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Exploring Life & Business with Alexandra Nakelski of Zeitgeist Film Festival

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alexandra Nakelski.

Hi Alexandra, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I graduated from Chapman University in 2010 with my MA in Film Studies and continued to work as programmer in film festivals globally as well as teach film at various colleges. I moved to England in 2015 to earn my PhD, researching images of auspicious apocalypse in post 9/11 film. There, I started my own festival, The Norwich Radical Film Festival hosting Mr Timothy Bottoms celebrating Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” as our centerpiece film. In 2017 I moved my studies to the University of Amsterdam and the festival with me. Now named the Manifesto Film Festival, I completed two more seasons completely from scratch, on my own in a foreign country. And now the final rebranding is complete, that is the apotheosis of my journey: The Zeitgeist Film Festival as I come home to the US with my life’s work. To bring a business overseas, much less during a pandemic is daunting. We are planning on going live, not virtual, and I am lucky to have a wonderful all volunteer team. We are officially now a nonprofit and are hoping that in June, people in the community can come enjoy films again in a safe environment. I am back at Chapman… a full circle adventure, to earn my MFA in TV and Film Producing hoping to develop my idea for a TV pilot and use Zeitgeist as a brand in production and future podcasting and talent management. It is a one woman show and I am looking for my serendipitous collaborators, both creatively and financially.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The time in Europe was rough. I did suffer from extreme culture shock and seasonal affective disorder. While I traveled, explored and made lifetime memorable friends, it was the right decision to come back to the States. I feel like Frodo coming back to the Shire, that uncanny feeling that I have changed in a way that is inexplicable, in a way only other wanderlusts would identify with. And the pandemic. I know no one is immune from the isolation and strife this last year has dealt to us all. I decided to take a leap into the unknown as I always have and move forward with the event in the greatest time of uncertainty I have ever known. I could have played it safe and delayed it indefinitely, however I fell in this business momentum is more important than anything. I sometimes bite off more than I can chew, but it is preferable to being idle. My anxiety is through the roof because funding is different here than in Europe and I have to readjust to American norms. I am hoping to reach more potential donors for our nonprofit organization and interested partners, as so far this entire venture has been out of pocket. But it is without a doubt an 100% labor of love. I am so blessed to have so many amazing volunteers that share this vision.

We’ve been impressed with Zeitgeist Film Festival, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our live event is in Huntington Beach June 4-6, 2021! We will be screening retrospective features, live panels, Q and A’s, parties, a rooftop celebration at Offshore 9 at the Hilton Waterfront Resort and short films from around the world. We will be having special guests and filmmakers attending as well. The following is a description of our brand:

We have reached our final phase of evolution. The Norwich Radical Film Festival and Manifesto Film Festival have organically transcended into something larger… beyond just socio-political relevance. This absolute re-branding captures the true essence of who we are.

What is this international – cross genre phenomenon that has linked our entourage, our filmmakers, our crew for the past five years? It is the “spirit of the age”. We are the Zeitgeist.

As any new entity, you experiment and collect data to find the true nature of what you represent, what you advocate and what you are passionate about. We found the words resonating within us to truly describe both the festival that we are and the type of content we want to showcase: the zeitgeist “refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.” This is what we have been doing subconsciously all along, and now we are aware of our purpose and what truly sets us apart from other festivals. We want to bring this consciousness to the forefront and contextualize as to why films are produced at a certain point in time, how they are received, and the historical and universal meaning they have carved out in retrospect.

How both present and past films are cultural artifacts offering a glimpse into who we are, who we were, and perhaps, what we are becoming.

Welcome to the Zeitgeist Film Festival….live in the moment, appreciate the past and celebrate the future!

This year we are screening in Huntington Beach. The theme is Apocalypse LA. We have a wonderful retrospective centerpiece planned and panels and parties as usual! We also have documentaries and other films that are not part of the theme. We really do have something for everybody. As a nonprofit, we are conducting an incubation project with up and coming artists that will help them navigate starting their careers in these uncertain pandemic times. We also will be offering an online seminar series, free, to those who may not be able to afford to go to university to attend classes. We are different from other festivals because my main mission is to make sure every single person who attends leaves enlightened and entertained and a part of the “entourage”! We are taking every precaution to be safe but recognize that communal element of the human experience has been missing and we aim to deliver this summer!

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
When I am sitting atop the Hilton Twin Dolphin Tower at Offshore 9 during that perfect time of day, the “Miami Vice” gloaming sky, I can’t help but have Phil Collins go through my head and I remember why I came back to Southern California. I literally traveled all over the globe looking for something, and it was here all along. When I see the wind rustle in the palm trees and meditate on the never-ending nature of the ocean, it inspires my existential contemplation. I have only ever felt this in California. It has always been a link to Gen X for me, with the connectivity of the pop culture that resonates within me.

The only downside is the cost of living! Maybe one day when I do not have to pay for my own festival, I can focus on moving closer to the coast and feel that bliss on a daily occurrence!


  • $100 Day Pass
  • $300 Festival Pass includes Fri/Sat Receptions
  • $500 Festival Pass includes Fri/Sat reception and Closing Night rooftop party

Contact Info:


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