HFPA Residency: Return to Hollywood
They hail from 12 countries in four continents united in their love for film making and an abiding passion for storytelling. The fellows of the 2022 HFPA Global Residency are the largest group yet in the program instituted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association four years ago in partnership with the Toronto and Venice film festivals and with Film Independent, which manages the Residency curriculum.
The residency is geared to young and emerging authors who are at the beginning of their careers, having directed shorts or early features. The idea is to bring those young talents from around the world to the capital of American film making and to provide a full-immersion program of practical mentorship. Filmmakers from the Venice Festival’s Orizzonti section and the TIFF Filmmaker Lab come to Los Angeles for a three-week program that starts with attending the official HFPA Golden Globes Viewing Party or the Independent Spirit Awards. What follows is an intensive schedule of workshops, field trips to studios, master classes and one-on-one mentoring, with a focus on how the U.S. industry works in relation to global markets. Participating fellows have opportunities to engage and network with industry professionals, discuss their upcoming projects or work on a current script. The idea is to leverage the HFPA’s international scope and Film Independent’s global experience to connect artists in an ever more diverse global community of artists.
Like the rest of the world, that community has undergone two years of difficult disconnect. The 2021 Residency had to be held in virtual form. While still an effective option for discussion, the long-distance format meant sacrificing the inherent value of face-to-face meetings and the personal connections they can spark. So, with our partners at Film Independent, this year we were determined not only to bring the fellows back to LA, but to invite the 2021 film makers back as well, resulting in the largest and most diverse group yet. It includes two directors whose films premiered at the Lido in the 2020 Orizzonti section, three TIFF Lab alums whose shorts were selected by an HFPA jury, four directors from the Biennale College program (the Venice lab) which were announced last Fall at the HFPA Venice reception with festival director Alberto Barbera, and three global directors who have received special invitations.
After orientation, this year the program started on March 6, under the Big Top that once again hosted the Film Independent Spirit Awards at the Santa Monica Beach location. The event marked a grand homecoming for the independent film community after last year’s forced hiatus, and the special excitement of being together in physical presence was palpable as awards were handed out to the best of last year’s Indie productions. For Residency fellows it served as a hopeful introduction to the unbowed vital force of cinema.
After that, it’s been down to business. The directors – from Saudi Arabia, Canada, Spain, Iran, Portugal, Ecuador, Argentina, Italy, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and the USA – have been immersed in the activities organized by Film Independent’s indefatigable team, once again co-ordinated by Residency mistress Maria Bozzi with the invaluable assistance of Jeremy Aguilera-Gaudette. “This program is just really great,” confided Beatrice Baldacci, the Italian director who won a Residency on the strength of her debut feature La Tana (The Den). At the residency reception dinner, Iranian director Ahmed Bahrimi smiled broadly as HFPA board member Jeff Harris delivered welcome remarks. Bahrimi, author of the remarkably accomplished and poetic The Wasteland, was still slightly dazed having finally received his visa (no small feat) just a couple of days prior. As for most participants, this is his first visit to Los Angeles. Next to him Sahraa Karimi was positively beaming after her one-on-one meeting with a residency mentor earlier that day. “She really gave me hope and renewed optimism about my project,” Karimi said about the script doctoring session on her work in progress Flight from Kabul a fictional treatment of her real-life experience fleeing her country as Afghanistan fell under the horrified eyes of the world. Karimi has now found her footing as an expatriate filmmaker teaching at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. Her story is not the only example of the real-world intruding, perhaps inevitably, in such a global program. Previous editions of the program have hosted artists equally connected to troubled parts of an increasingly unstable world, such as Emir Baigazin of Kazakstan and Ukraine’s Valentyn Vasyanovych, who participated in the program with his extraordinary film on the war in Donbass (Atlantis).
A key component of the residency is the series of public screenings of select films by the fellows. This year the series is titled “Venice Film Festival in LA,” and features four films previously shown at the Venice film festival. Screenings are free with registration (https://www.filmindependent.org/events/free-screening-venice-film-festival-in-la/) and will feature Q&A’s with the directors moderated by HFPA journalists. A great way to get exposed to new global voices in cinema, even as the film makers get a taste of Hollywood.
The complete list of participating HFPA Residency Fellows, class of 21-22:
Maha Al–Saati’s (Saudi Arabia) Hair: The Story of Grass,
Jeff Wong (Canada) H’mong Sisters
Alvaro Gago Diaz (Spain) Matria
Ahmed Bahrimi (Iran): The Wasteland
Ana Rocha de Sousa (Portugal): Listen
Ricky D’Ambrose (USA): The Cathedral
Jose Maria Aviles (Ecuador): Al Oriente
Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviere (Argentina): Nuestros Dias Mas Felcies
Beatrice Baldacci (Italy): La Tana
Sahraa Karimi (Afghanistan)
Rohena Gera (India)
Nuhas Humayan (Bangladesh)