New American Filmmakers
2012 Hawaii International Film Festival
Nicholas Bruckman, Producer
Nicholas Bruckman is an English-born activist and filmmaker based in New York. He previously directed and produced the feature-length documentary La Americana, which won best documentary at the New York and Los Angeles Latino film festivals. In addition to independent films, Bruckman’s production company, People’s Television, creates commercial content for brands including IBM, USAID, Nissan, Philips, and Facebook. He produced the New American Filmmakers program selection film Valley of Saints, which previously won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Valley of Saints
Widely considered to be the crown jewel of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a sprawling aquatic community where erupting political violence often distracts from the natural beauty. Gulzar, a young, working-class boatman, plans to skip town with his best friend in search of a better life, but a weeklong military curfew derails their departure. Forced to wait it out, Gulzar takes a job assisting a pretty scientist named Asifa. As they navigate the floating landscape, collecting water samples for an environmental study, an unlikely relationship blossoms between the two. When Asifa's research reveals harmful pollutants, Gulzar realizes that the ecology of the lake and an entire way of life face an alarming threat, and everything in his own life begins to take on a new hue.
Lush cinematography heightens the region’s visual splendor in this enlightening feature. Intricately weaving contemporary issues with traditional culture and ancient myths, Valley of Saints is a vibrant, lyrical film about finding one's path home in a changing world. –Sundance.org
Mridu Chandra, Director
Mridu Chandra is a multitalented Indian-American filmmaker based in New York City. In her decade-long career in the film and television industry, she has been involved with projects as a writer, director, and producer. She is an alumnus of the National Center for Accessible Media Producers Academy and the Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access Program. She recently premiered her critically acclaimed multimedia performance Himalaya Song at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Indian Summer (Short Film)
Indian Summer follows Indian American kids ages 9 to 16 at the Hindu Heritage Summer Camp near Rochester, NY as they pursue a course that offers exposure to meditation, yoga, and the opportunity to learn how to practice Hinduism in a largely Christian country. Campers come from all over the country and many are the only Indian person in their school. They long to make other “brown” friends, to express their religious identity, and to learn from older counselors who are “just like them.”
Through a lively and entertaining weave of footage shot by young campers, interviews, and vérité footage, Indian Summer brings together first generation Indian American kids with similar feelings of alienation to document their religious and cultural point of view. They demystify the basic tenets of Hinduism for themselves and for us, they express a deep need for community, and they show us what it takes to be a Hindu in America. –Hawaii International Film Festival
Radium Cheung, Cinematographer
A native of Hong Kong, Radium Cheung was a published photographer by the age of 18; he left behind his burgeoning career in photography to spend 15 years learning the craft of cinematography working as a gaffer. Following his successful career in Hollywood — helping to shoot films such as Cadillac Records, The Job, and Blue Valentine — he pursued the study of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, which led him on a two-year quest to unlearn all that he's ever learned. The NAF selection film Starlet is his first feature-length film under the influence of his Buddhist re(un)-learning.
Starlet explores the unlikely friendship between 21 year-old aspiring actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) and elderly widow Sadie (Besedka Johnson) after their worlds collide in California's San Fernando Valley. Jane spends her time getting high with her dysfunctional roommates and taking care of her Chihuahua Starlet, while Sadie passes her days alone, tending to her garden. After a confrontation at a yard sale, Jane finds something unexpected in a relic from Sadie's past. Her curiosity piqued, she tries to befriend the caustic older woman. Secrets emerge as their relationship grows, revealing that nothing is ever as it seems.
Director Sean Baker continues in the naturalistic style of his previous films, the Spirit Award nominated Prince of Broadway and Take Out, capturing the rhythms of everyday life with a rare authenticity. Featuring exceptional debut performances by Dree Hemingway (great granddaughter of Ernest and daughter of Mariel) and 85 year-old Besedka Johnson, who received Special Jury Recognition at SXSW, Starlet is at once provocative, haunting, unpredictable, and surprisingly sweet. –Hawaii International Film Festival
Ronen Landa, Composer
Composer Ronen Landa (born in the United States to Israeli parents) draws on a breadth of influences to create music that is inventive and daring. The press has hailed his work as “astounding... an intricate and delightful aural treat” (Cinema Without Borders). A 2011 Sundance Institute fellow, Landa has contributed music to films that have premiered at film festivals worldwide including Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Berlin International film festivals.
Paraiso (Short Film)
The poignant and gorgeously filmed short documentary, Paraiso, reveals the thoughts and experiences of a handful of immigrant window-washers who work on Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers. Their stories of risk and reward–they take this dangerous job in the hope of providing a better life for their families–are all deeply emotional and universal. –Hawaii International Film Festival
Goh Nakamura, Actor
Goh Nakamura is a Japanese-American musician and actor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has released two full-length albums (Daylight Savings and Ulysses), and his music has been featured in numerous films, including Feast of Love, American Gangster, and Body of Lies. Nakamura’s acting debut in 2011 came when his longtime friend Dave Boyle cast him in his award-winning film Surrogate Valentine. The NAF selection film Daylight Savings is Nakamura’s second acting role and was inspired by his album of the same name.
Daylight Savings reunites writer-director Dave Boyle with his collaborator/muse/drinking buddy, Goh Nakamura. This dark, moody sequel to Surrogate Valentine–the second film in a proposed trilogy–opens with indie musician Goh happy in both life and love. But when his relationship with a young professor in Los Angeles ends abruptly and unexpectedly, Goh goes into a funk; in fact, his usual blank hangdog expression gets droopier, and more expressionless.
Enter in Goh’s loose-cannon cousin, Michael, who is hell-bent on a mission to get Goh to go on the road trip of his life. Soon, Goh is attending the San Juan Bautista Film Festival, and heading to Vegas to meet up with a potential new girlfriend, Yea-Ming. What transpires in Daylight Savings is an existential journey that becomes a transformative experience for Goh, and a must-see for fans. –Hawaii International Film Festival
Alexandre Philippe, Director
Director, writer, and producer of The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus, Alexandre Philippe was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. He holds a master’s in dramatic writing from New York University and is creative director of Denver-based production company Exhibit A Pictures. Philippe has written, directed, and produced numerous award-winning films and documentaries, including The People vs. George Lucas (HIFF 2010).
The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus
An impressive prognosticator, Paul, the Psychic Octopus became a global superstar by repeatedly picking the winning football (soccer) team in the 2010 World Cup. One minute he was in his tank, minding his own business, and the next thing he knew, he was a media superstar.
This affectionate documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe, opens with Paul’s cremation, before it creatively explores his legacy. Paul drew the attention of eccentrics around the world, including a Russian who offered £1 million to buy him. In contrast, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the West of using the prophetic octopus to spread propaganda.
Whether Paul is a honest-to-goodness 21st century oracle, or a tentacled sham, remains a hotly debated topic. What is certain, however, is that Paul’s unmatched string of correct predictions, and he has greatly impacted popular culture–affected us, and making us dream. The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus is an unusual biopic of tentacular proportions–one that explores the science of probabilities, the possibility of higher powers, and celebrity mania at its most outrageous. –Hawaii International 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 >