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Less than a year ago— at last year’s LAFF — filmmaker/producer/actress/ Salome Mulugeta and her team were biting their nails, trying to get Hollywood’s attention and a distribution deal for “Woven,” her first independent film. The feature’s a sweet, heart-felt family drama about a close-knit, New York-based Ethiopian family dealing with a family tragedy.
In that short time span, director Mulugeta’s film career has taken such gigantic leaps forward that her journey could turn out to be a real-life Cinderella story but one in which the princess saves herself.
Determination is described as “[a] firmness of purpose; resoluteness — [s]he advanced with an unflinching determination.” Using that definition, Mulugeta is the very picture of creative determination. To wit, it took her 17 years to get financing for “Woven.”
Mulugeta resume reads as such: born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she left at an early age to attend a boarding school for girls in Bedford, England, where she won many prestigious acting competitions. She now contributes content for the US-based Africa Channel and has produced and directed shows for Muziki Ni: The African Restaurant Week. She currently directs and hosts a show called “A Day in the Life of…” In 2016, Mulugeta was awarded the Achievement and Perseverance Award by the Women’s Journey Foundation. She’s been featured in Vibe Magazine and mynewyorkeye.com.
It bears repeating that it took 17 long years for Mulugeta to get “Woven” completed and the film almost didn’t make the cut for 2016’s LAFF. It was the push of two, creative women, the Los Angeles Film Festival Director of Programming Roya Rastegar, and powerhouse film producer Stephanie Allain, who was the LAFF Director, that got the fest to make room for the intimate family drama. At that time (she resigned the post in 2016), Allain saw something in the film, story and Mulugeta.
Asked why she fought to get “Woven” into LAFF, this is what LAFF’s Rastegar said: “‘Woven’ is an emotionally compelling directorial debut from first time directors Salome Mulugeta and Nagwa Ibrahim and we selected the film because the vision, energy, and voice of the film stood out amongst the thousands of feature film submissions we received.
“I had never before seen an Ethiopian-American woman on screen navigating both cultures, and the story’s arc about forgiveness and redemption, even in the face of great tragedy, continues to resonate for me. Plus, Salome is also the star of the film! Talk about ambitious! Starring in your own film, which you also wrote and directed. I see immense talent in her, and I look forward to all the work she will make in the future.”
Love it. Loathe it. Ignore it. Embrace it. The fact is, when someone of power, a respected player in the game, stands up for you — everything changes in an instant. Shares producer Allain, “I met Salome after her film was selected for the LA Film Festival in 2016. We were looking for films from an authentic point of view and she brought her Ethiopian, female sensibilities to the story of survival despite life’s obstacles. Her poise and passion to tell stories close to her heart was palpable. We immediately connected as spiritual sisters unbeknownst to me, my producing partner Mel Jones, had her own meeting with Salome and when we compared notes, we knew we wanted to keep an eye out for what she would do next.”
What’s next is a big deal. Producer Allain was so impressed by Mulugeta’s storytelling abilities that she introduced her to Amy Tofte, a Nicholl Fellowship winner for Screenwriting (a fellowship program founded to aid screenwriters and administered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts) in order for to write “Addis Abeka.” Tofte and Salome clicked. “Addis Abeka” tells the journey a young Ethiopian boy who loses his family and must navigate the world on his own for 10 years until he can be reunited with his brother.
Helping shape a director’s career takes a “village” and Mulugeta was one of the six young filmmakers chosen to participate in Film Independent’s 2017 Directing Lab where she worked on “Addis Abeka.” Mulugeta will direct and executive produce with Allain and Jones producing for Homegrown Pictures. “Addis Abeka” is set to go into production this fall — with “Woven” DP Pedro Gomez Millan stepping behind the camera. The film will be shot entirely in Ethiopia.
Money is power in Hollywood. For indie filmmakers that simple fact is very challenging as they are often seek financing from non-industry sources. The funding for “Addis Abeka” was secured by Mulugeta’s efforts, a natural producer. It’s a rare and sought-after talent, and once Hollywood really wakes up, she might be the very thing that makes her a wealthy woman and a power broker in the Hollywood game.
Paducah, Kentucky is a city that, at a glance, may seem unassuming, but this May 26 to 28, they will be hosting the substantial Cinema Systers Film Festival for lesbian filmmakers. Held at the Maiden Alley Cinema (112 Maiden Alley, Paducah, KY.), the fest is in it’s second year and is the only all lesbian film fest, with sixteen films mixing shorts, features, narratives and documentaries screening. This year’s festival will feature an "Artist Meets Audience" filmmaker Q&A with Denmark filmmakers Lone Falster and Iben Haahr Andersen, directors of In Light of the Revolution, a film on the experiences of women artists in Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
Cinema Systers will also include live musical acts including Von Strantz, Kristen Ford, Weep, and more. Filmmaker Catherine Crouch will be doing a reading from “3 Days in August 2001”, a personal tale of sex, drugs, blood, and magic.
To learn more, go to: https://www.cinemasysters.com/
Cinema Systers Film FestivalMay 26 - 28, 2017
Maiden Alley Cinema112 Maiden AlleyPaducah, KY 42001
Now in its 13th year, the NY Polish Film Fest (May 2 - 7, 2017) will be paying tribute to Polish director Andrzej Wajda with a gala screening of his final film, Afterimage. The film, a biopic of painter Władysław Strzemiński, will be held at the Directors Guild of America (110 West 57th Street, New York, NY) with an introduction and live appearance by Martin Scorsese. The screening is in cooperation with the Wajda Film School in Warsaw (which Wajda founded) celebrating its 15th anniversary- the NYPFF will present a selection of its students’ short, documentary, and first feature projects.
The NYPFF will include screenings of some of the best new films from Poland, including The Last Family by Jan P. Matuszyński, United States of Love by Tomasz Wasilewski, and the Polish blockbuster comedy Singles Planet by Mitja Okorn at the Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Avenue).
In conjunction with the NYPFF, Columbia University Film Professor Annette Insdorf will introduce a screening of Wojciech Has’s How to be Loved, which the Museum of Modern Art will present daily from April 29 to May 4 (together with his first feature The Noose).
To learn more, go to: http://www.nypff.com/
13th Annual NY Polish Film FestMay 2 - 7, 2017
Directors Guild of America110 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Anthology Film Archives32 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003
Museum of Modern Art11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
Featuring 180 films from 31 countries, and Asian actors playing Asian characters (something a certain action blockbuster sorely lacked), the The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (April 27 - May 4, 2017) presents the breadth and scope of lives, experiences, struggles, and hopes of Asian Pacific and Asian American filmmakers across Los Angeles from Hollywood to Little Tokyo to the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles to Koreatown to Westwood to West Hollywood and to Buena Park in Orange County with a slate of shorts, narrative features, documentaries, and international films.
Kicking off the festival is the 15th anniversary celebration of Justin Lin’s film Better Luck Tomorrow, with a 35mm print of the Sundance cut being shown. Better Luck Tomorrow delves into the lives of a group of Asian American teens become overcome by a combination of ennui, the pressure of overachievement, and a desire for more out of life. Lin and the cast will be in attendance for the screening.
Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the L.A. Uprising/Rodney King verdict, Justin Chon’s Gook examines the lives of a struggling community of shop owners in the Los Angeles suburb of Paramount, set against the backdrop of that heated and violent spring of 1992. “Justin Chon has been one of the hardest working actors out there and has been in a number of films at our past fests. Watching him grow into a formidable writer/director/actor with this film makes us all proud and hopeful. This film has come at a time when we truly need our voices and our stories out there, while addressing hot button issues such as race and community in an America that is quickly changing and becoming extremely polarized. “ says Festival Co-Director David Magdael.
Closing the fest is Columbus, directed by Kogonada. A hit at Sundance, Columbus stars John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin and Michelle Forbes. The film centers on Casey (Richardson) who lives with her mother in a little-known Mid-western town haunted by the promise of modernism. Jin (Cho), a visitor from the other side of the world, attends to his dying father. Burdened by the future, they find respite in one another and the architecture that surrounds them.
And with a plethora of panels, screenings, competitions, and events, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival is a festival to hear voices from the lifeblood of Los Angeles.
To learn more, go to: http://festival.vconline.org/2017/
The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film FestivalApril 27 - May 4, 2017
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