The annual spotlight on 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine was recently released, and CalArtians Joie Estrella Horwitz (Film/Video MFA 21) and Rajee Samarasinghe (Film/Video MFA 16) are included on the 2020 list.
Horwitz is completing her CalArts thesis film Tender Crossings, a docu-fiction hybrid inspired by her background. Horwitz and her mother were born in Arizona, but her grandmother was born in Mexico. Tender Crossings is about a family “spanning and separated by the border between Mexico and Horowtiz’s hometown, Nogales, Arizona,” according to the magazine.
“In the borderlands, the U.S. government weaponizes the sun,” says Horwitz. “The sun is a crucial character within the film, but it’s mainly dealing with three generations of women who are affected by deportation.”
Horwitz’ 16mm short film Alejandro & Miguel was selected by numerous festivals including Brooklyn Film Festival, ICDOCS, Visions du Réel Media Library 2020, and Tacoma Film Festival (Honorable Mention for Best Short Documentary). The film paints a portrait of ranch life in the town of Casa Grandes, Mexico, focusing on the relationship between Miguel Bencomo and his 14-year-old son Alejandro.
Horwitz is also a member of the Bahía Collective, a group of international filmmakers. She is currently collaborating with fellow Bahía member and CalArts alum Luis Gutiérrez Arias (Film/Video MFA 20) on the documentary Todo lo sólido, about a sinking Caribbean island.
Samarasinghe is an experimental filmmaker who focuses on formal innovations. He moved with his family to California from Sri Lanka at age 10; now based in Los Angeles, Samarasinghe’s most recent short films explore family and the Sri Lankan civil war.
The Eyes of Summer, which premiered this year at Rotterdam Film Festival, tells the story of a young girl who befriends a spirit. Samarasinghe filmed the black and white short in his mother’s home village.
He is currently developing his first feature film, Your Touch Makes Others Invisible. Samarasinghe’s approach structures nonfiction footage around a fictional story of a young child who goes missing in Sri Lanka. “Since I was very young, even before I knew how to make films, I wanted to really explore the space and these ideas,” Samarasinghe said in Filmmaker Magazine. His feature project is supported by Sundance Institute and Berlinale Talents.
Check out an excerpt from The Eyes of Summer by Samarasinghe below: