The purpose of our Local Filmmakers Showcase, now in its seventh year, is to foster and celebrate regional talent. Curated by staff members of The Union for Contemporary Art, this year’s program is composed of 12 films from Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.
Selections include a comedy about an aspiring businesswoman; a chilling horror film; a soulful music video; an exploration of a sleepless mind; a narrative about a family of miners; a drama about brothers at a crossroads; an experimental dance film; and documentaries on homelessness in South Dakota, capital punishment in Nebraska, and the heritage of an Iowa farmer. For the first time, space in the program was reserved for projects by primary- and secondary-school students.
Filmmakers with work in the showcase include returning artists Tony Bonacci (Omaha, Neb.), Tony Costello (Omaha, Neb.), Nik Fackler (Omaha, Neb.), Jesse Kreitzer (Iowa City, Iowa), and Harrison Martin (Omaha, Neb.). First-time selectees include Derek Davidson (Sioux Falls, SD), Maria Lavelle and Sarah Kocher (Sioux Falls, SD), John Richard (Iowa City, Iowa), Nico Sandi (Omaha, Neb.), and Remington Smith (Iowa City, Iowa). The inaugural Student Spotlight picks come from Northwest High School’s THRIVE Club (Omaha, Neb.) and Ewan McFarland-Smith (Omaha, Neb.).
Directed by Derek Davidson | Sioux Falls, South Dakota | 6 minutes
Directors’ Statement: “No Sleep” is an in-depth look at the REAL reason you can’t fall asleep at night.
About the Filmmaker: Derek grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota then moved to Lincoln to study Film and New Media at UNL. Since graduating in December of 2014 he has worked as a freelance production assistant on a variety of TV shows, commercials, music videos, and movies in New York, Los Angeles, and the Nebraska area.
Directed by Nico Sandi | Omaha, Nebraska | 9 minutes
Statement: “Instead of casting stones, pave pathways of hope.” Since May of 2015, the fate of ten men on Nebraska’s death row has been unclear. The last man to be executed in the state, back in 1997, prayed that he be the last one. Today, advocates to abolish the death penalty work to answer that prayer.
About the Filmmaker: Born and raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Nico Sandi focuses his work on historical trauma, cultural inclusivity, and indigenous identity in Latin America. He earned a bachelor of arts in Anthropology, Sociology and Journalism from Creighton University, where he spent a year working as a video producer after graduating. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Documentary Film at Stanford University.
He has worked on projects about migration in Nogales, Mexico, climate change in Bethel, Alaska, cultural miscegenation in the Bolivian Amazon, and educational opportunities for a refugee family in the Bronx. His film, “Stones,” received First Prize and Audience Choice Award at the Voices from the Margins film festival.
Directed by Jesse Kreitzer | Iowa City, Iowa | 18 minutes
Statement: My great grandfather Thomas Chapman was a coal miner in Maple, Iowa; a small mining town that dried up along with the coal in the 1920s. That’s all I knew of my mother’s ancestry growing up. In 2013, I moved to Iowa to find out more. For three years, I began unearthing the stories and relics of my maternal heritage. For the first time in my life, I met with extended family to share and collect memories, digitize family photos, drudge through state archives, and record oral histories of those who grew up in Iowa’s coal camps. Black Canaries is an ode to my ancestors; both lyrical and candid in its approach, the film honors not only my own family’s history, but a collective cultural heritage formed in the blackened depths of Americana.
About the Filmmakers: Jesse Kreitzer (b.1985) is a filmmaker from Vermont whose interests include rural storytelling, folk cultures, and ancestry. Through genealogical research, archiving and preservation, Kreitzer is provided a creative conduit into explorations of memory, lineage and fragility. Working in both documentary and narrative modes, his films have screened at film festivals, galleries and museums worldwide including the National Gallery of Art, Museum of the Moving Image, Raindance Film Festival, Oldenburg International Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, IFFBoston and Ashland Film Festival, among others. He is currently developing his debut feature film. Learn more at lanternafilm.com.
Directed by Tony Bonacci | Omaha, Nebraska | 13 minutes
Director’s Statement: As a HUUUUUUGE fan of Michelle Murphy’s comedy style I had been hoping to work with her on a film project. This is that film. She wrote the entire thing and I was pleased to be able to make it come to life!
About the Filmmaker: I am a 32-year-old film director working in Omaha, NE. I love music, comedy, cooking and making movies. I learned filmmaking with hands on experience working for different production companies throughout the years.
THE PERSON BESIDE YOU
Student Spotlight Selection
By Northwest High School’s THRIVE Club | Omaha, Neb. | 5 minutes
Artist Statement: THRIVE is a leadership club that consists of nearly 200 immigrant and refugee students throughout Omaha Public Schools. Our student-created mission is to unite and equip loyal servant-leaders with the right tools to overcome any obstacle by promoting diverse communities, integrity, and education.
About: We are a family of Northwest High School students from Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Mexico, Somalia, and South Sudan who join together once a week to learn about and practice being leaders in our communities. It is our ultimate goal to prioritize education while creating a better life for our community.
Student Spotlight Selection
Directed by Ewan McFarland-Smith | Omaha, Neb. | 4 minutes
Director’s Statement: “9 Lives” is a parody of contemporary horror/slasher films.
Director’s Bio: Ewan McFarland-Smith is a 14-year-old freshman at Millard North High School.
ONE DAY, ONE MONTH, ONE YEAR
Directed by Nik Fackler | Omaha, Nebraska | 20 minutes
Director’s Statement: “One Day, One Month, One Year” is a movement-based narrative chronicling the periods of time in a person’s life during a monumental transition. Kat, my wife, and I have been eager to collaborate on a project together for a long time, and this film is the first of what I hope is many more movement/dance films we create.
Director’s Bio: Nik Fackler is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning filmmaker. He was nominated for a Spirit Award for his first Directorial feature, LOVELY, STILL and won Best Picture at the Poland International Film Festival for his follow up documentary, SICK BIRDS DIE EASY. Throughout the past 15 years he has produced and directed over 20 music videos for various artists including Bright Eyes, The Faint, Sia, and his own band, Icky Blossoms.
Directed by Tony Costello | Omaha, Neb. | 11 minutes
Director’s Statement: I do not understand art that doesn’t in some way grapple with our mortality. The things that I create are expressions of what I find meaningful in the face of death, and what I find most meaningful are the relationships and the memories of the relationships that have painted my life. By exploring the nuances of those memories in the time-based medium of film, I implore the audience to recall moments of the sublime within their own relationships.
Director’s Bio: Tony Costello was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He studied film at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and earned his MFA from the University of Texas at Austin. Tony is a film and television editor by trade and has worked with directors Terrence Malick (VOYAGE OF TIME, 2016) and Jeff Nichols (LOVING, 2016). His own works have played in festivals and galleries across the United States.
THE SIMPLE GIFT OF WALNUT GROVE
Directed by John Richard | Iowa City, Iowa | 18 minutes
Director’s Statement: “The Simple Gift of Walnut Grove” is a short film about the life of an early 20th century Danish immigrant named Hans Hansen, as told by his son, 96-year-old Walter Hansen. Hans emigrated from Denmark to the United States in 1899 and built a farm out of the native timber he found alongside a marginal piece of land on the Cedar River near West Branch, Iowa. Within Walter’s soft-spoken account emerges the dynamic of a father-son relationship forged under the harsh conditions of the early Midwestern settlement.
Director’s Bio: John Richard is an independent documentary filmmaker, founder of Bocce Ball Films and partner at Barn Owl Pictures. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa. With a background in photojournalism, John’s work combines a strong visual sense with intimacy and humor. He is currently working on a long-form project about the history of motion pictures in Iowa and a man trying to save the memory of one of its greatest innovators.
By Remington Smith | Iowa City, Iowa | 9 minutes
Director’s Statement: In this dialogue-free horror short that’s equal parts THE REVENANT and George Romero, “The Woods” follows a lone woman in a desolate snowscape on a quest to take care of an ailing relative. Shot in -30 degree weather using only natural light and no digital trickery, “The Woods” is a horror-meets-arthouse narrative about the lengths we will go to take care of family.
Director’s Bio: Remington Smith made “The Woods” while earning his MFA in Film and Video Production at the University of Iowa. His thesis film RUBBERTOWN is now making the festival circuit, recently screening at Indie Grits, one of the twenty-five coolest film festivals according to MovieMaker Magazine. He is currently in pre-production on his next horror film, “Land Lord,” and is in production on his next feature documentary, THE DERBY. You can see more of his work at theremingtonsmith.com.
OVER THE BRIDGE
Directed by Maria Lavelle & Sarah Kocher | Sioux Falls, South Dakota | 18 minutes
Director’s Statement: Sarah and I made this film in our spare time the past winter with the hope of raising awareness around an issue we’re both passionate about: Homelessness in the Midwest.
Director’s Bio: We’re both students at Augustana University and majoring in journalism. Sarah is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, while I moved to Sioux Falls from Norway in 2014. This is my first American documentary, and Sarah made her film co-producer debut with this film as well.
HIGH UP, “TWO WEEKS”
By Harrison Martin | Omaha, Nebraska | 3 minutes
Directors’ Statement: In the video for “Two Weeks” our protagonist daydreams of being a glammed out singer while being reminded of her undesired real life.
Director’s Bio: Harrison Martin was born in Omaha, NE in 1992. He studied cinematography and directing at Columbia College Chicago, and graduated with a BA in Film & Video in 2014. After graduating, he moved to Bangkok, Thailand, for most of 2015. Harrison’s film work has been featured in film festivals in Bangkok, the UK, and throughout the United States. Harrison has directed music videos for The Faint, M34N STR33T, UUVVWWZ, and Capgun Coup.