Global behemoth selected six writer-directors from over a thousand applications in the US to tell stories that were personal and about under-represented communities and by filmmakers who originate from such groups – acv spoke to Mahin Ibrahim and Phillip Domfeh, the Disney executives managing Launchpad in its first season and Aqsa Altaf who made a film about a Muslim immigrant family in the US… These short films are available to view on Disney +
DISNEY Launchpad is a new initiative that aims to tell stories from underrepresented groups and mentor filmmakers through the production process.
There are six short films in this initiative that can be seen on Disney + (streaming platform). There is a staggered drop for these films with the film, ‘Dinner is Served’ having gone out on Friday (May 28) and ‘American Eid’ on Monday (May 31). The other films, ‘Growing Fangs’ and ‘The Little Prince(ss)’ are out on June 7 with the final two, ‘Let’s be tigers’ and ‘The last of the Chupacabras’ dropping on June 14.
Acv interviewed writer-director Aqsa Altaf who made ‘American Eid’.
It also spoke to Mahin Ibrahim who heads the Launchpad programme and is director of Disney’s diversity and inclusion, market. Joining her in that video is fellow executive Phillip Domfeh, who will be managing Season 2 Launchpad – submissions are open till June 11. Sadly, for now, and as we discuss in the chat, this shorts ‘incubator programme’ is only available to potential filmmakers in the US.
Prior to being at Disney and women-slanted media platform Refinery 29, Mahin was at Youtube (YT), where she helped to run production programmes for YT creators, with an emphasis on diversity. She is a from a Bangladeshi-origin family and they were not too keen on her career in the media. Hear what she says about that 👇
Domfeh is of Ghanian and Jamaican heritage and identifies as a black filmmaker – and he will be more involved in season 2. Listen to what he says about African-American stories not being in this current crop.
In season 2, the initiative has been extended to writers. This year’s scheme which was initiated last year, invited writer-director submissions under the theme of ‘discover’. Next year’s talent will be selected around the theme of ‘connections’.
*We also have interviews with the team behind ‘Growing Fangs’ (see below for details) – this is currently not released on Disney + and we will put that interview with writer-director Ann Marie Pace, visual FX artist, Shivani Jhaveri and producer Beth D’Amato out after its embargo.
‘American Eid’– A charming, sweet tale about two sisters – Ameena and Zainab .
The younger Ameena (Shanessa Khawaja) is so excited about Eid and wants everyone to share in her excitement and joy – but living in the US, hardly anyone knows how to pronounce the word, let alone, understand that it is a Muslim festival. In pursuing her dream of requesting it to be a holiday – her older sister, (Jenna Qureshi) who is trying to fit into life in the US, learns about herself and better understands her own identity. Composer Siddhartha Khosla brings a joyous Punjabi sound to a stirring climax.
Altaf is talented and articulate and in our interview very impressive – it will be interesting to follow her career as she vows to make more stories like ‘American Eid’ with a non-Western gaze.
ACV rating **** (out of five)
Altaf, who talks about her future direction in the interview, has enjoyed success at Cannes Lions (which highlights work in advertising and communications) and she was mentored by celebrated veteran filmmaker, Werner Herzog.
‘Dinner is served’ – is about a small group of Chinese students who are at an elite boarding school in the US (modelled clearly on Britain’s posh public schools) and those want to strive to get on – but one student’s ambition gets the better of him.
This is perhaps the weakest of the six – in that it seemed culturally ambiguous. The desire of the students to assimilate was not attractive, though understandable – and the fact they couldn’t in the end – was perhaps the point of the film. This production is aimed really at an older teenage demographic grappling with identity issues.
ACV rating: **
Made by Hao Zheng who has an acting background, studied filmmaking in the US and has already been spotlighted by influential US title, Forbes, as a 30 Under 30 Honouree (Hollywood & entertainment).
You can see these films on Disney +