For would-be filmmakers there’s nothing harder than getting your foot in the door. The traditional festival circuit is always the most logical option for turning industry heads, but as with anything it has its pros and its cons. Luckily, there are so many short films out there vying for a coveted festival slot that there’s still plenty of room for new ideas, and one innovative new model brewing on New York’s Lower East Side has unsurprisingly come from a veteran filmmaker named Geoffrey Guerrero.
Trafficking exclusively in short films, the Katra Film Series features semi-annual screenings of curated selections that are then voted on by audience members in order to advance to a second round. After a year of screenings, a final selection of a dozen or so films ultimately go on to compete for the Grand Prize and Audience Film Award. But at Katra, winning filmmakers aren’t given glistening statuettes or fat checks signed by giant corporations, rather they’re invited to a one-on-one meeting with a top Hollywood producer — something that all the prize money in the world can’t necessarily guarantee.
In short, Katra is really pushing for the future of its filmmakers, and as January draws to a close the series is gearing up to crown a winner for its fourth annual grand finale. Out of 109 shorts screened over the course of 2015, the final pack has been weened down to an elite 12 of which only a few will take home a top prize. This year a mind-boggling five of the 12 finalists were directed by Latino filmmakers, and feature some of Hollywood’s most respected actors in starring roles. Here’s a rundown of those five films so New York area cinenerds can gear up for a January 23rd ceremony at Katra’s restaurant on the Lower East Side. Advanced tickets are available online.
Director: Francisco Solorzano
The is the story of June (Anna Chlumsky from Veep), a still-life painter whose creative spirit has been handcuffed by the recent loss of her father. At the end of her rope and with seemingly no place left to turn for inspiration, she casts her recent imperfect paintings onto the curb like common trash.
Tom In America
Director: Flavio Alves
For 50 years, Michael (Burt Young) and Betty (Sally Kirkland) have been united by one guiding principle: no secrets. But when a provocative Tom of Finland doll triggers Michael’s long-buried desires, Betty discovers that secrets have been part of their life all along.
The Texture of the Light
Director: Arilyn Martinez Cora
A single mother is forced to revisit her past when she desperately needs the stem cells of her ex-boyfriend, Javier, to help improve her son’s eyesight.
Director: Andrew Ruiz
A young boy puts his father in a difficult position when he tries to smuggle his pet Betta fish past airport security.
Director: Adel Morales
60-year-old grandmother Mita (Sonia Manzano) is in the early stages of dementia as she tries to impress upon her 16-year-old granddaughter, Tammi, the need to act like a lady. Mita still doesn’t hesitate to throw a slipper at you, though.