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Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know 8 AAPI Filmmakers With Shorts at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

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A still from Renee Zhan’s “SHÉ (SNAKE),” which screened as part of the Midnight Short Film Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

By Lucy Spicer

One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a front-row seat for the bright future of independent filmmaking. While we can learn a lot about the filmmakers from the 2024 Sundance Film Festival through the art that these storytellers share with us, there’s always more we can learn about them as people. This year, we decided to get to the bottom of those artistic wells with our ongoing series: Give Me the Backstory!

We never need an excuse to hype the medium of short film at Sundance Institute, but we’re thrilled to offer shorts lovers multiple reasons to celebrate as we approach the summer season. If you missed the Festival in January (or want to relive some of your favorite Fest shorts in theaters), you can catch a curated program of short films from the 2024 Festival as part of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which kicks off in June

And if you love making short films as much as we love watching them, we’ve got more good news for you: Submissions to the 2025 Sundance Film Festival are now open, and we can’t wait to watch the next wave of independent storytellers bring their short films to the big screen.

Last but certainly not least, as we continue to commemorate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s the perfect time to get to know some of the AAPI filmmakers whose short films played at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Gain some insight into these eight creatives — in their own words — below, including what inspired their 2024 Festival shorts, which feature an ultra-revealing view of isolation, a portrait of an artists village known for replicas, nightmarish instructions from a familiar voice, an award-winning tale of a half-crab’s journey to self-acceptance, romance sparked at Cowboy Church, the struggles that accompany sex addiction, an animated origin story of a lake, and the monstrous consequences of competition.

Read on to learn more about eight of the innovative AAPI filmmakers who brought their unique voices to the 2024 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Program. 

What was the biggest inspiration behind the film?

Whammy Alcazaren (Bold Eagle): “I tried to dig a little deeper thinking about this. But it really was all rooted in my fascination with dick and buttholes during isolation. Bold Eagle is a pandemic film. I survived the crazy time of being trapped at home because of the internet. Sitting, staring, and contemplating who I am and my place in the universe, I sought escape through Twitter and other forms of social media. This is very much what the film is about — alleviating loneliness and self-implosion through the beautiful cyber release allowed by technology.”

Dongnan Chen (14 Paintings): “At the beginning, I

The IndieFEST Film Awards Announces Latest Winners! April 2024

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Rick Prickett, Competition Director



The IndieFEST Film Awards Announces Latest Winners!

La Jolla, CA, May 2024 - The IndieFEST is proud to announce the latest winners. Congratulations to all the filmmakers who participated in the current season!The awards go to those filmmakers who produce fresh, standout entertainment and compelling documentaries. The IndieFEST is a top-tier international awards competition. It honors professionals, established and emerging, who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity. The goal of The IndieFEST is to help the winners of this coveted award achieve the recognition they deserve. Additionally, each year IndieFEST also bestows a special award to productions that make significant contributions to social change or a humanitarian effort. Please visit to learn more about the IndieFEST Humanitarian Award.

May 2024


~ Best of Show ~  My Mercury – Joëlle Chesselet and Pippa Ehrlich


Joëlle Chesselet and Pippa Ehrlich (United Kingdom), My Mercury, Documentary Feature – Oscar-winner Ehrlich (My Octopus Teacher) teams up with director Chesselet to deliver a doc that is as gripping and complicated as it is wildly compelling. At 28, conservationist Yves Chesselet abandons modern comforts to live alone on Namibia’s remote Mercury Island for 8 years amidst a cacophony of constant sounds and smells. His mission: relocate 15,000 seals, making room for endangered seabirds. Through Yves’ diaries and video footage, his sister Joëlle unfolds a tale of environmental urgency, human struggle, Yves’ troubled past, his unrelenting internal torment and his moral choices. We witness a hermit’s ethical battle against nature’s harsh beauty, where saving one species means harming another. Ultimately, it’s a triumph for the birds, but with a haunting cost. This intimate documentary explores re-wilding as a complex dance between man, nature and our human psyches.

As Yves grapples with the moral complexities of his mission, we are forced to confront our own notions of ethics and responsibility. What sacrifices are we willing to make in the name of conservation? How do we reconcile the harsh realities of nature with our innate desire to protect and nurture it?

My Mercury is more than a documentary—it’s a meditation on the fragile balance between man and nature, and the profound impact of our choices on the world around us. It challenges us to reevaluate our relationship with the environment and consider the true cost of our actions. In the end, it leaves us with a haunting question: what are we willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Ultimately, it reminds us that the fate of earth, and all that live here, rests upon the choices we make and the compassion we embrace toward a world that we are destroying.

A24 Films & Dog Star Films. Written by Emmy-nominee Jinx Godfrey, Producers: Emmy nominee Ben CotnerNews & Doc Emmy winner Adriana BantaNews & Doc Emmy Nominee Emily OsborneMandy ChangNick Shumaker

FILM MODE Decrees LAWS OF MAN with Star-Studded Cast, and Makes Market Premiere and Screening in Cannes

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New film stars Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Grand Budapest Hotel) Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Scream VI), Richard Brake, (Kingsman, Hannibal Rising, Barbarian), Jacob Keohane (Halloween Kills, Condor’s Nest), and Jackson Rathbone (Twilight, The Island)


Film Mode Entertainment and Lost Galleon Films are thrilled to announce the new crime-thriller, Laws of Man, and its Cannes World Market Premiere and screening. The newly completed crime/thriller, Laws of Man (fka Without Consequence) stars Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Grand Budapest Hotel) Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Scream VI), Richard Brake, (Kingsman, Hannibal Rising, Barbarian), Jacob Keohane (Halloween Kills, Condor’s Nest), and Jackson Rathbone (Twilight, The Island). Graham Greene (Wind River, Last of the Mohicans), Keith Carradine (The Power of the Dog, The Duellist), Kelly Lynn Reiter (Deadlock, Maneater), and James Urbaniak (Oppenheimer, The Fabelmans) round out the cast. Laws of Man is written and directed by Phil Blattenberger (Condor’s Nest, Point Man). Producers are Phil Blattenberger, Dan Black, and Jacob Keohane.


The film will have its world debut market screening on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 9am local time at Palais B. Film Mode Entertainment has acquired global sales rights for Laws of Man and is presenting the film to buyers in Cannes for the first time.


“We’re excited to present this excellently crafted crime/thriller to our distributors. Laws of Man also has some of the most extraordinary shootout scenes in recent history and that’s not easy to accomplish. Film Mode is thrilled that Phil Blattenberger and Brandon Baker have entrusted us with this exciting new film.” Said Epstein.


“Laws of Man encapsulates everything we love about thrillers,” says Blattenberger. “Good guys, bad guys, gunfights, burgeoning love. There’s also an intelligence to it, a lot of layers; our hero wrestles with ghosts from World War Two, Harvey Keitel plays a mysterious hippie preacher, Keith Carradine drives a subversive political arc. The story is imbued with pain and vulnerability and love and redemption… and big explosions. It’s a wild ride.”


In Laws of Man, two U.S. marshals undertake a dangerous mission to arrest Benjamin Bonney, a notorious outlaw wanted for murder. But when an ambush in the desert throws them into chaos, they discover that Bonney's influence and power make his capture impossible. As the marshals navigate assassination attempts and looming catastrophe, they stumble onto a sinister plot that threatens the very foundations of peace and justice.


Film Mode Entertainment has been dedicated to bridging the gap between filmmakers and audiences since its inception. It has been at the forefront of this movement, providing a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work and reach a wider audience. Film Mode Entertainment raises the genre-bar for feature films by nurturing high-quality, engaging commercially viable movies like LAWS OF MAN and bringing them to the global marketplace with great success.  



Tv round-up

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We Were the Lucky Ones tells the story of the Kurc family during the second world war. Until it began they lived in the Polish city of Radom, but following Hitler’s invasion some went into hiding, some were taken to concentration camps and others flew to distant corners of the world. The score is jointly credited to Rachel Portman and Jon Ehrlich with no indication of the division of labour – but there is no doubting who was responsible for the main theme, which is nothing short of magnificent.

Few can write a tune like Portman and this one is a seemingly effortless mixture of effervescence and tragedy – such a difficult mixture to pull off, I imagine its creation was in fact anything but effortless. It is genuinely exceptional, and yes it sounds like various creations from the past works of the composer but that’s the hallmark of a truly distinct and individual voice. The score’s highlights are generally when it appears but elsewhere there are scondary themes, typically for solo piano, and typically very touching and with Portman’s trademark deft touch. Inevitably there are darker moments too which provide the album with a nice balance which help to sustain its long run time. Highly recommended.

Even though Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem was necessarily dumbed down somewhat for its tv adaptation (as wonderful as it is, it does occasionally read more like a physics textbook) it was still made in a way that could have supported a great score. The direct allegory of the novel to Chinese social issues is lost in translation to the screen as the setting of the modern-day segments are shifted to allow more western characters, but there’s still stuff going on under the surface of the story that would have allowed a smart and deep score which could have combined these personal moments with the broad science fiction scope of the underlying narrative.

Unfortunately it didn’t get that. Instead Ramin Djawadi’s score is entirely surface-level, missing all the opportunities the project provided to him (whether this is his fault or the showrunners’, of course I have no idea). The main title piece is the highlight, a jittery and (by design) disorientating little piece with rhythmic cells being constructed then deconstructed over its brief run time. Sadly the rest of the score is just standard modern thriller material, an array of electronically-realised industrial sounds generally drowning out the orchestra with nary a tune in sight. Avoiding any attempt to create any emotional bonds between the characters (or between them and the audience) it’s just musical wallpaper, even the big sci-fi moments reduced in scope by the music. It’s such a dull album, and within the show feels like a big missed opportunity.

Djawadi fares a little (but only a little) better in his other big show released at the same time, Fallout, based on the post-apocalyptic video game series. While it’s not The Last Of Us by any means, I found it to be a reasonably entertaining show. Again the opportunity was there for a distinctive score and again it wasn’t really taken – the big mecha-warrior types, the cowboy/ghoul, the plucky young heroine, the mystery of the creation and leadership of the underground community – easy to see how these elements could have been given their own sounds with some overarching material linking everything together.

Instead it is mostly standard modern thriller material again, a bit grittier and more electronic than 3 Body Problem, but importantly with more of a sense of momen

A Spotlight on ÉCU 2024’s Music Video Category

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In this year’s Music Video Selection of ÉCU, we have been presented with a vast selection of some brilliant films, as well as very talented filmmakers, displaying a wide range of genres and themes in conjunction with featuring a vast variety in terms of imagery, visuals and art style. 

Along with being a place to share and celebrate powerful musical creations, the Music Video Selection mainly serves to enhance and display innovation and creativity, bringing together independent music videos that stand out due to their quality either by excelling in storytelling, showcasing detailed animation, innovative camera techniques, vibrant art direction, amongst more. 


“À Toi”, by Stéphane Berla, 2023

Directed by the french animator Stéphane Berla, “À Toi” makes us follow the antics of two little creatures, a blue girl and a red fiery boy who are friends. The storyline highlights how their relationship evolves and how they interact and explore the universe they are in.

Berla, in an online Q&A with ÉCU, tells us that one of his major difficulties with this project was the short deadline: “It was a very good surprise that he called me, especially to offer me a new film. (…) The only thing is I had to answer very very fast, I had to make the music video with my team in two months, everything together, it was very very short.”

To better understand this music video, it helps to understand the history behind the music: “This song was already a famous song”, Stéphane explains. “It’s a remake, and it first was a song called À Toi from Joe Dassin, it’s a very famous song and a very beautiful song in France. Matthieu made a new version with Gail Ann Dorsey. Gail is an artist, she sings, but she is very famous for being the bassist of David Bowie.” Adding: “So they made a duo, so she made all the bass on his album, and also they made some songs together, and this one.”

“The idea of this song in French, (…) it’s kind of a love story. But Matthieu told me he didn’t want this, because he wanted more like an artistic link between him and Gail Ann Dorsey. So I focused on this idea.”

The story-telling of this video feels simultaneously whimsical and intimate, where we start by watching the two main characters interact as if they were children playing together. Bit by bit, we see them evolve almost as if they were growing up, but still in each other’s company until they take their final form, the carmine boy turning into the singer -M- (Matthieu Chedid), and the little flying girl transforming into Gail Ann Dorsey. Eventually, the video transcends with both of them sitting under the same bewitching blue tree where we first see them interact, this time around, both of them playing the guitar. The ending seemingly represents a cycle, as we see them return to their original forms and play hopscotch, a children’s game, one last time together, as the music comes to its end with a whispery tone.


“LUST SUPPER – NASTY THINGS”, by Artem Verkhoglyadov, 2023

With its colorful and detailed scenario, as well as the smooth camera movements that create a sense of continuity from

Nancy Buirski and D. A. Pennebaker will be celebrated with the 2024 Full Frame Tribute

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The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will celebrate filmmakers Nancy Buirski, who also founded the festival, and D. A. Pennebaker with the 2024 Full Frame Tribute. 

“Remembering Nancy and Penny, I cannot think of two people who are more responsible for shaping Full Frame as a cultural institution,” said co-festival director and artistic director Sadie Tillery. “Over the years, they shared their films, their passion for the craft of filmmaking, their knowledge of the documentary form, and their profound desire to hold space for meaningful dialogue and connection. Full Frame would not be Full Frame without them, and it means the world to me to highlight their invaluable contributions this year.” 

Full Frame will screen a selection of Buirski’s and Pennebaker’s films at the four-day festival. An event where friends, colleagues, and fellow filmmakers remember Buirski’s visionary artistry will take place in Fletcher Hall. The festival will also a feature a panel conversation around Pennebaker’s legacy as a pioneer of cinéma vérité and a mentor to numerous filmmakers. 

Read the press here.

2024 Full Frame Tribute
Nancy Buirski

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq / United States (Director: Nancy Buirski)
Tanaquil Le Clercq inspired choreographers unlike any ballerina before her, but in 1956, at the height of her fame, she was stricken with polio. A mesmerizing film of love, loss, and surprising grace.

Desperate Souls, Dark City, and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy / United States (Director: Nancy Buirski)
Inspired by Glenn Frankel’s 2021 book Shooting Midnight Cowboy: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and the Making of a Dark Classic, Nancy Buirski’s documentary explores the groundbreaking movie, but her attention is trained on the people who made it and the times in which it was made.

The Loving Story / United States (Director: Nancy Buirski)
The Loving Story tells the dramatic story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history.


2024 Full Frame Tribute
A. Pennebaker

Daybreak Express / United States (Director: D. A. Pennebaker)
Shot in 1953, though not completed until 1957, Daybreak Express was the first film D. A. Pennebaker made, a mad rush of images of New York City captured from a train and edited to the rhythm of Duke Ellington’s song of the same name. A jazz aficionado, Pennebaker thought his career would continue along this path, making short films cut to songs.

Dont Look Back / United States (Director: D. A. Pennebaker)
Bob Dylan is captured on-screen as he never would be again in this groundbreaking film from D. A. Pennebaker. The legendary documentarian finds Dylan in England during his 1965 tour, which would be his last as an acoustic artist. In this wildly entertaining vision of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, Dylan is surrounded by teen fans, gets into heated philosophical jousts with journalists, and kicks back with fellow musicians Joan Baez, Donovan, and Alan Price.

Town Bloody Hall / United States (Directors: Chris Hegedus, D. A. Pennebaker)
On April 30, 1971, a standing-room-only crowd of New York’s intellectual elite packed the city’s Town Hall theater to see Norman Mailer—fresh from the controversy over his e

Dandelooo Launches Cinema Division For Animated Films spearheaded by Luna Sirvin

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Emmy Award-winning French animation production and distribution company Dandelooo is delighted to announce the launch of a new feature film division, Dandelooo Cinéma.  This strategic expansion marks a significant milestone in Dandelooo’s commitment to providing unparalleled entertainment to audiences worldwide.


Based at the company’s Paris headquarters, Dandelooo Cinéma is spearheaded by Luna Sirvin, International Sales & Acquisitions Manager (feature films).  With experience in the French and international markets, Luna Sirvin will oversee and expand Dandelooo Cinéma’s activities by acquiring, developing, producing, and marketing animated films for kids and families. 


Commenting on the launch of Dandelooo Cinéma, Emmanuèle Pétry, Co-Founder said, “Entering into the cinema space is a natural progression for Dandelooo.  We are passionate about delivering exceptional entertainment and Dandelooo Cinéma allows us to take this commitment to new heights and build and strengthen our content for global audiences”.


Luna Sirvin, International Sales & Acquisitions Manager added, "Despite the challenging environment we feel the need to offer uplifting and meaningful stories.  We believe that the quality of an animated film and its message is revealed through the passionate work of local distributors.  This in-depth work is the key to meeting today’s biggest challenge: to keep inviting children into movie theaters.  As an international sales agent, our mission is to offer ambitious animated films which will inspire and enrich the lives of kids around the world".


Dedicated to curating groundbreaking projects and exceptional animated content that inspires and captivates kids and families, Dandelooo Cinéma has a roster of projects in the pipeline for its cinema line up and has just signed the international theatrical rights for three new animated feature films:


Targeted at 5- to 9-year-olds, Hola Frida! a 75-minute feature currently in production is the fictional childhood story of Mexico’s greatest artist.  Set for delivery in September 2024, the film is produced by Haut et Court Distribution (France), Tobo Media (Canada), Du Coup Studio Production (Canada), and directed by Karine Vézina and André Kadi.  It's the story of a little girl who is different.  Her world is Coyoacan, Mexico City.  Sparkling, vibrant, everything interests her and when difficulties arise, she faces them with an overflowing imagination.  This little girl is called Frida Kahlo.


Currently in production and set for delivery in May 2025, Born in the Jungle (70 minutes), for upper preschool and families is produced by Atom Art (Latvia), Letko (Poland), Hausboot (Czech Republic) and directed by Edmunds Jansons.  During the school summer break, nine-year-old Elisabeth joins her family in the Venezuelan rainforest far away from their Latvian homeland.  When Mum and Dad fly their plane to the city, Elisabeth volunteers to look after her four-year-old brother Leo.  But soon Leo disappears in the thick dark jungle and Elisabeth must bring him back home before their parents return.


Directed by Annecy Jury Prize Winner Hugo de Faucompret and produced by Laïdak Films (France, Germany), Dandelooo (France) and Doghouse Films (Luxembourg) Granny is a Tree! (70 minutes), targeted at the 7+ age group is in development and set for delivery in December 2025.  Granny Onion, Jane’s whimsical grandmother,