By Isabel Garcia-Sosa
Presented by DigitalOcean and following Katra Film Series’ mission of “boundary-pushing and narrative-defying storytelling,” the fifth year of the New Faces New Voices (NFNV) film festival promised each audience member a space for them to identify with. This year's event, a beacon of hope post-pandemic, brought together filmmakers from diverse backgrounds, amplifying voices often underrepresented in the cinematic landscape.
What Is The New Faces New Voices Film Festival?
NFNV, one of the festivals under the umbrella of the Katra Film Series, showcases independent films with a strong emphasis on female filmmakers. Over 50 percent of the films selected this year were written, directed, and/or produced by women. The 2023 lineup also featured several films themed to Hispanic Heritage Month, with a wide array of entries by Latinx filmmakers. Some of the season’s most highly anticipated additions included Six Feet Apart, a short about a young gay man’s relationship with his father during the Covid-19 lockdowns, directed by Monty Cole and written by Isaac Gomez, co-creator of Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico; and the thriller Versace Softboi, written and directed by award-winning Chilean-American actress Charlie Gillette (MTV’s Skins).
Upon entering the Delancey Street Regal Cinema, one could feel the buzz of anticipation as filmmakers and attendees mingled in the hallways. The camaraderie was evident, as creators supported each other amid the nerves of showcasing their work. The excitement radiated from audience members to Katra's CEO and founder, Geoffrey Guerrero. Over two days, the festival featured a lineup of compelling films, each followed by illuminating Q&A sessions that offered a glimpse into the creators' journeys.
New Faces New Voices Celebrates Diversity In Cinema
This year's festival celebrated the diversity of perspectives in cinema. Filmmaker Neda Jebelli shared her journey creating The Dinner Party, a poignant film showcasing women’s battle between domestic perfectionism and vulnerability, set against the backdrop of Tehran's 2009 “Death to the Dictator” protests. Despite facing challenges related to the Women, Life, Freedom protests and internet shutdowns, Jebelli's dedication and support for the human rights movement shone through. Her film was a powerful opener, setting the stage for a night of thought-provoking cinema.
What Were The Standout Films At New Faces New Voices?
The Lord's Work
Director/Writer: Lee Evans
A heartwarming tale of a therapist and her daughter, filled with humor and moving moments, shedding light on single motherhood while causing laughs around the theater with the hilarious characters.
I Miss My Mom & Dream of a New Home
Director/Writer: Art Parnitudom
A touching portrayal of a young immigrant family from Thailand, capturing a father and son’s journey of grief, displacement, and dreams through tantalizing shots and minimal conversation.
Director/Writer: Taylor Karin
A unique perspective into the life of a neurodivergent girl recently moved to Brooklyn during the pandemic, whose awkward physical encounters and over stimulation are relatable to all.
Writer: Jasmine Wang
An absolute must-see, Tender Ears by Jasmine Wang and Danny Monico is an ode to first-generation American children, delving into the complexities of navigating two cultures, highlighting the importance of food, language, and the struggle between family and individualism while exploring the loss of identity and connection with diverse cultures.
The Talents Of Emerging Filmmakers At New Faces New Voices
NFNV fostered community through Q&A sessions that allowed the audience to interact with filmmakers. These sessions uncovered the challenges faced by filmmakers during COVID-19 and their creative problem-solving. The reception of these inspiring words could be seen in the faces of young filmmakers, watching in awe and thoroughly engaged in learning more about the realities of those they look up to. This batch of talented filmmakers showed the audience their dedication, in wearing every hat and doing all the necessary work that arose. The festival also empowered the audience to vote for their favorite films, fostering a sense of participation.
NFNV excels at promoting emerging talent. One filmmaker to keep an eye on this year, Lee Evans, shared insights into her upcoming project, You Think You Grown: Dismantling Adultification, a documentary highlighting the Black girl experience. The film delves into adultification as a form of racial prejudice, shedding light on societal issues, lack of safe spaces, and implicit biases that perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Updates on this impactful project can be found on the filmmaker's social media, @directbylee.
What’s Next For The New Faces New Voices Film Festival?
The NFNV film festival's fifth edition celebrated diversity, resilience, and the power of storytelling. It provided a platform for underrepresented voices to shine, leaving the audience inspired and engaged. As we look forward to the next chapter, NFNV continues to be a vital hub for emerging talent and transformative narratives.
In a world hungry for diverse and authentic stories, NFNV stands as a beacon of hope, showcasing the brilliant voices shaping the future of cinema. As we eagerly anticipate the next festival, may these stories continue to challenge, uplift, and unite us all.
Isabel Garcia-Sosa is a passionate student and writer who enjoys seeing the world from various viewpoints by connecting with people. She can be found on Instagram at @isaaa.
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Featured image: Katra Film Series founder Geoffrey Guerrero introduces the 5th New Faces New Voices festival (C) New Faces New Voices / Katra Film Series