 she was nominated for the BAFTA-NY Jeff Hunter Charitable Trust award. She recently directed a documentary short film that explores resilience and love for the land, and is developing her debut feature Mayahuel.
About “Dandelion”: A teenage girl is helped by her best friend in her search for home remedies to stop an unwanted pregnancy.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Lorena R. Valencia, director of “Dandelion”:
“Love Letters” directed by Ana Julia Travia
About Ana: Ana Julia Travia is a Brazilian director who has just finished her third short film. She has had projects selected in several labs, becoming the first Projeto Paradiso’s talent by winning the Diadorim Award. Her experience includes the award-winning short film “Peripatetico” as an editor and Netflix’s Nobody’s Looking as a scriptwriter assistant.
About “Love Letters”: Having just lost her father, Suellen starts receiving letters from a secret admirer. Her mother will do anything to prevent their correspondence.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Ana Julia Travia, director of “Love Letters”:
“The Mangrove of all Brazils” directed by Thuan Mozart and Flávio José de Moraes
About Thuan: Thuan graduated in Social Sciences with a focus on Anthropology and Cinema. In the last 5 years he has been working in the Brazilian audiovisual market. He served as assistant director on projects at Globoplay and worked on the series Segunda Chamada, chosen as the best series in Brazil by the Brazilian Academy of Cinema in 2020 and 2021. As a screenwriter, he wrote one of the episodes of the series O Enigma da Energia Escura, a partnership between Globoplay and rapper Emicida. More recently, he was awarded a public notice by Rio Filmes for his first feature documentary, directed by his production company Homem de Cor Filmes. It seeks to align knowledge and entertainment.
About “The Mangrove of all Brazils”: Crab gatherers and their families adapt to the challenges of the Anthropocene in the mangroves of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Thuan Mozart, director of “The Mangrove of all Brazils”:
“Followers” directed by Felipe Martinez Carbonell
About Felipe: Felipe is an Argentinian-American filmmaker. He currently lives and works between Los Angeles and Miami. He has had two short films on the festival circuit, “Imaginary Portrait” and “Followers,” and is currently developing his first feature, For Our Daughter. He was also an additional editor on the film Wild Oats, directed by Andy Tennant, starring Shirley MacLaine and Jessica Lange. He was also an online editor for the film Dear Dictator, starring Michael Caine and Katie Holmes.
About “Followers”: Tempted by her greed, an unfulfilled psychiatrist ends up in a supernatural confrontation that she can’t escape.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Felipe Martinez Carbonell, director of “Followers”:
Main image: “Punk is Punk” by Kimberly Bautista.