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Nitehawk Shorts Festival Boosts Female Filmmakers With Majority Women-Led 2019 Lineup

Exclusive: 61 percent of this year's films come from female directors, further proving the next generation of filmmakers doesn't look the same as the old guard.

Still from A.V. Rockwell's "Feathers"

A.V. Rockwell’s “Feathers”

A.V. Rockwell

Now in its seventh edition, the Nitehawk Shorts Festival (running November 11-18 in Brooklyn) is billed as “a celebration of independent short filmmaking, featuring seven days of screenings, workshops, and special events that highlight and support a diverse range of voices in short films.” The curation of NSF “prioritizes conversations over categorical listings” and aims to provide audiences with an experience unlike most short film programs. This year’s lineup continues its mission to “represent diverse backgrounds, voices, and perspectives with our selection of exceptional short-form films.” NSF is committed to gender parity.

As such, 61 percent of this year’s selection includes films is directed by women. All short films are under 20 minutes and made in the last two years. The festival’s main slate features a range of filmmakers, from emerging film-school students to Academy Award nominees. The Nitehawk Shorts Festival “provides an inclusive platform for filmmakers to encourage an engagement with new audiences and to establish a dialogue with the New York film community.”

While female filmmakers are still the minority in big budget Hollywood fare, the short film world and the indie festival scene provide a window into the next generation of filmmakers, one that doesn’t quite look like the current studio status quo. A recent study of some of the country’s top indie film festivals found that, of the films analyzed, men comprised 68 percent and women 32 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on films (documentaries and narrative features) screening at the festivals in 2018-19. In fact, high-profile festivals in the U.S. screened more than twice as many narrative features directed by men as by women.

There has been anecdotal evidence that things are turning around, and festivals like the Nitehawk Shorts Festival are emblematic of those systematic changes. This year’s Tribeca Film Festival reached gender parity with its competition section, after spending years moving the needle toward equality (other festivals have also reached parity in recent years, including both Hot Docs and the Camden International Film Festival). At Sundance 2019, of the four Grand Jury Prizes given to competition films — the festival’s highest honors — each was directed or co-directed by a female filmmaker.

Check out the full lineup for the Nitehawk Shorts Festival below (with all synopses provided by the fest), and find out more about the event over at its official website.

Opening Nite Program
Tuesday, November 12 at 7pm. Q&A with Filmmakers. Nitehawk Williamsburg.
The eight shorts feature documentaries on New York communities, Brooklyn drag queens, and a firefighter’s love of cinema along with narrative stories about immigration, coming of age, sex, and self-pleasure.

Jai Moseley / U.S.A. / 2019 / 4 min
A kaleidoscopic film of unencumbered moments between people and places, centered in feelings, memory, and experiences that are intrinsic to us all. Filmed in Harlem, Inwood, and Washington Heights, New York.

A.V. Rockwell / U.S.A. / 2018 / 20 min
Elizier, an emotionally-dejected new enrollee at The Edward R. Mill School for Lost Boys, must overcome memories of a tragic past and the present hazing by his peers in order to tackle larger issues dominating his young life.

“A Line Birds Cannot See”
Amy Bench / U.S.A. / 2019 / 9 min / NEW YORK PREMIERE
Separated from her mother by smugglers, a determined 12-year-old sets out across a desert with only a plastic sack for cover, survives starvation on the streets of Ciudad Juarez, and escapes kidnappers to seek her mother and a place where they can be safe again.

“Narmin’s Birthday”
Jenny Groza and Lydia Cornett / U.S.A. / 2018 / 18 min
The story of Narmin, an Azerbaijani teenager living in Brooklyn, and her grandmother Ismat, as Narmin plans her 16th birthday party to be as “American” as possible–much to the dismay of Ismat.

“Memory Xperiment: Kathy Acker”
Aïda Ruilova / U.S.A. / 2019 / 7 min / WORLD PREMIERE
A short film based on the literary work of author Kathy Acker. Set in the ’70s, the film is a coming of age story of a young female writer exploring her identity through sex and her writing.

“How Does It Start”
Amber Sealey / U.S.A. / 2019 / 16 min
It’s 1983 and 12-year-old Rain wants sex, the only problem is she has no idea what that means. With her self-absorbed parents distracted by their recent divorce, Rain is left alone to navigate the complexities of love and adulthood, and learns to do it her own way.

“The Making of Panthera”
Savannah O’Leary & Renee Mao / U.S.A. / 2019 / 5 min
Weaving cinéma vérité and choreographed drama, this short documentary follows Brooklyn-based drag queen Panthera Lush and her chameleonic friends to take a closer look at the creative process behind the ever-evolving art form of drag.

“Me Time”
Iyabo Boyd / U.S.A. / 2019 / 11 min
After a stressful work day, Deborah settles in for some intimate “me time” at home until three other aspects of her psyche appear, dredge up deep-seated inhibitions, and threaten to derail her plan.

“Best Picture”
Jay Giampietro / U.S.A. / 2019 / 6 1/2 min
Surprises are in store for a movie-obsessed firefighter who hosts an annual Academy Awards party.

Closing Nite Program
Monday, November 18 at 7pm. Q&A with Filmmakers. Nitehawk Prospect Park.
The festival closes with eight short films that present stories on the intimacy of the nail salon, absurdist, dark comedies, and powerful coming-of-age stories about friendship.

“The Neighbor’s Window”
Marshall Curry / U.S.A. / 2019 / 20 min
A mother of young children who’s grown frustrated with her daily routine and husband has her life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings move in across the street and she discovers that she can see into their apartment.

“See You Next Time”
Crystal Kayiza / U.S.A. / 2019 / English & Mandarin with subtitles / 6 min
“See You Next Time” reaches across the nail salon table to capture the intimate moments shared between a Chinese nail artist and her Black client.

“Princess Rita”
Blair Waters / U.S.A. / 2019 / 10 min / NY Premiere
A lonely insurance adjuster becomes consumed by his desire to meet his internet girlfriend, who claims to be a princess from a faraway country.

“Laying Out”
Joanna Arrow / U.S.A. / 2019 / 5 min
An absurd comedy about a woman who examines her relationship with a man she has just started seeing in depth, and begins to explore her own misogyny, fantasies about having a penis and hatred for traditional gender roles.

“The Dishwasher”
Nick Hartanto & Sam Roden / U.S.A. / 2019 / English & Spanish with subtitles / 13 min
A chef at a fine dining restaurant in New York City asks a Mexican dishwasher to find good tortillas.

Eleanore Pienta / U.S.A. / 2018 / 11 min
Ada is an unlikeable competitive walker who makes a dress out of toilet paper and has an unfortunate run-in with a hose.

“Night Swim”
Victoria Rivera / U.S.A. / 2019 / 12 min
Three teenage girls break into a shut down pool. When uninvited guests show up, their friendship is tested and one of them is left behind.

“Skip Day”
Ivete Lucas & Patrick Bresnan / U.S.A. / 2018 / 17 min
Intimate glimpses of one very special day in the lives of high-school seniors from an industrial corner of the Florida Everglades: prom’s over, the future is uncertain, and the irresistible pull of the beach makes the long-time friends drive 60 miles to chill, pose and revel in the waves.

Festival Parties

Tuesday, November 12 from 8:30pm – 10:30pm
Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg – Lo-Res Bar

Friday, November 15 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg – Lo-Res Bar

Monday, November 18 from 8:30pm – 10:30pm
Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park – Upstairs Bar

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