New American Filmmakers
2011 Hawaii International Film Festival
Mimi Chakarova, Director
Mimi Chakarova became interested in photography as a teenager after her parents migrated from Bulgaria to Baltimore. “Since I couldn't speak English, I used the camera as a way to communicate,” Chakarova said after being awarded the Dorothea Lange Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. An exceptionally successful documentarian, she has had numerous solo exhibitions of her photo and video projects, which have shed light on injustices in South Africa, Jamaica, Cuba, Kashmir, and Eastern Europe. The NAF selection film The Price of Sex earned Chakarova the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the 2011 Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
The Price of Sex
Would you be willing to jump out a three story high window to escape your situation? Promised work as housekeepers or waitresses, young Eastern European women find themselves forced into the seedy world of prostitution across the world. From Moldova to Turkey and beyond, photojournalist Mimi Chakarova leaves no stone unturned in this chillingly thorough documentary on sex trafficking.
The government, police, family members, pimps, johns, everyone is complicit in trafficking of these women. The Price of Sex examines how these factors and the fall of communism have left villages with few competitive options and open to traffickers eagerly preying on the naiveté of their victims. With no easy solutions, this issue affects everyone. –Jeff Kent, Hawaii International Film Festival
Ian Gamazon, Director
After Ian Gamazon’s second film, Cavite, premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2005, the Filipino-American director received some much deserved recognition: He was named in Filmmaker magazine’s annual list of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and received the Someone to Watch Award at the 2006 Independent Sprit Awards. The NAF selection film Living in Seduced Circumstances is his highly anticipated third film.
Living in Seduced Circumstances
Minh is a young Vietnamese woman taking a relaxing trip in the country with Mr. Thanh (Long Nguyen, Journey from the Fall), an older man with whom she’s had an affair. However, this is not your typical May-December romance: Not only has Minh, who is pregnant by at least seven months, drugged and abducted Mr. Thanh and taken him to an isolated cabin in the forest, she also spends every waking hour terrorizing the bloody and beaten man, whom she has duct-taped to a wheelchair. How did it come to this?
As this story unfolds, filmgoers will come to understand what drives Minh, whose behavior is at once horrifying and kittenish, and viewers may even come to sympathize with Mr. Thanh’s predicament. Despite the emotional roller-coaster ride, one can’t help but snicker as Minh cheerfully lumbers about the woods finding different ways to torment her former lover. –Jason Musni Soeda, Hawaii International Film Festival
Nadia Hennirch, Screenwriter
Nadia Hennirch was born in Hamburg and moved to Tehran at a young age. She returned to Germany to complete a degree in chemistry, but found her real passion when a friend introduced her to the world of filmmaking. She began working on features as an assistant and quickly found herself editing commercials for international music icons such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eric Clapton, and Madonna. In 2002 she moved to the United States after being recruited to work at a major editorial house. She has edited commercials, music videos, and various long-format films including the NAF selection Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul.
Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul
Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan came to Kabul in 2007 with only a few skateboards with them. They had an idea to set up daily sessions with kids and connect with them through skateboarding. They began skating in an abandoned water fountain attracting a few of the nearby children, and soon those numbers multiplied attracting both boys and girls of all ages. These humble beginnings soon transformed into the first school for skateboarding, they called it Skateistan. Skateistan’s goal was to bring hope to those without it while at the same time bridging the gap between gender, ethnicity, and class.
As the skating sessions grew so did the mounting problems to keep the program alive. One problem was that girls are forbidden to skate in public with other boys after the age of 12. This became the seed for one of Ollie and Sharna's most inspired ideas. Build a state of the art indoor skate park. For Ollie and Sharna breaking barriers was one thing, bringing hope and happiness to children in a war torn country was everything. –Jason Pila, Hawaii International Film Festival
Bertha Bay-Sa Pan, Director
Bertha Bay-Sa Pan was born in New Jersey but grew up in Taiwan. Her feature-length directorial debut, Face, co-written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Oren Moverman, premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival in Dramatic Competition. The film was critical success: It received Premio Speciale Prize at the International Women’s Film Festival in Torino and garnered positive reviews from major publications, including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The Hollywood Reporter. The NAF selection film Almost Perfect is her highly anticipated second film.
Almost Perfect opens on Vanessa Lee (Kelly Hu), a thirty-something who runs a small non-profit in New York City with a family who can’t seem to function without her to bail them out. At thirty-four, Vanessa is still her large and boisterous family’s go-to girl, with a threadbare excuse of a life of her own. Suddenly, she runs into Dwayne, an old friend (Ivan Shaw), the almost perfect guy who just might be perfect for her. But, as those sparks fly, her family starts to go up in flames. Her high-maintenance fashion designer sister (Christina Chang) is on the brink; her surf bum brother (Edison Chen) has gone AWOL; and her over-analyzing, over-intellectual mother (Tina Chen) has barred her father (Roger Rees) from their home, sending him into his own mid-life crisis. They all need Vanessa, all the time, to fix all the problems, much to the consternation of Dwayne, who’s beginning to get fed up with the whole deal. Trapped within one family crisis after another, Vanessa has decisions to make — be the family’s savior; or carve out some “me-time” and concentrate on possibly the best thing to happen to her in her entire adult life! –Abraham Ferrer, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Christoph Silber, Screenwriter
Considered one of Germany’s leading screenwriters, Christoph Silber has contributed to more than 10 films and received the German Film Critics Award for Nordward (North Face) and a Grimme Award (Germany’s Emmy Award) for his work on the police procedural Tatort: Auf der Sonnenseite. Together with his partner Stefan Schaefer, Silber founded the New York production company Silver Shepherd in 2009. The duo produced and wrote My Last Day Without You, which was inspired by Silber’s own story.
My Last Day Without You
When a young business executive, Niklas, is sent from Frankfurt to New York to shut down a division of his firm, he doesn't realize his life is about to be turned upside-down. By 9:30am he has done what he was tasked to do. But his flight back home doesn't leave for another 11 hours. In this time, seemingly by chance, he meets and falls for Leticia, a beautiful African-American secretary and aspiring singer. The only problem; unbeknownst to him, she's one of the people he just fired. They end up back in Brooklyn, where he meets her father, a pastor, and begins to realize who she is. Unable to tell her the truth, he stumbles through a romantic few hours of eating, walking through Brooklyn streets, and listening to her play music in her new apartment. At the worst possible time, Leticia finds out Niklas' true identity. In a rage, she abandons him deep in Brooklyn. Several hours later he shows up at her father's church shoeless, without his wallet or phone, and sporting a black eye. Despite this, it's clear he's been stricken by an emotion he's never experienced before. Yet he doesn't fully grasp this until he's walking back through the terminal doors at JFK airport, and Leticia is heading for her music gig at a Brooklyn bar. The film mines the humor and conflict that arises when two individuals – seemingly so different – are thrown together by a force they fight but ultimately cannot control, love. –Brooklyn Film Festival
New American Filmmaker Interviews
The 2015 NAF selections included films from various genres and regions of the world, including a documentary filmed in North Korea, a 1980s-style teen comedy, and an action thriller set in the jungles of Colombia.
Watch video interviews as the NAF delegates discuss feminism, activism, and the 80s!
Zoë Bell >