Filmmaker Fernando Nava Awarded for ‘American Nightmare’

Fernando Nava

Fernando Nava

By H. Patrick Lombardo

Fernando Nava walks through the door for an interview—the latest in a recent spat of publicity for him. Appearing down-to-earth as can be he sports a sweatshirt, baseball cap and track pants. Nava, a 23-year-old College of Southern Nevada student, just spent a year-and-a-half working on his first short film.

The film titled “American Nightmare” is an 18-minute-long feature that was screened at the Las Vegas Film Festival in addition to CSN’s own Short Film Showcase. It was directed by Nava and featured him in a starring role.

Nava says he isn’t motivated by fame or the limelight. His enthusiasm for film has its origins in a completely different place: to help people.

“I try to find a way to put daily problems out there,” Nava says. “Things that people don’t really talk about, I love to see people’s reactions when you put something [in a film] that bothers them or makes them uncomfortable. It’s interesting.”

Nava says that’s why he made his film, which centers on the plight of a young brother and sister trying to get into the United States through the Mexican border.

“A lot of people aren’t really aware of what’s going on,” Nava says. “As a Hispanic, you know people who have gone through that. Each story is different. There are thousands of stories like this every day.” Nava says that he based his film on one such story he heard and that he says was particularly moving for him.

Nava’s sentiments were echoed by Estephania Solis, who acted alongside him in the film.

“It’s a very important topic, especially in Las Vegas, which should be talked about more,” Solis says. “It was very important for me and what drove my passion was working with someone who had that same passion.”

In the wake of this film, immigration issues have heightened. During President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Las Vegas on Nov. 21, he plans to discuss immigration issue and the executive action he plans to take.

When making the film Nava had to work with what he had; sometimes the lack of money was a major issue for him especially when trying to get props or a truck.

Another barrier for Nava during the production of his film was the initial lack of interest from people to audition for it. That led him to be a character in the film.

“That was not my plan,” Nava says. “No one actually auditioned for that part. Being in front of the camera and directing your actors at the same time is hard.” Despite the difficulty, he says he would definitely act in one of his own films again in the future.

Nava was recently invited to the I am The #OneVote dinner hosted by Hispanics in Politics, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower the Hispanic community in Nevada. Also in attendance at that event was Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval.

“When they mentioned my name I kind of wanted to crawl under the table,” Nava noted. Although “American Nightmare” is an inherently political film, Nava says he doesn’t think the governor actually saw it.

Nava says that he isn’t completely shy about all of the publicity, though. “Some people get weirded out like ‘Don’t take my picture!’… [I’m] gonna be on the Internet anyway. I might as well just get it out of the way.”

Of his film’s politics, Nava says, “As an artist… you will touch on sensitive subjects that people will agree or not agree on or not support you.” He says the response to his film has been mostly positive.

One of his major supporters along the way was John Aliano, instructor of film at CSN.

“One thing that separates him from others is that he knows he has to do things. He says, ‘This is what I need to get it done,’ and he just does it,” Aliano says. “I can certainly see him going all the way and making films that you’re gonna go to the cinema and pay money for.”

Aliano also agrees with Nava’s characterization of himself. “He’s a very conscientious young man.”

Despite his recent successes, Nava keeps his goals modest. “To be honest, just being in the industry and working on films, it’s enough for me. I could probably just live in a box on set. I really could.”

Nava says he is currently working on his first feature film.

Nava plans on going to film school at a university after completing the film program at CSN. Nava says he tried to make the best film he could so that he’d be accepted at one of his top-two school choices: the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. “I tried to make the best film I could with what I have… to have something to show them.”

You can view the trailer for “American Nightmare” at

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