Work, Play, and a Puppet: NFMLA Celebrates Films by Latinx and Hispanic Filmmakers

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences celebrated a slate of acclaimed shorts by Latinx and Hispanic Filmmakers, including the stories of a former mechanic hiding pain from his son, a playground structure uniting generations, and a poorly crafted marionette embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

The September program began with the award-winning documentary A La Calle, which tells a story about Venezuelans struggling to reclaim their democracy. The program continued with the shorts program A Day at Work, featuring films that explore labor in a meaningful way. Next up was the Generational Echoes shorts program, with stories about relationships between generations. The event concluded with In Search of Self and Place, a shorts program about the pursuit of personal strength.

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).

“Viral,” directed by Laura A. Martínez Hinojosa

About Laura: Laura A. Martínez Hinojosa graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies from Anahuác University. Her short student film, “Matilde,” won an award at the Euro Film Festival, which got her a scholarship for a Master’s in Film Directing from the European Business School. She worked for multiple TV series as an assistant director and through her video company, Katana Colectivo. She aspires to become a great film director.

About “Viral”: Kika is a senior teenager looking to explore her sexuality — until her nude photographs are shared on the Internet without her consent. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Laura A. Martínez Hinojosa, “Viral”: 

“Lily <3,” directed by Jimena Muhlia

About Jimena: Jimena Muhlia is a multidisciplinary artist from Mexico City who now lives and works in Los Angeles. She began her development as a filmmaker in 2013 at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica. Her short film, “Evaporado” has been in several international film festivals such as FICM XV (Morelia), ShortFest (Palm Springs), New York Latino Film Festival (New York City), ZlinFF (Czech Republic) and FEMCine (Chile). Her film “La Caja China” (GIFF 2018, CineAutopsia, MIFTVmx) received the bronze medal at the World Stage Design Taipei in 2017.

About “Lily <3”: Lily, age five, prepares a party for her father while in the care of her cousin Teo, with whom she addresses the absence of a father figure as well as her own sense of individuality.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jimena Muhlia, director of “Lily <3”: 

“At Last,” directed by Lorena Gordon

About Lorena: Lorena Gordon is an award-winning writer-director hailing from Queens, New York. The stories she most passionately wants to tell are those about the human condition, and that give a platform to the Latinx, queer, and disability communities. She has directed, written, and produced short films including “Times Like These” and “At Last,” starring Zack Gottsagen and George Lopez.

About “At Last”: A timid high school girl reveals her truth during the most important night of the year.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Lorena Gordon, director of “At Last”: 

“El Triste,” directed by Manuel Del Valle

About Manuel: Manuel Del Valle is a Mexican film director and producer based in Los Angeles. His focus is on narrative work, primarily independent films, but extends to commercials and music videos. His early 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 latest short films have been selected for HBO’s New York Latino Film Festival and Urbanworld Film Festival. 

About “El Triste”: 

“El Triste,” an old used ragdoll-like marionette, begins his journey of self-acceptance and discovery to prove to himself and his fellow puppets that he is valuable and worthy of admiration.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Manuel Del Valle, director of “El Triste”: 

“A Heart Dies Twice,” directed by Itziar Martinez

About Itziar: Itziar Martinez is a multi-hyphenate artist who found her bliss through creative expression at an early age. Whether touring the world as a dancer, singing and writing songs for successful projects, or working as a photographer, she has always found storytelling to be her core passion. In 2015, she opened her production company, WOL Entertainment, where she co-produced and co-wrote her first feature, “Nereus.” She made her directorial debut with “A Heart Dies Twice.”

About “A Heart Dies Twice”: On the run after a successful bank robbery, two thieves in love hide in a motel room and celebrate their heist  — until the truth comes knocking.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Itziar Martinez, director of “A Heart Dies Twice”: 

“Superestar,” directed by Daniel Larios

About Daniel: Daniel is a creative director, writer, and producer based in Los Angeles. His second short film, “Memorama,” competed at festivals, including Oaxaca International, Paraguay International, and ICARO International, where it received 2nd place for Best Fiction Short. His feature screenplay The Ambassador was a semi-finalist in the Scriptapalooza and Shore Scripts screenplay contests. Daniel has also directed several plays and fashion shows.

About “Superestar”: Two Salvadoran women, one a first-generation indie-pop singer and the other an immigrant bathroom attendant at an L.A. nightclub, bond over their different troubles and mutual love of music.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Daniel Larios, director of “Superestar”: 


Back Then,” directed by Hernán Velit

About Hernán: Hernán Velit is a director born in Lima, Perú. “Posthumous,” his opera prima, won Best Short Film at the ProFiRe Short Film Festival in 2013 and was an official selection in several festivals. His second short film, “La huida silenciosa,” premiered at the 37th International Festival of Latin American Cinema, Havana in 2015 and won the Concurso Nacional de Cortometrajes del Ministerio Peruano de Cultura in 2016. His third short film, “El monopolio de la estupidez,” premiered at Kannibal Fest and won at several festivals. His last short film, “Back Then,” has been running in festivals since 2020.

About “Back Then”: Lucia and Jorge, who are both in their forties, divorced and have one child each, first had sex five months ago. One afternoon, in bed, they have their first conversation about who they are and where they come from.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Hernán Velit, director of “Back Then”: 

“Split Ends,” directed by María Alvarez

About María: María Alvarez is an internationally recognized Cuban-Dutch filmmaker. She graduated from USC with a BFA in Film & TV Production in May 2019. Her films have been featured at dozens of festivals, such as the Los Angeles Film Festival and Cleveland International Film Festival, won awards from institutions such as Google, and screened in museums like MoMA. Her latest short film, “Split Ends,” which was a 2021 Horizon Award Finalist, premiered at the NALIP Latino Media Fest and the 2021 Festival de Cannes in the Court Métrage.

About “Split Ends”: A Cuban-American girl uses a school assignment to ask her dad about his upbringing.

Watch the NFMLA interview with María Alvarez, director of “Split Ends”: 

“Manos De Oro,” directed by Merced Elizondo

About Merced: Merced Elizondo is a Mexican-American filmmaker based out of Dallas. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016, Merced launched his filmmaking career by working on multiple productions all across Texas and served as a producer with both AMS Pictures and DHD Films. Since then, he has devoted his attention to independent filmmaking and is currently developing short film and feature film projects to direct. A writer at heart, Merced has creative sensibilities that lean toward dramatic narratives. Merced is committed to character-driven stories that are cinematic, personal, and most of all original.

About “Manos De Oro”: After months of struggling with crippling arthritis, a former mechanic attempts to regain his identity as a working man with purpose.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Merced Elizondo, director of “Manos De Oro”:

“The Ugliest,” directed by Victor Ridaura

About Victor: Victor Ridaura is a Slamdance award-winning writer, a Ryan Murphy Television directing fellow, and a commercial director with an MFA from the Peter Stark Producing Program. His short narrative work has been screened in numerous festivals worldwide. He received third place at the Slamdance Short Screenplay Competition in 2019 and was a semi-finalist in Screencraft’s Short Screenplay Competition in 2018.

About “The Ugliest”: A story about heartbreak based on the songwriter’s first romance as an openly gay man.   

Watch the NFMLA interview with Victor Ridaura, director of “The Ugliest”:

“Rocket,” directed by Pedro Henrique Chaves

About Pedro: Pedro Henrique Chaves is an actor and filmmaker from Brazil who has written and directed five short films, which have been screened internationally. His first short film,  “Look Around,” won Honorable Mention for “First Time as Director” at the L.A. Film Awards. His most recent work, “Rocket,” which he wrote and directed at the age of 17, premiered at the New York Latino Film Festival. “Rocket” also won him the award for Best Student Director at the Prague International Indie Film Festival.

About “Rocket”: In the heart of the city, a beloved playground structure attracts thousands of people and brings different generations together. The challenge and courage of climbing up and down the Rocket enchant a father and son, who each played in the same place.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Pedro Henrique Chaves, director of “Rocket”: