To read a review of a Nova Frontier Film Festival film, click the READ MORE buttons in the listing below the interview.
Visit Latin America, the Middle East, and the African Diaspora through Nova Frontier Film Festival Films
In a time when travel is risky, we may wish to live vicariously through characters on screen, and learn about the places they live in. Perhaps that is one reason why Picture This Posts writers jumped on the opportunity to review films from the Nova Frontier Film Festival, which is dedicated to promoting films the works of filmmakers and artists from and about Latin America, the Middle East, and the African Diaspora. Our writers have fallen in love with their selections, recommending these films across the board.
To better understand how this festival comes together, Picture This Post (PTP) reached out to co-Founders Lydia Darly (LD) and Billy Gerard Frank (BGF), who told us about the origins of the festival and their selection process.
Here are some brief bios describing their careers up until now:
Billy Gerard Frank (born in Grenada) is a multi-disciplinary artist, and autodidact living in New York who works at the intersection of art, filmmaking, design, and activism. He was recently selected to represent Grenada at 58th La Biennale di Venezia 2019. His research-based work addresses issues of migration, race, and global politics, relating to gender, minority status, and post-colonial subjects. He moved to London as a teenager, where he began painting and exploring experimental video art and installation.
Since 2005, after studying filmmaking and media arts at The New School University, and New York University, Frank has worked as a writer, director, and production designer, in both narrative and documentary films that were screened at international film festivals, like Sundance and Berlinale.
His narrative short film, Absence Of Love, which he wrote and directed, premiered at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, and was later shown in over 50 international film festivals.
Lydia Darly, originally from Guadeloupe, was born and raised in Paris (France). She was part of several experimental and avant-garde theater companies in Paris as a teenager, before her journey as an aspiring actress and model took her to Rome, where she continued her passion for acting. She was featured in The Exorcist: The Beginning and acted in several TV series in Rome.
She won Best Actress Award at the 2012 CinemAvennire Film Festival in Rome, Italy for her performance in the short film Scratch which she wrote and produced, as well as being awarded the Best Director Award for her director debut film The Way You Love.
She is currently the VP and Producer of The Womanity Project, a Multi-media & training platform which seeks to end gender discrimination by using storytelling and improv, in addition to being Co-Founder of The Nova Frontier Film Festival & Lab.
(PTP) How did you go about starting the festival?
(BDG) Starting a film festival is an ambitious project that requires a lot of project managing and creative problem solving. The beginning was a bit rough as we tried to figure out a Brooklyn venue to host the festival compatible with our mission. The Billie Holiday Theatre came to our rescue and has been our partner and venue for the physical and virtual film festival ever since.
Producing a film festival, one always has to prepare for the unexpected, like a film file or Blu-Ray suddenly having a malfunction in the middle of a screening with a packed and anxious audience, which actually happened during a screening two years ago.
The goal of the Nova Frontier Film Festival is to showcase global films, and targets a global audience. Our mission with the festival is to educate and bring global films and arts to new audience in America, particularly in Brooklyn where we are based, who would not have otherwise have the opportunity to see the kinds of films we showcase.
We are both filmmakers and artists who had worked on each other’s film projects before we started The Nova Frontier Film Festival and Lab. The festival was inspired foremost by our love of foreign films, particularly films from the African Diaspora, The Middle East, and Latin America. As filmmakers traveling to film festivals with our own films, we found the programming at most film festivals limiting when it came to representation of films from the aforementioned regions, especially in film festivals and theaters in the USA. After many conversations talking about our shared frustrations, we decided to start The Nova Frontier Film Festival and Lab, and the rest is history. The festival came out of a place of frustration, love of foreign films, and friendship.
What was each of your experiences in entering the indie film space like and how did those experiences impact how you approached creating the Nova Frontier Film Festival?
(LD) We both came into the film industry though different creative avenues and during a time when there was still limited opportunities for minorities in the industry. Rather than going to film schools to obtain MFA’s in filmmaking, we learned our craft working on film sets as Production Assistants in various departments along with taking classes and workshops to develop skills and perfect our craft, building professional contacts along the way.
The Nova Frontier Film Lab came out of a place of wanting to share our skills, while continuing to develop and remaining open-minded like a beginner, which is always the best place to be as a creative. Mentorship and career opportunities are extremely important for any young person starting out. Our mentorship came much later in life while we were already way on the path. That’s why we started the Nova Frontier Film Lab, to offer the opportunities to youth we didn’t get ourselves, which would have changed everything.
Billy, how do you combine art and activism? How does your work on the festival reflect that?
(BGF) Activism is in my DNA! My practice as a multi-disciplinary artist hinges on the personal, socio-historical and cultural rubrics of exile, migration, and the marginalized, my positionality as a queer man of Afropean heritage—Grenada and Great Britain, specifically.
The festival represents both my heritage and Lydia’s, as her background and heritage is France and Guadeloupe. I think all our global cultural heritages are represented in the film festival and reflect our views and experiences of the worlds we are from.
What is your curation process for films selected for the festival? Within this process, what stands out to you as particularly important to include?
(LD) We have an open submission, and filmmakers are always sending us their films from places like Iran and other parts of the Middle East where it is difficult for them to submit their film via platforms like FilmFreeway, because of embargos between the U.S. and their countries. We take this into consideration when curating and programming the festival. For example, in 2018 we had a large selection of films from Iran. We thought it was very important to give them an opportunity to showcase their film in the US.
We also program films that have played and won awards at festivals such as Cannes, the Berlinale, and other major international film festivals—it’s a mix really. All the films we program offer an unapologetic gaze of how filmmakers are tackling global issues affecting people today, which is fundamental to the identity of the Nova Frontier Film Festival and Lab, as a festival engaged in global dialogue, cross-cultural fertilization, and praxis.
For both Billy and I, high quality of production, aesthetics, and unconventional approaches in narrating a story are very important to us in programming films in the festival. We try to uphold the same measures we uphold for ourselves as filmmakers and educators. My experiences as an actress and filmmaker definitely have a major influence in my decision-making.
How do you reflect recent international events in your programs? What major themes tend to reoccur among these films?
(BGF) The Nova Frontier Film Festival has always addressed critical and timely social, political, cultural issues from its conception, considering who the founders are and the works we choose to engage as artists.
If art is any guide to the times in which we are living, our 2020 program of 17 curated long and short-form films, panels, performance, and interactive experiences tackles family, global migration, and cultural identity, with immigration as the dominant theme running throughout all the films. They raise questions and force us to re-examine notions of home, state, nationalism, borders, and communities. These are some of the underpinning stories that our filmmakers go to great length to articulate and bring to us, and the kind of films we program. Generally, most of the films in our program deal with themes of immigration, identity and social justice, which have been staples of our programming.
What do you think that Hollywood and the global film industry at large could do to improve opportunities for actors or filmmakers of color?
(LD) As filmmakers who have never relied or waited for permission from Hollywood, we think it is important for filmmakers of color to begin to take matters into their own hands and create their own projects; become agencies of their own narratives and not wait or rely on Hollywood. Eventually, Hollywood will take notice as they are beginning to now. Hollywood has always been slow to catch with us.
By just offering a platform and audience to filmmakers we are boosting their careers, and re-affirming to them that their stories and voices matter more than ever, and it’s imperative to continue the work they are doing. What filmmakers of color need are more opportunities to develop and showcase their work, and we offer both with the festival and lab.
What part does mentoring play in your work with the Nova Frontier Film Festival?
(BGF) The Nova Frontier Film Festival Lab is a core part of what we do. The LAB is conceived as an incubator and hub, a platform for educating and mentoring the next generation of emerging young talents in the philosophy, skill-sets, and distribution of independent filmmaking and new media. Thus a focus on youth is to create a safe environment that facilitates the exchange of knowledge, collaboration and co-production, while simultaneously working on dissolving cultural boundaries (conceived and pre-conceived) that separate us—engaging in productive rather than pernicious confrontations. What's more, the film LAB helps youth to find their unique voice, unleash their artistic talents, and develop skills that could lead to future career opportunities in the film and audiovisual industries.
For more information, visit the Nova Frontier Film Festival website.
All photos courtesy of Nova Frontier Film Festival.
To read a review of a Nova Frontier Film Festival film, click the READ MORE buttons in the listing below.