The Irvine International Film Festival Judges.
Our past judges
Benjamin is an Oscar winning writer/director from Dublin.
In 2015 he wrote, directed and edited his first short film 'Stutterer'. The film has played over 100 festivals at time of writing and has won over 25 awards including an Academy Award for best Live Action Short 2015, a Cannes Young Director Award, a London Critic's Circle Award, an Irish Film and Television Award, an Irish Young Director Award and Best Foreign Film at LA Shorts Fest.
Jeremiah is the President and Co-Founder of the San Francisco Film School, and has worked as a director, producer and editor in the film industry for more than 28 years. He is also President of Fog City Pictures, one of the most prolific production companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the last ten years, Fog City Pictures has developed and produced a variety of feature films, documentaries and commercials that have screened at dozens of festivals around the world and been released in theaters, DVD and VOD.
Alonso is a Film & Journalism graduate from the University of Lima, Peru, and the Film Directing program at the American Film Institute. His thesis film Wednesday Afternoon (2004) won the Student Academy Award (Gold Medal - Narrative, 2005). He's directed the documentaries Viva la causa (2008) and Just Like Anyone (2008), and the web series Untitled Murder Project 2.0 (2013). His first feature film The Story of Luke (2012), starring Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Green, Cary Elwes and Kristin Bauer, premiered at the 2012 San Diego Film Festival, where it won Best Film. It went on to win over 20 festival awards including Best Film at San Antonio Film Festival, Garden State Film Festival, and San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. It was released theatrically and on demand by Gravitas Ventures. Alonso teaches filmmaking at New York Film Academy's Los Angeles campus.
(director/writer/producer) has garnered over 40 awards and nominations for his films and screenplays in categories such as Best Director, Best Narrative Feature, Best Short Film, Best Screenplay, Grand Jury Award, Special Jury Award, and Audience Choice. He's won a Clio Award for directing the History's 'Roots' campaign and an Effie Award for Bank of America's mini-doc series that aired during History's 'America the Story of Us.' He was one of the short-listed directors picked by Steven Spielberg from a worldwide search of over 12,000 directors for his US TV series On the Lot for FOX TV, produced by Spielberg and Mark Burnett. His current film 'The Truth About Lies,' starring Fran Kranz, Odette Annable and scored by Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz will be released in spring of 2017.
Karoff was nominated at the 86th Academy Awards for Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for the 2013 film CaveDigger
Sam French is known for his work on Buzkashi Boys (2012), Religion of Sports (2016) and Over the Line (2006). In 2013 Sam was Nominated for a Oscar for Live Action Short (director of buzkashi boys)
Robin is the director and producer of cause-based documentary films at Finish Line Features, LLC and Unleashed Productions, Inc. As a businesswoman, a longtime professional photographer, and a social entrepreneur, Robin brings her leadership skills, creative eye and passion to her documentary film projects. Her artistic vision and experience in the business world afford her a unique perspective on what it takes to motivate an audience. Robin's most recent award-winning film, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2015 and has caught the attention of the international tech industry and of policymakers in Washington, DC and abroad.
Robin is currently directing and producing Bias, a documentary feature about unconscious bias and how it affects the ways we hire, promote and fund. Previously, Robin co-directed and produced the documentary feature, Running for Jim, which won 14 awards at 20 film festivals. She has spoken about the importance of increased diversity in computer programming and on behalf of women's rights at the Conferences for Women, Mobile World Congress, SXSW Interactive Conference, InspireFest, AT&T Foundry FutureCast, Dell Women Entrepreneur Network, Watermark Conferences and Women 2.0. As Director of CODE documentary, Robin has been featured in national publications: USA Today, Wired, Forbes, Fortune, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, San Francisco Business Times and has appeared on Bloomberg TV, CNN, NPR. Robin is recipient of the 2016 National Political Women's Caucus President's Award.
J. CHRISTIAN JENSEN
J. Christian Jensen is an Oscar® Nominated filmmaker and educator whose storytelling explores the tensions between political ideology, science, religion, modernization and traditional values. He seeks out intimate, human stories that provide insight into larger social movements and institutions.
Christian believes that storytelling can be a powerful force to bridge gaps between opposing beliefs and ideas. His recent work has screened throughout the world – winning over a dozen jury awards. His film White Earth received a 2015 Academy Award® Nomination and played at over 50 festivals around the world as well as universities such as Stanford, Yale, UC Berkeley, Duke, and Brown. As a speaker, Jensen has lectured at schools, community groups, and universities and he has also addressed audiences at TEDx.
Christian began working in media over ten years ago as a journalist – a passion that evolved into work as a documentary filmmaker. He spent several years working on fiction and non-fiction productions including ones for National Geographic Film & Television, PBS FRONTLINE, and American Experience. Having lived or worked in Brazil, China, and India, Christian is also interested in films that explore areas of rapid modernization and economic expansion. He’s a graduate of Stanford University’s Documentary Film M.F.A. program and currently works as a filmmaker, editor, and educator teaching film within Northwestern University’s graduate Documentary Media program in the Chicagoland area.
Timothy Reckart is an American animator and director based in Los Angeles, specializing in puppet stop motion. He is best known for his 2012 film Head Over Heels, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2013. Reckart grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where he attended University High School.
Sélim Azzazi is a French sound editor, producer, and director. Best known for his work on Ennemis intérieurs as director, which earned him critical appraisal and recognition including Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film at the 89th Academy Awards in 2017
Angela Sun Angela is the first Asian-American female sportscaster to appear on ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, Tennis Channel and Fox Sports. She was also the first and only Asian co-host of American Ninja Warrior on NBC. While Angela hosted the Yahoo! Sports Minute, it won a Webby Award, garnered over 600 million streams, and was the longest running and #1 daily sports show online. As a glass breaker, Angela not only has the credibility but also the inquisitive and journalistic background to examine what it means to be a leader and how one travels down this path. Angela directed & executive produced the film which has received critical praise and won 13 awards worldwide and been in over 40 film festivals The film has wide distribution and can currently be seen on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu
Laurent Witz won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for the 2013 film Mr. Hublot at the 86th Academy Awards.
She is best known for co-producing and co-directing short-documentary Last Day of Freedom for which she received Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) nomination at 88th Academy Awards, with Dee Hibbert-Jones. In April 2016, Nomi was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and won an Emmy Award for Last Day of Freedom, at the 45th Annual Northern California Emmy® Awards
Courtney marsh is an Academy Award® nominated filmmaker originally from south florida. She garnered her bfa from UCLA's school of film and television.
TOM VAN AVERMAET
The Belgian filmmaker wrote and directed the live-action short "Death of a Shadow," which was nominated for an Academy Award.
The executive producer of the feature documentary Blackfish, Newman and Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Co-Producer of the Sundance Documentary Winner ‘Case Against 8′
Oscar Nominated documantary filmmaker from Poland.
SAHIM OMAR KALIFA
Kalifa has won 80 international awards with his short films Land of the Heroes, Baghdad Messi, and Bad Hunter. ‘Baghdad Messi’ was on the short list for the 87th Academy awards, the Oscars 2015.
Magnolia Pictures – International sales & distribution
Magnolia Pictures is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically-integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also includes the Landmark Theatres chain, and the high definition cable network HDNet. Magnolia’s upcoming releases include Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, Andrew Rossi’s New York Times Documentary Page One, Mark Pellington’s I Melt With You, Alex Gibney’s Ken Kesey documentary Magic Trip, gospel documentary Rejoice and Shout, Blackthorn starring Sam Shepard, French thriller Point Blank, rakontur’s Limelight, David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Anne Sewitsky’s Happy, Happy, Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters, and many more.
Archstone Distribution - President & CEO
Archstone is a sales and distribution company focused on delivering high quality theatrical films and documentaries to the world-wide audience. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Archstone is perfectly positioned for global distribution through their established relationships with reputable distributors in each territory.
Known and respected as a filmmaker friendly company, Archstone adheres to a policy of open-book accounting and transparency where producers have 100% approval of all marketing expenses and sales deals made in the worldwide marketplace. Archstone works with filmmakers to deliver their vision to the world
Entertainment One - International Distribution
Entertainment One focuses on its strengths in film and television, where it is recognised as a leader in independent distribution (Film & TV) and production (TV). Through successful relationships with its industry partners the company continues to build its position as a leading independent in its core markets.
Entertainment One’s production partners include the large Hollywood independent studios including Summit Entertainment, River Road Entertainment, Lakeshore Entertainment and Morgan Creek.
Mitchell Block has handled the distribution and marketing of hundreds of documentary, live action, and animated shorts films and documentary features, 25 have won Oscars and 71 have received Academy Award nominations. He is president of Direct Cinema Limited and produces and consults in Santa Monica California.”Poster Girl” produced by Block and directed by Sara Nesson was nominated for Academy Award(Documentary Short Film) in 2011.
Block conceived, co-created, and is an executive-producer of the Emmy Award-winning 10-hour documentary series “Carrier” and a producer of the companion documentary feature “Another Day in Paradise.” He is president of The Carrier Project. Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions financed the films They aired on PBS in 2008.
He was an executive-producer on HBO’s 2000 Oscar-winning film “Big Mama.”
He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-LA, and a life member of the UFVA and the IDA.
KATE AMEND, A.C.E.
Kate Amend is the editor of the Academy Award-winning documentary features The Long Way Home (1998) and Into The Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2001) for which she received the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie award.
Amend edited the 2001 Oscar-nominated documentary short On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom and the Peabody Award winner Beah: A Black Woman Speaks. She is a frequent advisor at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Storytelling Lab and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers’ Academy.
Amend is on the Board of Directors of the American Cinema Editors and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2005, she received the inaugural award for Outstanding Documentary Editing Award from the International Documentary Association.
JENNIFER WARREN, B.A.
Although best known as an actress in film, television and theater, Jennifer Warren was accepted into the Directing Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute, where she directed the short film Point of Departure and received the Cine Golden Eagle Award, Best Drama at Aspen Film Festival, and then opened the season for the Arts & Entertainment Channel on their World Premiere Short Film Series. Two years later, she formed Tiger Rose Productions, and co-produced the short documentary You Don’t Have to Die, which won the Academy Award in 1989 as well as the Cable Ace Award.
About that same time, Warren began to develop a feature film, The Beans of Egypt Maine, which she directed for American Playhouse and Live Entertainment. The film was selected as Best Pick of both the Seattle and Boston Film Festivals. It was invited into competition at the San Sebastian Film Festival and gathered wide critical acclaim and two Independent Film Spirit Award Nominations upon its release in 1994. It appeared on PBS for the American Playhouse series the following year.
Warren finished production on her second directorial feature, Partners in Crime, starring Rutger Hauer and Paulina Porizkova in 1998. Partners was distributed in America by Artisan Films during the 1999/2000 year and appeared on Direct T.V.
As an actress, Warren is best known for her leading roles in such features as Night Moves, opposite Gene Hackman (Screen World Award – Best Actress) directed by Arthur Penn. Slapshot, opposite Paul Newman, directed by George Roy Hill. Fatal Beauty, opposite Whoopi Goldberg, as well as Another Man, Another Chance opposite Jimmy Cahn, directed by Claude LeLouche. She has also starred in over twenty network movies.
A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and Women in Film, she was a founding member and past president of The Alliance of Woman Directors and continues to actively support the organization. She has taught at Wesleyan University, Johns Hopkins University, UCLA Extension, University of Tel Aviv and is now a Senior Lecturer at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
DON HALL, B.A.
Don Hall has ninety three feature film supervising sound editor credits, eleven supervising sound editor television series credits, and ten years experience as a post-production supervisor which included 5 years as vice-president of post production for Walt Disney Studios.
Hall has created motion picture & television sound tracks that have been honored with numerous awards. His work has been recognized in the industry with: a BAFTA with two additional nominations, 5 CAS Awards, 3 MPSE Awards, 2 Emmys with three additional nominations, and The Peabody Award for excellence in the television series for M.A.S.H.
Hall was inducted into the BHS Hall of Fame and is the recipient of the MPSE Career Achievement Award. The Academy Award in the AMPAS John Bonner Medal of Commendation. Hall is serving his fifteenth year as a Sound Branch Governor in the Motion Picture Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He sits on the Student Academy Awards Executive Committee and is a member of the AMPAS Scientific-Technical Council.
As a manager of development at NBC Productions, Joe Slowensky saw every kind of idea for film and TV projects you can imagine—and some you can’t. But these days, he’s busy writing scripts of his own. His first produced feature, the CBS Sunday Night Movie Miracle in the Woods, was seen in more than 14.5 million homes and received the highest ratings of the week (except for the World Series). His second CBS film, Three Secrets, also won the ratings battle during the highly competitive May sweeps period.
With an M.F.A. from USC, Slowensky began his career working in development of movies and miniseries at CBS. These days, he enjoys working with students, in part, because “they’re where the trends are starting. It’s fun to help shape their fresh, unbridled ideas into something they might be able to sell.”
Slowensky is an active member of the Writers Guild of America, West and the exclusive Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Writers Peer Group, where he’s a voting juror for the annual prime-time Emmy Awards. But he’s always ready to listen to students, because developing a good story is where it all starts—for students and pros alike.
Conor Barrett was born and raised in Mission Viejo, California, where he cultivated a love of film from an early age. He earned a degree in Cinema and Television Arts from California State University, Northridge, and now works as Head of Marketing and Assistant Sales at Curb Entertainment International Corporation. His job now sends him to internationally renowned film festivals such as Sundance, The Berlin Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival each year.