September 9, 2021

Three New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni, Tarik Holmes & Jonathan Samukange, and Deante’ Gray screened their latest films as part of this year’s 12th Annual BronzeLens Film Festival official selection. Their short films, Aftermath and Loving Byron, were screened to audiences online in August 2021. The BronzeLens Film Festival is an Oscar-qualifying festival that showcases films by, for, and about people of color.

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Tarik Holmes, writer, producer, and lead actor in Aftermath, is an honors graduate of NYFA’s MFA Acting for Film. NYFA Acting Department Associate Chair Anne Moore describes Holmes as “a sensitive, driven, and talented artist whose vision is unique as an actor and storyteller. His powerful voice is valuable and needs to be heard.”

Aftermath follows the story of a young man who abducts his older brother as revenge for their troubled past. The NYFA alum found inspiration for the story from his own relationship with his brother. “When I left home for film school in California, it was my first time being that far away from my family,” Holmes describes, “Although we would call each other all the time, I felt like I left my younger brother behind and I was missing certain milestones in his life. So I created this crazy story as a love letter to him.”

Holmes was introduced to NYFA BFA Filmmaking student, Jonathan Samukange, through a mutual professor. Holmes recounted that he was on the way to their first meeting when Samukange called and said “he was surprised at how great the script was and he had to direct it! I was so surprised and humbled.” Samukange concurred. “Tarik is hardworking, dedicated, and came highly recommended. I completely connected with him and the screenplay, which I felt was well written. And I could relate to the subject.”

Holmes describes Samukange as an actor’s director. “He really made me feel comfortable and was specific about investing in each character. Before each take, he spoke with us to see how we were feeling and guided us into the scene,” Holmes says. “I remember while we were shooting one scene, I kept messing up a line, so he told me to ad-lib in character, and it felt so freeing to let out my frustrations. That moment ended up being in the final cut.”

The second film screened at this year’s festival was Loving Byron, which follows the story of a 17-year-old boy who runs away from his problematic home with his girlfriend to live in the middle of nowhere. Writer and Director of the film, Deante’ Gray is an MA graduate from NYFA’s Film and Media Production program after a torn ACL sidelined his career as a professional football player.

Gray discusses the inspiration for the film which, “was my upbringing growing up in Houston. How a kid can be so in love, so hopeful in life, and have it all stripped away at a moment’s notice.”

Gray’s favorite part of directing the film was exploring the characters with his actors. “My lead is actually my best friend who I grew up with in Houston,” the director explained. “So our connection and us knowing everything about one another only amplified the focus and care that was needed to make this film what it is.”

After graduating from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, all three creatives returned to their homes to build their careers. Holmes resides in Jamaica producing, writing, and acting in original work. Samukange returned to Zimbabwe to build a film production studio where he plans to produce his first feature film. Gray used his time in Houston to write, shoot, and direct the web series Sunday Dinner, available now on YouTube.

“I’m so proud of these filmmakers and the hard work they’ve put into film festivals,” says Crickett Rumley, director of NYFA’s Film Festival Department. “Deante’ has already screened at New Filmmakers LA and won an award at WorldFest Houston. Tarik and Jonathan have been at the African Film Festival in Dallas and the Charlotte Black Film Festival. I feel confident they will have a great experience with BronzeLens and enjoy the festival’s impressive offerings.”

The New York Film Academy congratulates Holmes, Samukange, and Gray on their films’ selection by the prestigious BronzeLens Film Festival.

Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.