Festival Juries

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The 58th Chicago International Film Festival

Festival Juries

Meet the industry professionals who select the winners of our prestigous Festival awards.

International Competition Jury

Boyd van Hoeij is a freelance film writer based in Paris and Luxembourg. He started as a contributing critic at Variety in 2008 before moving to The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, covering festivals such as Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Sundance. In 2022, he became Senior Critic at the reviews-focused publication The Film Verdict. Van Hoeij is also the Curator-at-Large of the Luxembourg City Film Festival and President of the Selection Committee of the Luxembourg Film Fund. He has taught film criticism workshops, conducted shot-by-shot analyses of film classics in many countries, and has moderated masterclasses with such actors and directors as Todd Haynes, Quentin Tarantino, Melanie Griffith, and Ray Liotta.

headshot: Kim Nguyen

Kim Nguyen wrote and directed 2002’s Eastern European fable The Marsh, which received six Jutra nominations including best feature and best directing. An official selection at Poland’s Camerimage Festival, it was among the finalists for best cinematography in a feature film at the CSC awards. His follow-up, the surreal comedy Truffe, opened 2008’s Fantasia Festival and was named best feature at Karlovy Vary’s Fresh Film Fest; it also won best director at Austin’s Fantastic Fest in 2009. Additional credits include 2010’s City of Shadows, 2016’s Two Lovers and a Bear, and 2017’s Eye on Juliet, which won the European Critics Association Prize for best film. His 2012 drama War Witch, which follows the harrowing path of a child soldier, won Rachel Mwanza the Silver Bear for her performance at the Berlin Film Festival and went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for best foreign-language film. His latest, The Hummingbird Project, stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, and Salma Hayek and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

headshot: Lucía Carreras

Lucía Carreras is an award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer whose work has been featured at notable festivals around the world. As a director or co-director, her feature film credits include 2011’s Nos vemos, papá (Missing Dad), 2015’s La Casa más grande del mundo (The Greatest House in the World), and 2016’s Tamara y la Catarina (Tamara and the Ladybug). As a screenwriter, she’s been twice nominated for Mexico’s Ariel Award for 2010’s Año Bisiesto (Leap Year), which also won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and for 2015’s Las Aparicio; she won the Ariel for Best Screenplay for La jaula de oro (The Golden Dream), sharing the prize with co-writers Diego Quemada-Díez and Gibrán Portela. La jaula de oro also won the Gold Hugo in the New Directors Competition at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2013.

headshot: Mala Emde

Mala Emde is a German-born actress who had her first leading role in 2010 in the series Krimi.de (Crime.de) and went on to appear in the docudrama Meine tochter, Anne Frank (My Daughter, Anne Frank), for which she received the Bavarian Film Prize’s Young Talent Award. She made her feature film debut in Offline: Das leben ist kein Bonuslevel and went on to appear in film and television projects including 2015’s 303; 2017’s Katharina Luther and Wir töten Stella; 2019’s Charité and Brecht; and 2020’s Shadowplay and Und morgen die ganze Welt (And Tomorrow the Entire World), the latter of which premiered at the 77th Venice Film Festival. For her performance in that film, Emde received the Bisato d’Oro prize awarded by the independent film critics and the cast received the Silver Hugo for Best Ensemble Performance at the 56th Chicago International FIlm Festival. A permanent ensemble member of Theater Basel, she is also recently been seen starring in the series Oh Hell, and in the feature film Aus meiner haut (Skin Deep), which screened at the Venice Film Festival, the Zurich Film Festival, and Filmfest Hamburg. Committed to fighting domestic violence, Emde worked with actor and director Lucas Englander on the touching short film Le Silence est lourd.  Emde is based in Paris and Berlin.

headshot: Namir Smallwood

Namir Smallwood recurs on the Showtime series Rust opposite Jeff Daniels and plays the leading role in award-winning director Alex Thompson’s indie feature Rounding, which premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival and is playing at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival. A staple of New York and Chicago theater, Smallwood has starred in Bug opposite Carrie Coon, Pass Over, and Pipeline at Lincoln Center on Broadway, which garnered him a Lucille Lortel Award Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play. He earned a BFA from the Guthrie Theater Program at University of Minnesota and is an Ensemble Member at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Smallwood is originally from Newark, New Jersey.

New Directors Jury

headshot: Chaz Ebert

Chaz Ebert is the CEO of Ebert Digital LLC, which publishes the acclaimed movie review site, Rogerebert.com. She is also a producer of television and movies, and co-founded the Ebertfest Film Festival at the University of Illinois, now in its 22nd year. Her civic passions include programs to help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color, and to provide education and arts for women, children and families, with a global interest in encouraging empathy, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Her philanthropic endeavors personally and through the Ebert Foundation include providing grants to support films with strong social justice themes, and encouraging emerging writers, filmmakers, and technologists with an endowment of scholarships, internships, and awards at a variety of notable film festivals and universities.

Fernando E. Juan Lima is the President of the Mar Del Plata International Film Festival. He is a film critic in written media (El Amante/Cine, Otros Cines, Diario BAE, Caimán, Escribiendo Cine), and he has also served as the vice president of INCAA (International Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts of Argentina), in addition to serving as a jury member at international film festivals around the world. In 2010, he created the radio program La Autopista del Sur, which he has hosted since, and which can be listened to internationally via www.radioam750.com.ar. In addition to his work in cinema, Juan Lima is an attorney, specializing in public law, and holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. He is a judge in administrative litigation as well as an undergraduate and graduate professor.

headshot: Kalisha Cornett

Kalisha Cornett is Assistant Professor of Instruction at Northwestern University, where she teaches courses on Hollywood cinema, international film history, and film genre. She is broadly interested in the phenomenology of cinema, the socio-political significance of space and its representation in American cinema (particularly in independent cinema and in the new Hollywood era), and in the interstices of philosophy and film. Her article “Predictive Landscapes” was published in Imaginations Issue 9.1. She earned a Ph. D. in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago.

Documentary Competition Jury

headshot: Tirtza Even

Tirtza Even has been an experimental documentary maker for more than 20 years, producing feature-length documentaries, multi-channel installations and interactive video work examining the social and political dynamics in locations around the globe. Even’s work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, at the Whitney Biennial, the Johannesburg Biennial, and in galleries, museums and festivals in the U.S., Israel, and Europe, including Doc Fortnight at MoMA, NY, Rotterdam Film Festival, RIDM Film Festival and Montreal. Even has won numerous grants and awards, including 3ARTs Visual Arts and Next Level Awards, Fledgling Distribution Fund, Artadia Award, Chicago, Media Arts Award, the Jerome Foundation; Individual Artists Program Awards, and NYSCA; and has been purchased for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Jewish Museum (NY), the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), among others. Her work is distributed by Heure Exquise, France and Video Data Bank (VDB). Even is currently an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Film, Video, New Media, and Animation department.

headshot: marcelo gomes

Marcelo Gomes is a screenwriter and director from Recife, Brazil, where he founded a film club. His debut film, Cinema, Aspirinas e Urubus (Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures), screened at Cannes (Un Certain Regard) in 2005 and received France’s National Education Prize. His feature film Viajo Porque Preciso, Volto Porque Te Amo (I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You), which he co-directed with Karim Aïnouz, premiered at Venice (Orizzonti) in 2009. His historical biopic Joaquim was selected in 2017 for the Competition in the Berlinale. His doc Estou me guardando pra quando o carnival chegar (Waiting for the Carnival) was released in the Berlinale in 2019 and was selected for the masters program of IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam) and won the Special Jury Award in the 17th Seoul Eco Film Festival in 2020. His feature Paloma had its premiere at Munich International Film Festival in 2022 and is screening as part of this year’s Festival.

headshot: Marjon Javadi

Marjon Javadi is Vice President of Disney Documentary Films and Docuseries, Disney Branded Television, leading the Disney Original Documentary banner for films and series at Disney Branded Television. Javadi identifies, develops, and guides each title, working with veteran filmmakers and emerging voices alike to deliver exclusive content to the Disney+ global streaming platform. Javadi moved into her current role from Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution where as director of Original Documentary Features and Series, she was part of the leadership team that launched Disney+ in 2019 and was responsible for shepherding Disney+ Originals such as On Pointe, Wolfgang and Among the Stars. Prior to joining Disney she worked in project funding at Doc Society and in content development and acquisitions at Netflix, helping to build its documentary unit and working on such award-winning titles as Chef’s Table and Making a Murderer. She served as a scripted production and development executive at Animal Kingdom Films and Scott Rudin Productions and started her career working at CAA’s Media Finance Group and for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman. She is a first-generation Iranian American from Chicago, now residing in Los Angeles.

Out-Look Jury

The Chicago International Film Festival has a long history of screening LGBTQ-themed films beginning in 1969, showcasing the talents of queer filmmakers around the globe including Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Amos Gutman, John Cameron Mitchell, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, Gus Van Sant, and Bill Condon, to name a few. We are presenting these films in a competitive program with a juried award, the Q Hugo, highlighting the importance of gay-themed films in contemporary international cinema.

headshot: Angellic Ross

Angellic Ross attended Northwestern University where she studied Performance Studies and Film & Media Studies. Her first short film was a documentary, revoLUZion, which won first place at the My Hero Festival. Following that, she produced the short film Down the Rabbit Hole, which was nominated for Best Picture at the Single Take Film Festival. Ross’ most recent project is a multimedia feature documentary piece, A Journey Through Time, for her sorority’s 100-year anniversary. She is currently producing her first narrative feature film, Go to the Body, which won the Festival’s pitch competition. Raised in Milwaukee, Ross is an Advisory Board Member of Sisters in Cinema and was part of the inaugural class of Full Spectrum Features and the Chicago Film Office’s Chicago Independent Producers Lab. In 2021, she began teaching various producer classes in partnership with local organizations. In addition to her film work, Ross is an Associate Director of Media Strategy at an advertising agency.

headshot: Lee Shoquist

Lee Shoquist is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and leads more than 20 film discussion groups in the Chicago area. As a film critic and lecturer, he conducts film discussions at private member clubs and organizations including The Fortnightly of Chicago, Woman’s Athletic Club, The Casino Club, The Cliff Dwellers, Google HQ, Cinema Chicago, After Hours Film Society as well as local bookstores, theaters and private residences in Chicago and its suburbs, and periodically in New York and Los Angeles.

headshot: Takeshi Swallow

Takashi Shallow is a socially specific artist whose experiments intersect visual art with technology and performance. His ongoing projects include Gesamt (a record label), Percent (a collective of mixed race artists), and Insider Art (a series of institutional critiques). Dazed Digital included Shallow in the article, “10 of the Best Chicago Artists Right Now,” and he has received fellowships and residencies at institutions including the Arts Club of Chicago and the Cliff Dwellers. He is a lecturer at the University of Chicago where he teaches art and music classes.

City & State Jury

The Chicago Award is presented to a Chicago or Illinois artist for the best feature, short film, or documentary. The Chicago Award applauds and celebrates the tireless efforts of regional filmmakers who contribute to the art of cinema.

headshot: Margaret Byrne

Margaret Byrne is an award-winning filmmaker who directed, produced, and shot Any Given Day (America Reframed 2022), a documentary following four Chicagoans navigating the complexities of living with mental illness. She directed and produced Raising Bertie (POV 2017), an intimate chronicle of three rural North Carolina teens whose chance for success at an alternative school is threatened when it closes down. She is currently in production on Corruption Capital, a documentary series exposing the largest police frame-up scandal in U.S. history. She has worked as a cinematographer on more than a dozen films including The Big Payback (2022), Surge (2020), Waging Change (2019), Generation Wealth (2018), All the Queen’s Horses (2017), and American Promise (2014). She teaches documentary cinematography at Columbia College Chicago and is the founder of Beti Films.

headshot: Rita Coburn

Rita Coburn is the Peabody award-winning co-director/co-producer of the first feature documentary on Maya Angelou, American Masters’s Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. An award winning multimedia writer, director, and producer, Coburn’s television work earned three Emmys for documentaries Curators of Culture, Remembering 47th Street, and African Roots American Soil. Coburn’s work has also been featured on C-Span, Harpo, and The History Channel. She is the owner of RCW Media Productions, Inc., a multimedia production company. Coburn’s value is such that she bridges the gap between generations and preserves African American history.

headshot: Akanksha Cruczynski

Akanksha Cruczynski is a writer and filmmaker. Originally from India and having grown up in Saudi Arabia, Cruczynski has a BA from DePauw University and an MFA in Cinema Directing from Columbia College Chicago. Her film Close Ties to Home Country premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Student Academy Award, and was longlisted for the Live Action Best Short Film Oscar. It also played at Telluride Film Festival, was honored at the 2021 Gotham Awards, and was given the Chicago Award Honorable Special Mention at Chicago International Film Festival among other awards. Cruczynski is passionate about telling stories from underserved communities and using humor to make them accessible.

Live Action Short Film Competition

headshot: Gustavo Martin

Gustavo Martín Benites Gálvez is a Peruvian director, screenwriter, and producer based in Chicago, IL. He has directed over a dozen short films which have screened at film festivals around the world, and has also been featured on the popular short film website Filmshortage.com. When not working on personal films, Gustavo contributes his talents to the ever-growing Chicago film industry as a Location Scout on feature films, television, and commercials. His most recent credits include the films Candyman and The Last Shift, as well as the TV shows Proven Innocent, Batwoman, and the upcoming Dark Matter on Apple+.

headshot: Christian Mejía

Christian Mejía is a  writer and director raised by Mexican-immigrant parents in Chicago. He tells intimate stories that tackle complex themes such as race/class, migration, identity, and religion, with thoughtfulness, levity and humor. He is the creator of the web series Born & Raised and Queen Zee’s Poetic Adventures. He is also the writer and director of the short film Semana Santa (post-production).  Christian is also an award-winning director of photography, enjoys meditation and yoga, and is in the process of lovingly restoring his 126-year-old childhood home.

headshot: Juefang Zhang

Juefang Zhang is head of Film and TV at EST Studios, who she oversees both development and distribution departments to support Asian content. She recently closed deals on Sundance titles Maika and Every Day in Kaimuki and Tribeca title Hidden Letters. In 2022, she co-produced the dramatic comedy film K-POPS! with Anderson .Paak. In 2021, She co-produced the documentary Wuhan Wuhan (2020) with Academy Award-winner Donna Gigliotti. In 2022, she was invited as the speaker at the American Pavilion panel during Cannes Film Festival. Prior to joining EST Studios, she has overseen Starlight’s development deals with A-list directors including Sam Raimi, Jon Chu, James Wan and Roland Emmerich and titles: Midway (2019), Malignant (2021) and Umma (2022). In 2018, she worked with Jackie Chan on The Diary. In 2020, She spearheaded the Sundance Institute | Stars Collective Granting Fund, a diversity fund with Sundance to promote BIPOC filmmakers.

Documentary Short Film Competition

headshot: Malia Haines-Stewart

Malia Haines-Stewart lives in Chicago, IL, and works as the Associate Film Programmer at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. She is a co-founder of the microcinema filmfront and bookstore Inga, which share a storefront in Pilsen. Collaboration is central to her process of working, and she finds joy in opportunities to facilitate open conversation grounded in moving image work.

headshot: Paige Taul

Paige Taul is an Oakland, CA native who received her BA in Studio Art with a concentration in Cinematography from the University of Virginia and her MFA in Moving Image from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work engages with and challenges assumptions of black cultural expression and notions of belonging through experimental cinematography. As a part of her filmmaking practice she tests the boundaries of identity and self-identification through autoethnography to approach notions of racial authenticity in veins such as religion, style, language, and other black community-based experiences.

headshot: Waldemar Wilk

Waldemar Wilk, born in Malawa, Poland, in 1965. Graduated in Cultur Studies from Wroclaw University in 1989. Since 1984, his professional life is connected with film. He worked as a Cinema programmer, film distributor and journalist – sometimes as a script and edit doctor for Aurum Film (Corpus Christi; 2019). From 1985, he is in the main stuff of Polish Federation of Film Clubs. He was the member of FICC jury (International Federation of Film Clubs) in Leipzig and Oberhausen. From 1988, he collaborates with the Lagow Film Festival as the curator of restrospectives and programer. He also worked for the Comedy Film Festival in Lubomierz, Zoom Festival in Jelenia Gora, Barejada – Festival of Comedy Films and Events in Jelenia Gora and many other film festivals and events in Poland. As co-author and editor he published books about Polish filmmakers: Tadeusz Konwicki, Jerzy Skolimowski, Stanislaw Bareja.

Animated Short Film Competition

headshot: Erica Duffy

Since moving to Chicago in 2014, Erica Duffy has been busy fulfilling her vision to create and foster a vibrant community of artists and filmmakers. She founded Camera Ambassador, one of only three equipment rental houses nationwide owned and operated by a woman. While supporting clients through equipment rentals is their main focus, Camera Ambassador is much more than that. They offer monthly workshops & feedback sessions, host screenings, promote filmmakers, provide internships, and fund the annual Community Builders Grant. 
While not at Camera Ambassador she works as a producer on projects ranging from short films to narrative features, and most recently completing a television pilot. In 2019, Erica joined the Midwest Film Festival as the Executive Director where she has enjoyed shining the spotlight on locally produced films.

headshot: Katie Rife

Katie Rife is a freelance writer and critic with a speciality in genre cinema. She worked as the News Editor of The A.V. Club from 2014-2019, and as Senior Editor of that site from 2019-2022. She currently writes about film and TV for outlets including Vulture, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Indiewire, Polygon, and RogerEbert.com.

headshot: Dena Springer

Award-winning animator/illustrator Dena Springer is a bi-racial Asian-American animator & illustrator living in Chicago. Her work at once magnifies and reduces behaviors within groups, examining movements (both literal and figurative), and the divergent response to collective ideological structures between Eastern and Western perspectives. She uses vintage educational videos, antiquated instruction manuals, and old illustrations from children’s books to respond and challenge cultural definitions of role, gender, and identity. By borrowing from the rich animation tradition of the early 20th Century, she invites the viewer onto the drawing board with her in an effort to scramble the distance between who we are collectively, individually, and what culture dictates to us about both. Her 2021 animated film, You Are Here, was screened at festivals such as GLAS Animation Festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival, and Ann Arbor Film Festival.