The semifinalists have been named for the 13th annual NBCUniversal Short Film Festival, which celebrates diverse stories in a search for the next generation of storytellers.
Chosen from more than 3,400 submissions, the semifinalists feature stories about people of ethnically diverse backgrounds, the LGBTQ community, and women. Of the 15 projects that made the cut this year, 11 are directed and/or directed by women, topping 2017’s record inclusion rate, and about half feature stories centered on female protagonists.
“In a time where female storytellers are powerfully calling on the industry for more opportunities and recognition, it is fitting that our Short Film Festival has set a new record for female writers and directors represented in our semifinal shorts,” said Karen Horne, SVP programming talent development & inclusion at NBC Entertainment. “I’m proud that our festival not only puts more female storytellers into the spotlight but also features an array of impactful shorts about diverse people.”
The semifinalists include dramas, comedies, pilots and web series episodes, They will be showcased at free public screenings on August 14 and 15 in New York before the finalists are chosen for a finale screening and awards ceremony in Los Angeles on October 24.
Here are the projects:
B.U.T.S: “SPANISH CLASS”
Director: Brendan Colthurst
Writers: Emma Ramos, Irene Lucio, Bernardo Cubria and Timmy Wood
Nominated twice for an Imagen Award for Best Web Series, B.U.T.S is a sketch comedy web series created and starring Irene Lucio and Emma Ramos making fun of themselves and their surroundings through a Latina lens. In each episode, they portray different characters that parody and satirize the many ‘afflictions’ of the modern-day woman. In the “Spanish Class” episode, a couple, Lucy and Timmy, get way more than they bargained for when they set out to learn Spanish in a week. (trailer)
Director: Ashleigh Stanczak
Writer: April Mouton
Brunch goes awry when that guy she’s dating doesn’t text back after ONE minute. Panic NATURALLY ensues inside her Girl Brain.
Director: Suzanne Andrews Correa
Writers: Suzanne Andrews Correa and Mustafa Kaymak
An undocumented Turkish pedicab driver unwittingly draws police attention, endangering his brother, his community and himself. (trailer)
HACIA EL SOL (TOWARDS THE SUN)
Director: Monica Santis
Writers: Elie Choufany and Monica Santis
Under the looming threat of deportation, an unaccompanied minor at an immigrant children’s shelter in Texas learns to express herself through the power of art. The film was an official selection at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, TIFF Kids International Film Festival and Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (trailer)
HAVE IT ALL
Writer & Director: Katie Locke O’Brien
A finalist for the HBO Insider Comedy Short Challenge at the Women in Comedy Festival, “Have It All” is the true story of one meeting, one baby and one big myth.
Director: Thomas Nolle
Writers: Chad Goldich and Kris Rubio
“Hush Hush” is a horror-comedy about Dan, his friends and their terrifying experience with his murderous little sister, filmed in the vein of Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” and Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” The film won Best Horror Comedy from Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival. (trailer)
Directors: Rüya Koman, Robin Rose Singer
Writer: Robin Rose Singer
A couple traveling on a deserted country road find themselves the sole witnesses to a violent altercation between a police officer and an African-American man that has left one person dead. The short was nominated as a semi-finalist for the 2016 Nantucket FF Showtime/Tony Cox Award. It was a finalist for the Screencraft production grant and at the 2017 WeScreenplay Shorts Competition.
Writer & Director: Kemiyondo Coutinho
An independent young Ugandan woman lives through the taunts of using public transport on a daily basis. As she struggles to find her footing in a patriarchal society that entitles men to women’s bodies, she finds love in a bittersweet moment. The film won at the Pan African Film Festival and Zanzibar International Film Festival. (trailer)
Director: Louis Yin
Writers: Louis Yin and Aditya Rawal
A Chinese immigrant makes contact with his grandson in the future via a mailbox. Together they have to deal with their mutual enemies.
Writer & Director: Mahaliyah Ayla O
A closeted medical student risks being outed to her family on the same evening a masked gunman opens fire at a gay nightclub. “Masks” won the AT&T Audience Award for Best Short Film at the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival. (trailer)
Director: Tricia Lee
Writers: Simu Liu and Tina Jung
Zoe has never questioned her mother’s absence from her life. However, on her sixth birthday, Zoe begins to wonder why she can only see mommy once every year.
Writer & Director: Dinh Thai
Kwan is everyone’s one-stop shop for anything stolen or illicit, but his reasons for hustling are not as clear-cut as they seem. While maneuvering between disparate cliques and facing racism, he’ll be forced to question the immorality of his occupation. “Monday” was a first place winner at the HBO APA Visionaries and won Best Direction at the New York Television Festival. (trailer)
Writer & Director: Hammad Rizvi
In the streets of Pakistan, a socially outcast transgender woman sets out to take care of an abandoned child. (trailer)
TZEVA ADOM: COLOR RED
Director: Michael Horwitz | Writer: C. Ashleigh Caldwell
“Tzeva Adom: Color Red” tells a story from both sides of the border and ultimately presents a message of peace, tolerance, and hope within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film was a finalist in The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival, winner of Best Narrative Short at the San Diego and Los Angeles Jewish Film Festivals and the Best Narrative Short winner at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood. (trailer)
WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE
Director: Honora Talbott
Writers: Bill Posley and Honora Talbott
When a newlywed Latinx couple moves into a trendy, gentrifying LA neighborhood, two hipsters invite themselves over to offer a “warm welcome.” But as the night goes on, it’s clear these neighbors are not what they seem: cold pressed, cold brewed and cold blooded. (trailer)
A smaller group of finalists will be chosen from these films and a panel of entertainment industry professionals and NBCUniversal executives will choose winners for Best Writer, Best Director and Best Actor, among others. The winners will be announced at a finale screening and awards ceremony in Los Angeles on October 24 at the Directors Guild of America.