NFMLA Celebrates Women Directors With Stories of Rights, War… and Instagram

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles celebrated women directors with stories of women’s rights and womanhood, including films about a plus-sized comedian in a world dominated by impossible beauty standards, a 17-year-old Mexican girl finding retribution after surviving assault, and a mother struggling to find a home.

The program started with Pieces of Us, an insightful and tender documentary exploring the lives of LGBTQ+ hate crime survivors who have chosen to tell their stories. The program continued with InFocus: Female Cinema Shorts I – Self-Determination presents a line-up of films featuring women who take a stand. The night concluded InFocus: Female Cinema Shorts II – Togetherness, a collection of stories that encompass the range of what can emerge when we come together.

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).

“Ala Kachuu (Take and Run),” directed by Maria Brendle

About Maria: Maria Brendle is an Oscar-nominated and award-winning director and scriptwriter based in Zurich, Switzerland. She received her bachelor’s degree in film from the Zurich University of the Arts and her master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience (aon) from the Academy of Neuroscience, Cologne. Maria graduated from the renowned Drehbuchwerkstatt Munich. She works with a focus on women issues.

About “Ala Kachuu (Take and Run)”: A young Kyrgyz woman is kidnapped and forced to marry. A drama about the desire for freedom in the clutches of a tradition.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Maria Brendle, director of the Oscar-nominated short film “Ala Kachuu (Take and Run)”: 

“The Home I Never Had,” directed by Yuliana Franco & Jourdan Amen

About Yuliana: Yuliana Franco is an emerging Latina filmmaker born and raised in Toluca, Mexico, and based in Los Angeles. As a recent graduate of California State University, Long Beach, her attention is focused on nonfiction filmmaking. Currently, she is working on two documentary projects that will be streaming on Netflix. As a Latina filmmaker, she is seeking to create documentaries that bring awareness to Mexico’s extensive culture and give a voice and exposure to its communities. Her co-directed thesis short-documentary film “The Home I Never Had” is currently broadcasting on KCETV and LinkTV.

About Jourdan: Jourdan Amen is a recent CSULB alumni who hopes to continue her academic career in graduate school as well as her professional career in documentary film. She hopes to continue to make stories that highlight women and other marginalized voices.

About “The Home I Never Had”: The film captures a mother’s struggle to find a home following her absent mother’s incarceration.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Yuliana Franco & Jourdan Amen, co-directors of “The Home I Never Had”: 

“Our Hearts Beat Like War,” directed by Elinor Nechemya

About Elinor: Elinor Nechemya is a director and writer. Her latest short film “If It Ain’t Broke” (2021) premiered at the Semaine de la Critique of the Cannes Film Festival. Her previous short films “Our Hearts Beat Like War” (2020) and “Everlasting Mom” (2017) both premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and have been screened, along with her other short films at internationally acclaimed festivals such as Locarno, Sarajevo, and Palm Springs. Nechemya is currently working on her debut feature, Island.

About “Our Hearts Beat Like War”: With his eyes in a fantasy book and his ears to the horrific testimony of an Eritrean refugee, 9-year-old Sinai falls asleep at his mother’s workplace, and his mind drifts away.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Elinor Nechemya, director of “Our Hearts Beat Like War”:

“Grammable,” directed by Naiyah Ambros

About Naiyah: Naiyah Ambros is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, writer, and producer. She currently attends the MFA Film Production program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she is a recipient of the prestigious George Lucas Family Foundation Scholarship. She was a second-round finalist in the first-ever Netflix sponsored LALIFF Inclusion Fellowship. Most recently, she directed the film “The Question,” which raised $10,000 through Seed&Spark and was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Naiyah received degrees in Modern Culture & Media and Political Science from Brown University. Before enrolling at USC, Naiyah was a Scripted Development Coordinator for Vice Studios.

About “Grammable”: Grammable is a dark comedy about Faye, a self-obsessed, struggling Instagram influencer who must get with the times in order to save her social media career.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Naiyah Ambros, director of “Grammable”:

“Los Patines,” directed by Loren Escandon

About Loren: Afro-Colombian bilingual actress and filmmaker Loren Escandon got her Bachelor of Arts degree in theater from the Universidad del Valle. Loren wrote and starred in the off-Broadway play Montera and picked up the HOLA and ACE awards. Some of Loren’s TV credits include Selena, Gentefied, 911, SWAT, and the anticipated film Purple Hearts for Netflix, where she shares the screen with Sofia Carson. As a director, her latest short film, Los Patines, has received multiple awards during its festival run. The film is a love letter to her mother and her childhood experience as a domestic slave.

About “Los Patines”: Forced to be a servant to a white woman, an Afro-Colombian orphaned girl dreams of freedom, a normal childhood, and a pair of roller-skates.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Loren Escandon, director of “Los Patines”:

“Etana,” directed by Marian de Pontes

About Marian: Marian de Pontes is a South African filmmaker who currently works and lives in Los Angeles, California. Her most notable film, “Etana,” has garnered numerous awards and has screened at top international festivals around the world, including the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival. Most recently, she was awarded the 2021 Horizon Award, a highly prestigious award supported by HBO, The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, The Sundance Institute, the Motion Picture Association of America, and many more. Marian aims to tell female-driven stories with a particular interest in science-fiction and Afro Sci-Fi filmmaking.

About “Etana”: A teenage soldier, brought up in the art of war by the rebel group that kidnapped her, must choose whether to attempt an escape or let her dreams of freedom die forever.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Marian de Pontes, director of “Etana”:

“Diabla,” directed by Ashley George

About Maya: A UK/German native, Maya is an L.A.-based film producer. Her U.S. company MHK Productions is dedicated to uncovering stories in the genre space that highlight political issues, giving a voice to minority cultures. To date, she has produced films in Beijing, New York, Mexico City, Los Angeles and London.

About “Diabla”: After surviving an assault, an enigmatic 17-year-old Mexican girl finds retribution through her untapped female power and local witch culture.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Maya Korn, producer of “Diabla”:

Fruitless,” directed by Robyn Paris

About Robyn: Robyn Paris is one of nine women selected for the “Future Directors of Studio Features” initiative sponsored by Blackmagic, as reported in Variety. Robyn created/directed the 10-episode mockumentary series, The Room Actors: Where Are They Now?, which premiered at Raindance and HollyShorts and won festival awards before launching on Funny or Die and amassing more than 1 million views. Called “an artist with moxie and conviction” by the Los Angeles Times and “super talented” by PopSugar, Robyn has developed scripts with StarThrower and Rocklin/Faust, won the Samuel Goldwyn Screenwriting Award, and was a finalist in the 2021 Nashville Film Festival for her feature screenplay White Zinfandel. Robyn holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and a B.A. from Duke University.

About “Fruitless”: A 40-something woman goes to drastic lengths to join the clique of young moms who meet outside her window.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Robyn Paris, director of “Fruitless”:


“Stand Out,” directed by Vicki Syal

About Vicki: Vicki Syal is a filmmaker and producer based in Los Angeles. A first-generation American, her work is inspired by social issues, politics, and satire. With a background in writing and education, she is currently an in-house producer at a digital content agency. Her projects have been official selections at LALIFF, the HBO Women in Comedy Festival, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival & the Icarus Film Festival. She aims to amplify unique and underserved voices in front of and behind the camera.

About “Stand Out”: In a world dominated by impossible beauty standards, plus-sized comedian Blaire stands out. But after taking hit after hit, she needs to ask herself: How bad does she want to live the dream?

Watch the NFMLA interview with Vicki Syal, director of “Stand Out”: 

“Women, Wanting,” directed by Jill Karrenbrock

About Jill: Jill Karrenbrock is an actor and proud SAG-AFTRA member based in Los Angeles. She loves process, collaboration, and celebrating artists/creatives around her.

About “Women, Wanting”: Frankie, a young writer struggling to jumpstart her career in Los Angeles, confronts her Aunt Margie after learning she’s still romantically involved with a phone scammer.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jill Karrenbrock, director of “Women, Wanting”:

“Chores,” directed by Christina Tucker

About Christina: She will be an New York Stage and Film Filmmaker’s Workshop participant in 2022, was a Nicholl Semifinalist in 2021, and was an SFFilm Westridge Grant recipient for Fall 2020 for her screenplay Galilee, Rhode Island. She was listed as one of the Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2020. Christina also has experience as an office production assistant, AD, and production coordinator for Loveless Media, The Othrs, Condé Nast, and others. She has worked on programs that have aired on Comedy Central, Showtime, and HBO. She is currently a Series Production Assistant at RadicalMedia.

About “Chores”: While Lily and Samantha, a long-term couple, are out doing routine errands, Samantha confesses her desire to move back home, inspiring an emotionally fraught conversation between the two.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Christina Tucker, director of “Chores”: 

“Beach Body,” directed by Kelly Diaz

About Kelly: Kelly Diaz’s passion for crafting images and visual storytelling has always driven her career path — first as a fine artist, then as a graphic designer, visual merchandiser, art teacher, and production designer. Kelly has designed and assisted on short films, features, commercials, music videos, and print work — and she always looks forward to creating new work, now as a director and cinematographer. Kelly recently completed her MFA in Cinematography at UCLA, where she was awarded the 2020 MPAA Award for Directing. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and teaches film at Central New Mexico Community College.

About “Beach Body”: Overweight and nearing forty, Amanda must navigate an encounter with an ex she still desires.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Kelly Diaz, director of “Beach Body”:

Main image: The Oscar-nominated short “Ala Kachuu (Take and Run)” by Maria Brendle.


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