September 22, 2021

**Update from the 2021 Festival Awards Jury team**
NYFA’s very own BFA Filmmaking student Laurence Carroll Brahm won ‘Best Student Film’ for his film ’24 Hours in Beijing’. In his acceptance speech, which you can catch here in the 2021 Award Winners – MINT Film Festival video, Brahm gives a nod to the school, “I’d like to give a shout out to the New York Film Academy for really guiding me on this process and for really guiding me in my journey as a filmmaker.”

2021 Montana International Film Festival Screens Films by Six New York Film Academy Filmmakers
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to congratulate six alumni and current students whose films are official selections of the fourth annual Montana International Film Festival (MINT) in Billings, Montana. Short films by Laurence Carroll Brahm, Ekaterina Burduzhan, Sebastian Feichtinger, Zach Goodwin, Franco Lima, and Nicholas Venuti will screen in the festival’s virtual program from September 16 through October 3.

Having worked with the filmmakers on their festival strategies and submissions, Crickett Rumley, Director of NYFA’s Film Festival Department, noted that the films represent a wide variety of styles and genres. “It’s an impressive assortment: two comedies, an action-comedy, a drama, a psychological horror, and an environmental documentary.” she reports. “MINT’s audience will certainly get a taste of the excellent work our students and alumni from the US and around the world are creating.”

Set in the alleyways of Beijing, China, Laurence Carroll Brahm’s action-packed comedy-drama 24 Hours in Beijing tracks two Nigerian middlemen caught between the Chinese and Russian Mobs who are given one day to find a lost cocaine shipment. Laurence was inspired to make the film by the cultural conflicts he experienced growing up in Beijing with a Chinese mother and an American father. “I always felt that I was a fish out of water no matter what environment I was in,” Brahm says. “The majority of my friend group in China consisted of Nigerians whose parents were diplomats. Rush Hour had been one of my favorite movies because I felt that it described my own cultural conflict through the medium of comedy, thus I was inspired to present a different side of Beijing in my own comedy-drama.”

Ekaterina “Kate” Burduzhan’s gritty drama It’s Your Fault was shot on location in Saint Petersburg, Russia, during the pandemic. It tells the story of Polina, a young woman out with a friend and looking to continue the evening’s fun. When she leaves the nightclub with some guys she just met, she soon finds herself in an unexpected and dangerous situation. “This story is based on my real story,” says Burduzhan. “I decided to explore the theme of how society often accuses women of being responsible for their own harassment and how women can also internalize that accusation to blame themselves as well.” Shot entirely with handheld cameras, the short is Burduzhan’s film debut after a career in fashion and music videos. MINT will be its world premiere.

The comedy Hold It! by Sebastian Feichtinger is about everybody’s nightmare: getting trapped in an elevator. In this case, it is three strangers from completely different cultures who get stuck, and things get really bad when one goes into labor and the other two must work together to deliver her baby. Feichtinger, an Austrian citizen who was born in Moscow and raised in Paris, wanted his film to bring different cultures together. “All three actors spoke different languages,” he says, “raising a challenge I had never encountered as a director before.” Regarding shooting in any elevator, he recalls, “Having three people in a small space, while one of them is supposed to portray a pregnant woman, was definitely quite an experience.” Montana will be the short’s world premiere.

Zach Goodwin’s Eyes takes a look at a group of people who join together in the meatpacking district of downtown Los Angeles to share their love with animals about to be slaughtered. It was inspired by Zach’s mother’s animal activism. “When she moved to Los Angeles with me, she started attending pig vigils and other activist-related events,” reports Goodwin. “I finally went to one of the vigils and was blown away by the passion and love exhibited by the other activists there. I assembled a crew of four, including myself, and over the course of nine weeks, we conducted roughly 30 interviews and documented the compassion of the animal activist community.” Musician Moby makes a brief appearance in the film, which had its world premiere at the San Antonio Film Festival.

A fan of indie psychological horrors, Brazilian filmmaker Franco Lima was inspired by films like The Witch and Hereditary in creating Madeleine, his eerie tale of a young woman who returns to her family’s old house in search of a precious item only to find herself haunted by strange forces looking to destroy her sanity. In 2020 the short was an official selection of the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival, which pairs each film’s director with a professional composer. Lima explains,“The collaboration process, even if it was all through Zoom thanks to the pandemic, was incredibly eye-opening and exciting for me. There is a whole new creative language you tap into when discussing the music of your film. My composer was such a great collaborator, she understood exactly what I wanted, brought awesome ideas to the table, and did an all-around amazing job, one that elevated the entire film”.

For his comedy Buffalo Scientists, Nick Venuti looked no further than his own childhood friends for inspiration. “They always had big imaginations and typically don’t think things through, so that’s an entertaining movie on its own. From there, I just started thinking, how could I turn it up a notch?” he says. The resulting film follows an ex-teacher turned convenience store clerk who is robbed by masked men who turn out to be his former high school students. That’s when the really bizarre adventure begins. Venuti says his favorite part about making the film was working with the cast. “We spent a lot of time casting, and it paid off. My main goal was to find genuinely funny people who could take the script to the next level. One moment I remember clearly is when all of the characters meet, and we just let them go completely off script and improv whatever they wanted. The whole crew was cracking up behind the camera. We actually lost a couple of takes to crew members laughing.”

New York Film Academy congratulates the outstanding achievement of its students and alumni Laurence Carroll Brahm, Kate Burduzhan, Sebastian Feichtinger, Zach Goodwin, Franco Lima, and Nick Venuti. Festival passes can be purchased on MINT’s official website or individual tickets to each film can be purchased in the New York Film Academy Student Film section. The films will be available to watch online September 16 – October 3.

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.