Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award:
The Shortlist, the Artists, and Their Films

After an open call, ten young filmmakers and artists were selected to make a short film with the support of the Ghetto Film School to compete for the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award. The only condition: The film had to be inspired by the cultural and social landscape of Los Angeles. The winner will be announced during Frieze Los Angeles in a festive ceremony at the Paramount Pictures Theater on February 13. Here are the nominees.

Danielle Boyd, Dethroned & Displaced

Danielle Boyd, 24, is an author and director from LA. She has produced several short films, including The Hooligans (2015). Her first music video, Visions 20/20, was shown at the Los Angeles Music Video Festival. She shot a short film for the hip-hop collective Highclass Hoodlums’ album Platinium Dream in 2019. Boyd is currently working on her first feature film in Rwanda. Her entry for the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award is Dethroned & Displaced, a film that deals with her African roots: “I’m driven by the desire to help others discover their truth. The concept for the film I’m making for the award actually started at the first session of the Fellowship, at Shirin Neshat’s exhibit at The Broad. I was inspired by the way she conveyed her feelings about being exiled from her home. After I went to Africa for the first time, I began feeling a sudden vacancy about my African-American identity, and saw how this absence can affect us.”

Mya Dodson, Cosmic Affirmation

Mya Dodson, 23, comes from Fayetteville, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the Ghetto Film School. Her films explore spiritual and emotional aspects of human experiences in the African-American community. She directs both dance and music videos. “The concept for my film came to me in a vision while visiting family in Korea earlier this year,” she says. “My sister had recently encouraged me to ‘move in love, not in fear’—a motto that set the tone for my entire year. I was listening to frequencies when an affirmation came over me, and thus, Cosmic Affirmation was born. I saw the film as a representation of how I’m overcoming fear in love.”

Alima Lee, Ghetto Mysticism: Transient Nature

Alima Lee, 27, is an interdisciplinary artist from New York who currently lives in LA. In her work she explores themes such as identity and discrimination. Her film works have been presented at Tate Modern, MOCA, and ICA Boston, among other art institutions. “Being an artist was never a choice for me. It’s always been my means to survival. Being a black queer femme in a white male dominated industry does not come without its hardships and setbacks, but this is what I need to do to express myself. After watching Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, I had a dream about a portal that looked like an empty doorway appearing in different parts of the city. The portal allowed black and indigenous people to escape to a planet where they could be safe. I revisited this concept in my short film, to explore a story line about how a girl comes across this portal and about why she intends to use it.”

Noah Sellman, Ad Frequency

Noah Sellman, 24, is a Colorado-born filmmaker who was raised in the rural farming community of the San Luis Valley. After finishing high school, he studied at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he graduated with a BA in Film Studies. Subsequently he went to Shenzehen, China, as an artist-in-residence with UNI, a small film and art school, before moving to Los Angeles. “I grew up in the rural Southwest, in a town known for potato farming and UFO sightings, says Sellman. “The stories of my youth were the myths, legends and strange happenings of a secluded farm town. I turned to film to bring this storytelling to a wider audience. Moving to LA, I was immediately struck by the branding that covers the city. There is barely a blank surface anywhere. In my film, I’m exploring a dreamscape made completely made from branding, I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, so I like to think about the limits of the possible. My actual dreams vary between either super mundane and super high stakes, like fighting to save the world from super villains. My dream in the real world is to go on as many adventures as possible. And to make a living with my films.”

Silvia Lara, Beauty Never Lost

Filmmaker Silvia Lara, 31, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and grew up in Mexico and Whittier, a city near Los Angeles bordering Orange County. Lara's strongpoint is cinematic narration. In her work, she tries to visually translate the flow of emotions and moods of a story in an effort to create a highly authentic presentation of the human condition. “I began as a writer and photographer, but I always hoped to one day see my ideas on screen. Eventually, I discovered I’ve always been a storyteller: it’s my language. The appreciation that I’m doing what I love for a living drives me. I’m an immigrant and I want to ensure my parents’ sacrifices were worth it, for all of us. In my film, I want to see my city, Whittier, portrayed the way I feel it deserves to be seen. I didn’t realize just how special it was until I moved to New York and then returned. The contrast made me appreciate aspects of this suburb on the edge of LA much differently. It’s not as quiet as it seems.”

Michelle Jihyon Kim, Crenshaw and West 8th St. and Lights and Camera and Action (and So On)

Michelle Jihyon Kim, 20, is from Los Angeles. A filmmaker and painter, she is currently studying art at the University of California at Berkeley. She has been able to make several short films thanks to the support of the Ghetto Film School. Kim is on the editorial board of the student publication GRAPHITE Journal of the Hammer Museum. She is currently working on the script for her first feature film and on a series of paintings about uncanny aspects of West Los Angeles. “The idea for my short emerged from this mental process of recognizing what moved me about LA and what felt significant. I reverted back to my childhood and the places I’ve grown up in, such as the car wash near my dad’s work, the liquor store in the strip mall. I’m a filmmaker from Los Angeles who is interested in writing and directing suspense and thriller based narrative work. Through dissecting interpersonal relationships and blurring the lines between fantasy and the everyday. I aim to use filmmaking as a tool for human empathy.”

Nabeer Khan, Unconditional

Nabeer Khan, 26, was born in Manhattan and grew up in Arizona. While studying psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University, he directed a dance company where he choreographed, designed lighting and costumes, and directed, wrote, and acted in the company’s biennial performances. After moving to Los Angeles, he first worked as Kanye West’s assistant, and then as a producer and director of music videos, short films, and brand campaigns. “I knew that I had to make my film about the recent Los Angeles fires,” explains Khan. “I asked myself how these fires were starting. That question, combined with my interest in psychology, led me to the concept for my film. I wanted to explore the power of grief and its progression to rage. In this film, I seek to apply this idea to our relationship with nature and the ongoing destruction of our Earth.”

Timothy Offor, Sweet Dreams

Timothy Offor, 33, is a filmmaker from Brooklyn, New York. His films have been shown at several film festivals, including the BlackStar Film Festival, the Houston International Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival. Offor earned a BA in Media Studies and English from Pennsylvania State University. Subsequently, in the fall of 2016, he received an MFA in Film & Television Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He recently completed a successful film festival run playing in over 20 festivals around the country with his thesis film, Cal & V, which he wrote and directed. “The idea for my film originated during a debate with a friend about fear. We were discussing whether people are afraid of success or failure. Through that I developed a concept centered on dreams, fear, and our willingness or unwillingness to overcome it.”

Toryn Seabrooks, A Hollywood Party

Toryn Seabrooks, 26, is a director, screenwriter, producer, and the founder of the content agency NovaRay Entertainment. She received her bachelor's degree from NYU Tisch School of Film and Television and was awarded the Tisch Dean’s Scholars Award. Today, she is the Field Logger for Keeping Up with the Kardashians and records the daily lives of the hit family around the world. Her work in Hollywood also influenced her contribution for the award: “I love comedy and there is nothing funnier to me than an uncomfortable situation. When you’re trying to impress a person, you do things outside of your character and find yourself in the middle of cringeworthy moments. I wanted to tell this story to point out a darker truth I’ve grown to understand about idolatry within Hollywood, and what we’re willing to do to be accepted and seen by the people we admire.”

Nicole L. Thompson, Between the Pages

Nicole L. Thompson, 27, is a filmmaker from Newark, New Jersey. She received her BA from The College of New Jersey and also studied filmmaking at Northumbria University, UK. She recently graduated from the University of Southern California with an MFA in Film & TV Production where she served as the president of the African American Cinema Society for two years. NBA All Star Kyrie Irving hired Thompson as his personal cinematographer. Thompson was selected out of hundreds of directing applicants to pitch a project to ABC Executives, as an Ideas United ABC Women's Initiative Top 10 Finalist. “The concept for this film came to me while riding a train through the city and seeing so many people wrapped up in their phones,” she says. “I decided to tell a story about a young boy who is forced to move to LA and stay at his grandparent’s house for the summer. He tries to convince his mom to not leave him there, but she has to travel for work. Left with no friends, Wi-Fi, or games he explores the house, discovers a magical book, and goes on an adventure traveling through different dimensions.”

Watch the films here!

Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award
Frieze Los Angeles

February 14 – 16, 2020
Paramount Pictures Studios, Hollywood