Home #Hwoodtimes A FINE CUT: KCET Highlights the Next Generation of Filmmakers

A FINE CUT: KCET Highlights the Next Generation of Filmmakers

Aqsa Altaf

By Ethlie Ann Vare

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/20/18 — Four ambitious student films were chosen out of 300 submissions from 54 different schools to take home the Fine Cuts trophy on Wednesday night at the Directors Guild Theater. They included a quirky animated short about life in South Korea, a touching mini-drama about life in South Central LA, and an absorbing documentary about a female imam. Considering the quality of work from these film students, Hollywood pros better watch their backs.


This is the 19th Annual FINE CUT film festival, which was founded by actor/screenwriter Jack Larson (best known as 1950’s Superman sidekick Jimmy Olsen) and is still funded by the Larson Foundation. KCET will air all 19 finalists weekly beginning Wednesday September 26, and viewers will have a chance to vote for a People’s Choice award — which may or may not duplicate what the judges panel decided. (I’ll be watching just to see the rest of the films. The four winners screened on Sept. 19 were an enticing appetizer.)

KCET VP of Communications Ariel Carpenter was pleased to note that 50% of the finalists were directed by a person of color, 56% were female, and 13% had LGBTQ themes. The winners turned out to be 100% people of color and 75% female; I have no information on their sexuality. The vast majority of the finalists attended either USC or Cal Arts, in case you were wondering where to send your talented child.

One Small Step

Here’s the complete list of the contenders that will air over the next four Wednesdays:

al imam (University of Southern California)

Documentary directed by Omar Al Dakheel

Candy Crushed (California Institute of the Arts)


Animation directed by Chloe Hsu

Deviant (San Diego State University)


Narrative directed by Benjamin Howard

Dumpling (California Institute of the Arts)


Animation directed by Siti Lu

General Dupont Does Laundry (University of California, Los Angeles)

Animation directed by Kim Nguyen

If You Want Out (San Diego State University)

Documentary directed by Mark Ledbetter

Kip (Biola University)

Documentary directed by Nicholas Moyer & Nate Norell

Labor (University of California, Los Angeles)

Narrative directed by Cecilla Albertnini

On Time (University of Southern California)

Narrative directed by Xavier Neal-Burgin

One Small Step (University of Southern California)

Narrative directed by: Aqsa Altaf

Raccoon and the Light (California Institute of the Arts)

Animation directed by Hanna Kim

Serial Killer Superstar (University of Southern California)

Narrative directed by Joseph Picozzi

Where I was Born (California Institute of the Arts)

Animation directed by Jungmin Cha

Actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Blindspot) and KCET host Pete Hammond were among the panel of judges and also presenters to young filmmakers who, for the first time in 19 seasons, only learned at the live event whether or not they had won. The students were surprisingly comfortable accepting a trophy at the podium, presumably having taken notes during Monday’s Emmy telecast.

Directors to watch included Kuwait-born Omar Al Dakheel, whose documentary about the clash of Islam and feminism cries out for a larger canvas, and Sri Lankan Aqsa Altaf, who managed to get entirely naturalistic performances from two actresses under the age of 10. This may have been their first event at the Directors Guild of America, but it probably won’t be their last.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and Entertainment Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board and tour coordinator of the Television Critics Association’s press tours. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and DAP Health, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.