Given the diverse backgrounds of New York Film Academy’s students and instructors, it’s no wonder we’re well represented in this year’s festival. See which members of NYFA are representing this year’s Cannes Film Festival!
Writer, director, and New York Film Academy graduate Rubaiyat Hossain has travelled with her short films to international festivals since her graduation in 2002. She is currently promoting her first feature film, Meherjaan, which has proven to be quite controversial, and has been unofficially banned in Bangladesh. Despite this, the film has been shown at over 30 film festivals, garnering accolades and winning over audiences across the nation and around the world.
The Hindustan Times sang her praises, saying, “Kudos to Rubaiyat Hossain who had the courage to showcase such a wonderful and inspiring love story, standing at a time when we are facing cross border terrorism.”
Set in 1971 during Bangladesh’s war of independence, Meherjaan tells the story of a a young woman who falls in love with a soldier from the enemy’s side. When her affair is discovered, she is shamed and silenced by her family. Thirty-eight years later, a young stranger forces her to face the truth about her past.
Rubaiyat Hossain works as a researcher and lecturer in her native Bangladesh, exploring issues of women’s rights, sexuality, Sufism, and Bengali nationalism, and how these issues intersect.
In a statement on Meherjaan’s website, Rubaiyat explains, “A war is always made into a glorious narrative with certain male [heroes] and villains. Women mostly appear as sacrificing creatures, [mothers] and sisters who bravely let go of their men for the cause of the nation. Women also appear synonymous to the landscape – ready to be raped, plundered, and give their lives and… chastity for the cause of the nation. The purpose of ‘Meherjaan’ is to break the glorious narrative of national history, and open up a modest avenue to explore… multiple narratives of war.”
Meherjaan screens in New York City as part of the SoHo International Film Festival on Tuesday, April 17 at 9 p.m. at the Sunshine Cinema at 143 E. Houston.
Iceberg is a story about being who you truly are and the difficult choices we have to make to succeed on this. Lora leads a seemingly happy married life with a loving husband and a daughter. One night she meets Kate, a younger and somewhat inexperienced woman to whom she will begin a heated affair with. Lora will try to keep this new relationship as casual as possible, but after intimacy brings emotions to the surface, Lora will be forced to face her true feelings and finally make a decision. Floating icebergs have a significant proportion of their mass below the surface of the water. So does life.
NYFA Student Wins Best New Filmmaker at Staten Island Film Festival
“Apartment 7” - Trailer from gabriella loutfi on Vimeo. One-Year Filmmaking Program student Gabriella Loufti is rapidly developing a desirable directorial resume. A member of the September class of the New York Film Academy program, Gabriella surpassed about 66 other entries to win Best New Filmmaker at the Staten Island Film Festival for her short feature, Apartment 7, and was the only female filmmaker to win an award at the festival. The film was also nominated for Best Dramatic Short and Best Actress. Considering that Apartment 7 was her first film, Gabriella seems precocious a talent to follow. She graciously took some time out of her schedule to have a chat with the NYFA Blog.
Her ten minute short is centered around a sickly woman who finds a surprising scene when she investigates her husband’s late-night disappearance. The couple is jerked awake one night by sounds coming from the apartment above theirs, apartment 7. The woman’s husband leaves to check out the noise and fails to return. Upon going up to apartment 7 to find her spouse, the woman discovers a 1940s-era jazz party in full swing.
Gabriella shot the film with her DP’s Canon EOS 5D DSLR and used NYFA lighting and film equipment. Having been taught at NYFA to use what you have, Gabriella filmed the entire movie in her parents’ home on Staten Island. “My parents were happy about the jazz band in their living room,” she joked. Fellow NYFA classmates Simon Sommelius and Mathew Richmond were her DP and gaffer/sound-mixer respectively, and her cousin, NYU student Joseph Pernice, acted as her assistant director. Film & TV Producing Program students Elie Mechoulam, Miklos Kazmer and Ashley Maltz all collaborated on the film as well. Gabriella’s friend Mickey King composed the original music forApartment 7.
After graduating from Fordham University last year with a degree in Communications, Media and Cinema Studies, Gabriella reached a fork in her career plans. “I’ve watched enough movies, now I want to make them!” she commented on her post-undergraduate thought process. With her parents’ encouragement, she decided to pursue her long-time interest in film. Gabriella expressed no regrets about taking the plunge into her film education and gushed about her classmates and the equipment made available to New York Film Academy students.
Now on the table for Gabriella is her thesis film, Forgery, a period piece set from the 1920s through the 1950s. Forgery is centered around an excessively talented art forger whose Vermeer imitations are so perfectly rendered they fool art critics. Drawn by word of mouth from her friends and colleagues, on the last day of shooting, New York 1 taped Gabriella and her crew at work on Forgery. We wish Gabriella all the best finishing up her thesis!
Student Film Baram & Hamza Wins Again
We reported Zaid Abu Hamdan’s success with his First Year MFA FilmBaram & Hamza on the NYFA blog about a month ago. His short film about an unlikely friendship between an Israeli boy and a Palestinian boy had recently received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Short Filmmaking at the Newport Beach Film Festival and was going on to show at several other film festivals. Since we last heard from Zaid, his First Year MFA Film has gained even more recognition on the festival circuit. The film was awarded the Van Gogh Award for World Cinema Directing: Dramatic at the Amsterdam Film Festival this year and made the rounds at Queens International, Dubai International and Cannes Film Festival, amongst others. Baram & Hamza has not only earned critical approval but has brought the attention of sponsors to Zaid’s directorial abilities. The success of Zaid’s first year efforts has significantly aided the production of his MFA Thesis Film. He has been awarded funding and support from a variety of interests, including Cannes Film Festival, Kodak LA and his home country of Jordan. These investments will make the production of his upcoming film possible. Congratulations for earning funding, Zaid, you deserve it!
NYFA Graduate’s Film Sweeps African Academy Awards
The African Movie Academy Awards saw quite a bit of NYFA graduate Kunle Afolayan’s feature film, The Figurine, during their 2010 ceremonies. Out of the ten awards for which it was nominated, The Figurine took Best Picture, Achievement in Visual Effect, Heart of African Award for Best Film from Nigeria, Achievement in Cinematography and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The film has solidified Afolayan’s future in filmmaking and attracted well-deserved attention to Nigeria’s rapidly growing film industry, Nollywood.
Son of Ade Afolayan, the famed Nigerian actor, Kunle Afolayan didn’t exactly start out following in his father’s footsteps. A banker by profession, the Nigerian filmmaker at first regarded entertainment as more of a hobby. He spent a few years taking small acting jobs while working in banking. It wasn’t until 2005 that Kunle took a leap of faith and left his career to study digital filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in London.Irapada, his first work, gained recognition at a number of international film festivals and won the Best Indigenous Award at the 2007 AMAAs. Set in modern Nigeria, the film is colorfully injected with elements of Nigerian myth culture. After a successful building contractor tragically ignores an old relative’s devastating premonitions, he is forced to reassess his long-standing rejection of ancient superstitions. Kunle once again peppers a contemporary story with Nigerian folklore in The Figurine. A group of friends finds an effigy of Araromire, a goddess believed to grant good luck, and must confront the negative aspects of supernaturally bestowed fortune. Boasting relatively enormous production values, Afolayan’s work on The Figurine has made him a special effects pioneer in Nollywood. His intentions to revolutionize and promote the Nigerian film industry have also extended to his method of distribution. The film was shot with a movie theater audience experience in mind. In a move to reinvigorate Nigerian cinema culture, Kunle Afolayan has pushed for The Figurine to remain in theaters for as long as possible, in contrast to the usual DVD distribution goals of the average filmmaker. Kunle Afolayan’s unconventional approach to filmmaking and film distribution has put him at the top of the African film industry. Having recently run a filmmaking program in Abuja, those of us at the New York Film Academy are excited to see one of our graduates work to further advance the Nigerian industry.