NFMLA March 2024
A still from still from "Cut Me If You Can" directed by Nicolas Polixene and Sylvain Loubet dit Gajol, courtesy of NFMLA

A 1950s dinner party that gets spiked with LSD and characters who decide to flip the script while stuck in a horror movie loop were among the highlights of NMLA’s InFocus: Female Cinema Program.

The March monthly film festival celebrated up-and-coming female talent in front of and behind the camera along with a selection of shorts from NFMLA’s ongoing monthly program and Colton Van Til’s feature narrative Meltdown: A Nuclear Family’s Ascension into Madness.

The day’s programming opened with March Shorts, a selection of films that explore community, perseverance, inner darkness, isolation, injustice, finding a way through grief, reclaiming lost parts of ourselves, and refusing to be defined by others.

The day continued with InFocus: Female Cinema Shorts, a program that highlighted the work and stories of women through the work of emerging female talent. The program explored sexual awakenings, economic and social realities, painful childhood lessons, sisterhood among women, bodily autonomy, generational trauma and a fierce drive to protect one another. 

The night concluded with the west coast premiere of the aforementioned feature Meltdown: A Nuclear Family’s Ascension into Madness. What starts off as a 1950’s family melodrama quickly and wildly escalates into a tense experimental horror film wrapped in a psychedelic journey.

“My goal is for this film to be someone’s jumping-off point into far more extreme genre films,” Van Til says.

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. 

NFMLA InFocus: Female Cinema Program

Here is some information on the filmmakers and their films, as well as their video interviews with NFMLA Board Chair Danny De Lillo.

Meltdown: A Nuclear Family’s Ascension into Madness Directed by Colton Van Til

About Colton: Writer/Director Colton Van Til spearheaded a group of his fellow second-year film students for his debut feature, Aberdeen, which went on to receive a limited theatrical release and landed a pair of streaming deals. His sophomore feature, Meltdown, a 1950s-set horror/melodrama, is in the midst of its festival run now. After two films examining family and experimenting with romantic subplots, Colton’s excited to bring romance to the forefront of his next two projects.

About “Meltdown: A Nuclear Family’s Ascension into Madness”: A seemingly flawless 1950s nuclear family hosts an important dinner party, but when an unexpected LSD spiking alters the course of the evening, secrets resurface, shattering their facades and forcing them to confront their darkest fears.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Colton Van Til the director, and Maleah Goldberg, Actress and Executive Producer of “Meltdown: A Nuclear Family’s Ascension into Madness”:

“Windows” Directed by Mischa Webley

About Mischa: Mischa is an award-winning writer and director whose debut feature film, The Kill Hole, starred Chadwick Boseman in an early breakout role alongside Billy Zane and Tory Kittles. His films have played in festivals around the country, including the Austin, Santa Barbara and American Black Film Festival and can be found on in-flight airline screens around the world. Never afraid to simply pick up a camera and shoot whatever he can, his films range in size, scope and style but always focus on telling original, layered, character-driven stories. 

About “Windows”: A slice-of-life portrayal of a homeless man that breaks into a stranger’s empty house to try out normal life for a few hours, only to reconnect with something in himself that shakes him to his core.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Mischa Webley the director of “Windows”:

Also Read: An Afro-Futurist Scrapbook and Genetically Enhanced Children Highlight NFMLA’s InFocus: Black Cinema Program

“The Little Death” directed by Autumn Palen 

About Autumn: Autumn Palen is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she earned a BFA in Film & TV Production. Through funding from Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation, she directed Voices of Renewal, a documentary on Louisiana Creole language and culture, which was broadcast on PBS’ New Orleans syndicate in fall 2022. Her interest in making art first stemmed from a desire to entertain others. She aims to use her work as a glue of sorts: finding and displaying commonalities; conjuring, highlighting, and reviving tethers to shrink the space between us.

About “The Little Death”: A woman finds her sexual awakening and her near demise in one fell swoop.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Autumn Palen the director of “The Little Death”:

“Fern” directed by Katherine Bourne Taylor & Mary Tilden

About Katherine: Katherine Bourne Taylor is a Los Angeles-based actor, creator, and comedian. She appeared in the pilot episode of the HBO series, Lovecraft Country, and you can also catch her as the lead in the upcoming indie feature Clown and Out, directed by Sergio Guerrero. “Ships in the Night” was her short film directing debut in 2021.

Her absurdist character-comedy “Grown Up Orphan Annie” traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August for which she was named a Playbill Pick of the Fringe. She is a stakeholder with The Back Room Shakespeare Project, and has performed in regional theaters across the country. Katherine earned her BFA in Acting at Southern Methodist University and studied with The British American Drama Academy and The School at Steppenwolf.

About Mary: Mary Tilden is a Chicago-based actor, director and comedian. Chicago theater credits include “The Wolves” at the Goodman Theatre and “Athena” at Writer’s Theatre. She performs improv weekly with her long-running improv show Devil’s Daughter. Her past film projects include “Cool for Five Seconds” (co-star and co-producer with Katherine Bourne Taylor and featured at NFMLA in 2020) and “Rough River Lake” (writer/director). Mary is currently in post production for two projects that she directed: a short called “The Unfinished Film” and a comedy web series callde “Collaborate & Listen.”

About “Fern”: On Katherine’s final day in town, Mary goes to absurd lengths to get her to stay. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Katherine Bourne Taylor & Mary Tilden, directors of “Fern”:

“TLG” directed by Itziar Martinez

About Itziar: Born in Spain, Itziar is a proud member of the Alliance of Women Directors and the Latin Recording Academy. Her work for the Disney series Violetta resulted in four platinum records. Her acting credits include the series The Mysterious Benedict Society, Jane the Virgin, Loui, and major productions for the Telemundo network. Her first feature film as a filmmaker premiered at HBO’s NYLFF.

Her short films have screened at Screamfest, Filmquest, LAshorts, and NFMLA, and have won awards including Best New Director at the Toronto International Women’s Film Festival. She is currently developing a bilingual fantasy drama series which was selected at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival 2022 as part of their Fanpitch section of and their Showrunner’s Lab.

About “TLG”: A clandestine and passionate encounter between two men in avoidance of their true desires ignites their wildest impulses and reveals the darkest sides of humanity.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Itziar Martinez, director of “TLG”:

“They Don’t Leave” directed by Caz Mcgovern 

About Caz: Caz McGovern is a writer, director and producer. Her suspenseful short film “They Don’t Leave” was awarded the Big Sky Film Grant. “They Don’t Leave” has been screened at 13 festivals. She is ranked in the top 15% on Coverfly for her first feature length screenplay, The Stray. It has been described by industry insiders as “A strong and confident thriller that successfully delivers all the elements of an engaging film: great plot, compelling mystery, strong lead characters and enjoyable dialogue.” The Stray has won awards at The Outstanding Screenplays Competition and Page Turner Screenplays; it was also a quarter finalist at The Stage 32 Feature Screenwriting Fellowship.

About “They Don’t Leave”: A divorced alcoholic seeks refuge in a remote ancestral cabin only to be confronted by demons that have haunted her family for generations.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Caz Mcgovern the director of “They Don’t Leave”:

“Piano Man” directed by Jay Zaretsky

About Jay: Born in NYC, Jay resides in Venice Beach and Joshua Tree. Jay studied at LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts, interned at The New Yorker, and programmed the Tribeca Talks series. In California Jay contributed creatively to the first two seasons of FX’s Justified. Jay has written for The Daniels, Alma Har’el, Darren Aronofsky, and many more. Recent works include Asher starring Ron Perlman, Famke Jansen, and Richard Dreyfus. When he’s not writing, Jay can be found camped out in the corral with his horse, Willow.

About “Piano Man”: A legendary jazz piano player, now confined to an austere life tuning pianos, finds resurrection in grief and music.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jay Zaretsky, the director of “Piano Man”:

“Maddie’s Cards” directed by Jenelle Faith Smith

About Jenelle: Jenelle Smith grew up in Los Angeles. She dedicated most of her life to learning the craft of acting in theater and film. She graduated with a BFA in Acting for the Stage and Screen in 2020. Some of her theater credits include To Kill a Mockingbird (Aaron Sorkin’s version), Romeo and Juliet, and Our Town. Jenelle started pre-production on “Maddie’s Card’s” in the fall of 2022 after becoming deeply moved from her research on the domestic homicide epidemic in America. “Maddie’s Card’s” is Jenelle’s first film that she has directed, written, and produced.

About “Maddie’s Card’s”: A woman struggles to play a game of cards with her friend when they are interrupted by her partner.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jenelle Faith Smith, the director of”Maddie’s Cards”:

“Mara Has Three Jobs In San Juan, Puerto Rico” directed by Ana Verde

About Ana: Ana Verde is a Puerto Rican and Venezuelan writer and director. She is a 2023 Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today fellow (Hola México Film Festival), a 2023 Rising Voices fellow (Hillman Grad/Indeed), a 2022 Orchard Project Episodic Lab fellow (The Orchard Project), a 2022 WAVE Grant Recipient (Wavelength Productions). Her most recent film, “Mara Has Three Jobs in San Juan, Puerto Rico” had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. She currently co-hosts and produces REEL TALK: A WAVE Grant Podcast (Wavelength Productions), a resource for emerging filmmakers who are interested in making their first short film.

About “Mara Has Three Jobs In San Juan, Puerto Pico”: After the loss of her father, a young woman takes on a third job to make ends meet in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Ana Verde, director of “Mara Has Three Jobs In San Juan, Puerto Pico”:

“Paranoia” directed by Sam Chung

About Sam: Sam Chung was born in Seoul and raised in Los Angeles. He studied at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and began his career as a photographer before becoming a producer, working in commercials and narrative. His first film, “Sunny,” screened at multiple festivals including the 2018 editions of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and CAAMFest. His second film, “Paranoia,” premiered at the 2023 New York Shorts International Film Festival and will make its west coast premiere at New Filmmakers LA. Sam completed his third film, Days and Works, in 2023 and is now working on developing a feature length script. Sam lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and sometimes in Seoul, South Korea.

About “Paranoia”: Robbie, an undocumented Chilean immigrant, and Dean, his childhood friend, navigate their increasingly uncertain world when rumors of increased deportation loom over Robbie’s life and their friendship.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Sam Chung, director of “Paranoia”:

“Cut Me If You Can” directed by Nicolas Polixene and Sylvain Loubet dit Gajol

About Nicolas: Nicolas is of West Indian origin, born in Paris, Nicolas studied at EICAR. In 2015, at the Cannes Film Festival, he won the Oceans Prize with his short film “Papé”, selected by over 70 festivals (Directors’ Fortnight, Aspen, Palm Springs, Clermont-Ferrand, etc.). In 2019, his short film “American Dream”, co-directed with Sylvain Loubet dit Gajol and produced by CAVIAR, met with great success and won awards at festivals including UrbanWorld, Venice Shorts, SF Black Film, and BronzeLens.

About Sylvain: Sylvain Loubet dit Gajol trained at EICAR. While working for Walt Disney France, inspired by his work as a creative producer on campaigns for the brand and its subsidiaries (Lucas Film, Marvel, Pixar), he began collaborating with his film school friend Nicolas Polixene. Together, they wrote and directed “American Dream”. Following this success, they went on to make the film “Cut Me if You Can” in California.  This short film is a proof of concept with a view to developing it into a feature-length film.

About “Cut Me If You Can”: Stuck in the loop of a horror B-movie, two black stereotyped characters decide to F*** up the script. But the film has other plans.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Marshall Fox, Actor in ‘Cut Me If You Can”: