From a nationwide search, coast to coast, and from a grand total of 3000+ submissions NBCUniversal celebrated the top 6 finalists with an awards ceremony at the Directors Guild of America to showcase the industry’s new up and coming diverse talent.
We got a chance to speak with some of the finalists on the red carpet to talk more about their films and how diversity influenced their creation.
The Knockturnal: What was your vision for this film or what sparked the momentum to create it?
Hammad Rizvi, director and writer of the short film “Rani”:
“My ultimate vision was to provide audiences with a world that they hadn’t seen before, but to not be heavy handed in the message. I wanted them to feel a certain way, regarding orphan kids and the trans community and to come out of the film thinking, ‘Wow, I forgot about all these labels, I just saw a story about motherhood, about loss, or love’. I felt special towards this topic, where it’s still controversial here, and abroad, that you know, I felt that navigating it in this way is something that really helps out the story and so I had that from day one. And this is what I wanted to do, so hopefully I was able to do that.”
Irene Lucio, co-creator of short film B.U.T.S. Spanish Class:
“The series emerged four years ago from serious frustrations that Emma and I had as actresses in New York City, being pigeon holed into the two latino stereotypes that were available; which were either a sex plot, or very submissive low status in the room and we didn’t fit either and we didn’t understand why we couldn’t play other roles. We decided to channel our anger and frustrations and laugh about it and we decided to subvert latino stereotypes with a Latino Key and Peele show, that enabled us to do a variety sketch show for characters that are hilarious and strange, that we like to do, and make us laugh and also have a political statement regarding latinos in the media.”
Emma Ramos, co-creator of short film B.U.T.S. Spanish Class:
“Furthermore, I think in the United States there’s an assumption that if you have an accent speaking English you’re somehow dumber, when really you are twice as smart because you had to learn a more difficult language. You have twice as many languages! So, we wanted to flip it and have a white person learn another language, to sort of put all of us in a position of having to learn another language, and how funny, awkward and also difficult that is.”
Kemiyondo Coutinho, director and writer of short film Kyenvu:
“So in 2014, Uganda set in a law that banned mini skirts, and sexual harassment cases went up. So, I wanted to tackle the issue from an African gaze which we don’t normally see and so I decided to write the story. The film is a “Rom-Com” interrupted by tragedy in Uganda, and I said I’ll just shoot a short film that is a full Ugandan cast and a full Ugandan crew.”
Mahaliyah Ayla O, director and writer of short film Masks:
“I wrote this story, I am a survivor of a mass shooting, when I was a kid, and then I’m also gay and so when Pulse happened it affected me on a lot of levels and obviously it affected everyone; so I wrote this story without really thinking about turning it into anything and I just wrote it to get it out initially, and then things fell into place and I ended up making it into my thesis.”
The Knockturnal: What do you hope an audience member will take away after watching this film?
Hammad Rizvi: I want them to take away that if they can watch this film without labels then it’s something to really think about, and no matter what your political affiliation or religious affiliation or what you think about the world is, that when you realize that these stories are universal just have perspective, that’s it.
Irene Lucio: To create content, I think that what we hope to, in a more social way, is to empower people and to tell them, grab a camera, write it down, don’t wait and ask permission, put your work out there and the right person will connect to it and become an amplifier for your voice.
Emma Ramos: For me, I want people to watch this, regardless if they notice it or not, and say ‘That was refreshing, I didn’t know I needed to laugh at this, can there be more content like this?’ I want people to notice that they haven’t see a latino duo before and that this needs a space and that it has a space.
Kemiyondo Coutinho: We need female directors, it’s not about how you’re portrayed, it’s about how you’re seen. In the last scene which is a very vulnerable scene, I am nude, a lot of people will say ‘Were you uncomfortable?’ I wasn’t uncomfortable because I knew how I was going to be seen. Also, I want them to take away that in order to be an ally you gotta get uncomfortable you gotta be willing to have those uncomfortable conversations.
Mahaliyah Ayla O: My dream and fantasy world would be somehow the people in power, that could stop guns being sold to any and everyone, would just push a button and make that stop so that way we can stop being afraid, but on a basic level, I hope people leave the story appreciating their loved ones more and having a bit more empathy and compassion for the people who survived Pulse and any mass shooting.
Winners of the 13th annual NBCUniversal Short Film Festival can be found on our NBCUniversal Event Recap Article.