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2022 Festival Jury

BEST FEATURE FILM – GRAND JURY PRIZE

Sunnie Rucker-Chang

Best Feature Film-Grand Jury Prize

Dr. Sunnie Rucker-Chang‘s primary interests lie in contemporary cultural movements and identity formation in Central and Southeast Europe. She writes primarily on racial and cultural formations, minority-majority and minority-minority relations in Southeast Europe. She is co-editor and contributor to Cultures of Mobility and Alterity: Crossing the Balkans and Beyond (with Yana Hashamova and Oana Popescu-Sandu) (forthcoming, University of Liverpool Pres, 2022), co-author of Roma Rights and Civil Rights: A Transatlantic Comparison (Cambridge, 2020), and co-editor of and contributor to Chinese Migrants in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe (Routledge, 2011). Her work has appeared in Critical Romani Studies, EuropeNow! – A Journal of Research and Art, Interventions: Journal of Post-Colonial Studies, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Slavic and East European Journal, and Slavic Review. She is currently finishing a monograph focusing on the politics of Blackness in former Yugoslav states that challenges conventional ideas of race and racialization in the Balkans and connects the region to broad trends in European Studies.
 researchdirectory.uc.edu/p/ruckersu

Antoneta Kastrati

Feature Film – Grand Jury Prize

Antoneta Kastrati is a Kosovo born filmmaker based in Los Angelos. After surviving the war in the late 1990s, with her sister Sevdije she began making documentary films that addressed unexplored issues of post-war society. She was one of the 8 female directors selected for the DWW directing program at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Her thesis short Film “She Comes in Spring” premiered at Busan International Film Festival and went on to receive many awards. Her most recent award winning feature debut ZANA, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was nominated as Kosovo’s official entry for the 2020 Oscars.The film won top award at the 2020 SEEfest.
 www.imdb.com/name/nm4138958

Florian Froschmayer

Best Feature Film – Grand Jury Prize

Florian Froschmayer  is a TV and film director, writer, and photographer based in Los Angeles. He directed two feature films, 19 TV movies, and close to 50 episodes of primetime TV. He worked in Germany, the US, Mexico, China, Prague, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, and his country of origin, Switzerland. Florian has written both his big-screen feature films. He has been a writer or co-writer on several TV movies he directed. Florian is a passionate photographer. He has exhibited his work several times in Germany and Switzerland. 
www.froschmayer.com

Best Feature Documentary

Lelei Lelaulu

Best Feature Documentary

Lelei Lelaulu is a development entrepreneur working at the confluence of climate change, tourism, renewable energy and communications. As president of Counterpart International he set up development and humanitarian programs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He produced radio/TV programs for the United Nations, organized a series of summits and global conferences, and served on the UN Reform team. He worked on environmental policy at the World Bank and its International Finance Corporation. Lelei hosted the TV show “One World One Voice” on PBS in New York, and was a correspondent for CNN’s World Report.

Isotta Poggi

Best Feature Documentary

Isotta Poggi works as a photography curator at the Getty Research Institute, with the collections focusing on cultural heritage, history, and archaeology. Her research interests include the cultural history of photography during the Cold War across the iron curtain, particularly in the Eastern bloc countries. In 2018 she co-curated an exhibition on Cold War Hungary at The Wende Museum in Culver City and co-edited the accompanying catalog Promote, Tolerate, Ban: Art and Culture in Cold War Hungary. She is currently researching the independent presses and photo-based artistic experimentations created in East Germany by the new generation of emerging artists in the 1980s, the last decade of the regime.

Dante Alencastre

Best Feature Documentary

Dante Alencastre is a documentary filmmaker and LGBT community activist, based in West Hollywood. His work combines and blurs the boundaries between filmmaking, activism and community participation by documenting and amplifying the under-told, but extraordinary stories of local LGBT activist heroes, told with depth, respect and sensitivity and then shared with national and worldwide target audiences. His film and activist work has focused particularly on the overlapping Latino/a, Transgender and Gender non-conforming sub-tribes within our community. His latest film is AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman
www.dantealencastre.com

Best Short Film

Ana Pasti

Best Short Film

Ana Pasti is an Eastern European actress from Romania. In 2011, she won a Fulbright Grant and completed an MFA in acting at USC in Los Angeles. She has performed on both continents in over 25 theater productions, numerous short films, award winning features and popular TV series. She became interested in writing while collaborating in developing two ensemble theater pieces based on Sophocles’ Greek tragedies Electra and Trojan Women, both performed at Dock Scene Theater in LA. She also created two solo performance shows of Because I Can Or The Things I’d Do For Love, which was selected in Hollywood Fringe Festival. Although she never took a screenwriting class, she wrote the script for the short A Day From A Life of a Pay Phone (2013), followed by her directorial debut In Between which won the award for best short film at SEEfest 2021.
www.anapasti.com

Hettie Lynne Hurtes

Best Short Film

Hettie Lynne Hurtes is a veteran Los Angeles newscaster, having worked in TV, radio and in print for more than 25 years. She is currently writing, producing and voicing newscasts for iHeart Radio. Having studied film at UCLA, Hettie was also a national film critic for RKO Radio and has written reviews for several Los Angeles newspapers over the years. She also was invited to be a judge in the documentary division of the Mendocino Film Festival. And, of course, for 11 years Hettie was the Mistress of Ceremonies for SEEfest!
 www.imdb.com/name/nm0403758

Liana Rae Perez

Best Short Film

Liana Rae Perez is a producer and production manager, known for Phantogram: Funeral Pyre (2017), Nightwalkers(2021) and Dirty Little Deeds (2021). 
www.imdb.com/name/nm9240658

Best Short Documentary Film

Nicole Block

Best Short Documentary Film

Nicole Block has almost twenty years of experience working in television and film production making successful entertaining content for a range of media platforms including ABC, A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, CBS, Discovery, Disney.com, DIY, ESPN, FamilyFun.com, FLN, FOX, HGTV, MSNBC, Showtime, Speed, Style and TNT. She is now honored to be passing that experience on by teaching and mentoring the next generation of content makers at Moorpark College.

Valentina Ganeva

Best Short Documentary Film

Valentina Ganeva was born in Bulgaria, and is a graduate of the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. She holds a BA degree in Film History and Theory. She made her mark as a freelance journalist for major Bulgarian publications covering international film festivals from Cannes and Berlin to New York and Sundance. In 1990, Valentina relocated to Los Angeles and became a video editor. In 1997 she joined the post-production company, Murex Films, Inc. known for editing numerous hit music videos, commercials, documentaries and independent films, where she is now the executive producer and co-owner.  Valentina is currently producing, directing and editing the feature documentary R.M. Schindler, Space Architect about the famous Austrian architect who defined modern architecture in Southern California. https://www.rmsdocumentary.com/

Rebecca Berrih

Best Short Documentary Film

Rebecca Berrih is a French-born American producer and president of Elysian Fields Entertainment in Los Angeles. Her 2011 romantic comedy short film, 2 scoops of love won Jury Award for Best Short at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival, and Best Romantic Comedy award at the Mexico International Film Festival, among others. In 2018 she co-wrote and produced the award-winning sci-fi thriller Beyond The Sky starring Dee Wallace, best known for her role as Mary in E.T the Extra-Terrestrial and Peter Stormare (Fargo, Armageddon). She also worked on music videos for some of the industry’s most recognized artists, and in 2020 produced the music video for Nigerian-American rapper Thutmose’s track Memories, which was featured on the Grammy nominated Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack. She is a member of the Producers Guild of America. 
efentertainment.com

Best Short Animation Film

Goran Ognjanović

Best Short Animation Film

Goran Ognjanović (born and raised in Niš, Serbia) began his career as an air traffic controller. Graduate of the Air Force Academy in Zadar, and Air Traffic Control Center in Belgrade, he worked for 11 years at several airports in Yugoslavia before making his first animations in 1996 at Silicon Art Studio, in Niš. By 2001, he was teaching character animation and rigging at the 3D3 World Computer Arts Training, in Arezzo, Italy. From 2001 to 2007, Goran worked for several studios in Belgrade, including: KompAni, Creative Studio Zepter, Chiron Training Center, Helium (presently Open studio). In April 2007, he received an offer to join RhinoFX studio, in New York where he worked as lead animator.
Goran worked on several feature films, including: Eternals (2021), The Bite (2021), The Witches (2020), Triple Frontier (2019), Deadpool 2 (2018), Black Panther (2018), 12 Strong (2018), Men Of Vision (2018), Heroj 1914 (2014), Tower Heist 2011, Arthur (2011), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), The Other Guys (2010), Ghost Town (2008), Sinovci (2006), Sophie And The Dream Bandits trailer (2006).
He also worked on numerous TV commercials including BMW, Ford, Google, Samsung and others, Netflix TV series “Godless” (2017), HBO TV series “The Leftovers” (2014) and “How to Get Away With Murder” (2014), RTS “Koraksijanci (2002) and Parobrod Srbija (2002-2003)”, music videos: Justin Timberlake – Filthy (2018), Camila Cabello – Consequences (2018), Jay Rock – For what it’s worth (2018), various games including Hugo for PS3.
In 2009, he received the Mobius Award for animation on the “Oreo Magnetism” commercial and Clio Entertainment Short List for Netflix TV series – Godless (2018). Goran also animated for the theater. Titles include: Tesla, Ledeni Svitac and the opera: Hofmanove priče, Madlenianum Opera & Theatre, Belgrade, Tesla Off Broadway and Christmas Spectacular for Radio City Music Hall, New York. As senior character animator and animation supervisor, he worked with Aardman Nathan Love, The Mill, Method Studios, Hornet Animation, Psyop/Mass Market, Click 3X, R/GA, Dive Visual/Alkemy X, Lanterna Magica and other animation studios. His current position is lead character animator at MPC/The Mill, New York. 
goranognjanovic.wordpress.com

Goran Ognjanović

Jeremy Rourke

Best Short Animation Film

Jeremy Rourke is a stop motion animator, creating 12 frame per second homes for his performative, musical, educational and collaborative endeavors. He has done residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Djerassi, Recology and taught the techniques of this handmade craft at Saint May’s College, SF State, UC Davis and CASA (children’s after school arts). His work has been performed or screened at Other Cinema, The Exploratorium, Frameline Film Festival, Ashland Independent Film Festival, Shapeshifters Cinema, The Roxie Theater, and Artists Television Access. Most recently a film he produced animation for, When We Were Bullies, was nominated for an Academy award in the short documentary category.
www.jeremyrourke.com

Andreas Wessel-Therhorn

Best Short Animation Film

Andreas Wessel-Therhorn, originally from Münster, Germany, has been working as a traditional animator for, among others, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros., Universal, DreamWorks, as well as numerous commercials and featurettes. He is known for Heavenly Peace (2015), Hercules (1997) and The Princess and the Frog (2009). Among his many credits are also The Goofy Movie, The Thief and the Cobbler, Hercules, Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, and Mary Poppins Returns. Most recently, he was the character designer for two Curious George features at Universal Animation. Andreas is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Best Cinematography in a Feature Film

Germano Saracco

Best Cinematography in a Feature Film

Germano Saracco is an award-winning Cinematographer, with EU Passport (Italy) and American citizenship. He studied at the Istituto Scienze Cinematografiche in Florence, Italy, followed by the London International Film School and New York University. Germano continued his education at the University of Miami where he earned a degree in Motion Pictures with a minor in Graphic Design and Art Photography. While still a student at the University of Miami, he won Best Cinematographer award for the film “My Soul To Take” at the Canes Film Festival.
Having worked on feature films, TV series, commercials, music videos, and documentaries, Germano is recognized for his creatively eclectic style, passion for perfection and global vision. In 2019 alone, he received Best Short Film Generation 69 award at the Berlin International Film Festival and Best Cinematography award from the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. Other awards include the International Social Commitment Award at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, Italy, the Gold Condor Award in advertising, Best Cinematic Achievement Award at the Atlantic City Film Festival and a distinguished honor at the Telluride Indy Film Festival.
Germano is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600, and was inducted into the prestigious A.I.C. – Association of Italian Cinematographers. In May 2006 Germano was invited to join the European Federation of Cinematographers. Germano is trilingual (English, Italian and Spanish).  Along with actively working as a cinematographer for clients such as Netflix, Paramount, NBC, FOX, and ABC, Germano is teaching the art of cinematography to students at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA.
www.GermanoSaracco.com

Sevdije Kastrati

Best Cinematography in a Feature Film

Sevdije Kastrati is the first female cinematographer from her home country, Kosovo. She was 15 years old when she lost her mother and one sister when the war broke out in 1999. Sevdije has chosen to work on projects in which human rights are integral, giving a voice to those who might otherwise not have one. Her work includes narrative feature films, documentaries, shorts and TV series. Her films have been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, AFI Fest, the Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, San Sebastian  Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, ZagrebDox and others.She is a graduate of AFI, the American Film Institute. Some of the films she lensed include “The Marriage,” Kosovo’s Oscar entry in 2018, “Cold November,” which premiered at San S Sebastian festival 2018, another Oscar entry from Kosovo in 2020, “Zana,” which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival 2019, and “Vera dreams of the sea” in 2021, among others. Sevdije is a member of European Film Academy since 2018.
www.sevdijekastrati.com

Boris Schaarschmidt

Best Cinematography in a Feature Film

Boris Schaarschmidt is a director, producer, and writer with over 15 well recognized short films – each of which has won numerous awards at several film festivals around the world.

Achieving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinematography (University of Applied Sciences, Dortmund, Germany) and a Masters of Fine Arts in Directing (American Film Institute, AFI, Los Angeles, USA), has made Boris an expert in many aspects of film production.

Boris is currently working on several creative projects. In addition to working on his own projects, he is also a freelance film consultant, taking on various roles in different productions as well as directing instructor at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
 www.borisschaarschmidt.de

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film

Nataša Prosenc Stearns

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film

Nataša Prosenc Stearns is a Slovenian born visual artist and filmmaker. Her body of work ranges from single and multi-channel videos, video installations, short and feature films, video objects and print media. She is known for creative use of non-gallery spaces and large multi-channel installations. Her films Souvenir, (released by Cinema Epoch), The Trial of Socrates, (collaboration of 23 filmmakers), Hotel Diary and others explore innovative strategies in storytelling and visual expression. Nataša’s work was featured at the Venice Biennale, in Doulun Museum of Art in Shanghai, ARCO Fair in Madrid, Lancaster Museum of Art, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and in festivals such as SXSW, Films de femmes Paris, AVIFF Cannes, Brooklyn Film Festival, Chicago Independent Film Festival, Pacific Film Archives Berkeley, RedCat at Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles and others. She is a recipient of the Durfee and Soros Grants. Nataša lives in Venice California and in Ljubljana Slovenia. 
natasastearns.com

Tchavdar Georgiev

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film

Tchavdar Georgiev is an Emmy-nominated writer, producer, director and editor. He is a member of ACE (American Cinema Editors). Together with Amanda Pope, he wrote, produced,directed and edited “The Desert of Forbidden Art,” nominated for two Emmys and winner of the Cine Golden Eagle Special Jury Award among many others. The film was broadcast on PBS Independent Lens and around the world. Tchavdar edited the two times Emmy-nominated HBO doc “Valentine Road” as well as “Finders Keepers”, both of which premiered at Sundance; wrote, co-produced and edited “Off The Rails” that premiered at Hot Docs and won multiple awards including DOC NYC and Newport Beach FF. He wrote and edited “Served Like A Girl” that premiered at SXSW. He directed and edited together with Dana Berry for Nat Geo “Finding the Next Earth” and edited “Alien Earths”, nominated for a Primetime Emmy, and produced “Nevsky Prospect” for Amazon Studios.
Tchavdar holds an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts and Open Society Institute grants.  
tchavdar.com

Luigia Gio Martelloni

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film

Luigia Gio Martelloni is an Italian visual artist, curator and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.Recognized for her frame of concept and multidimensional expression, Martelloni’s work has been exhibited across the USA and Europe.
Among many exhibitions: one person solo shows presented by Museo Laboratorio d’Arte Contemporanea, University of Rome La Sapienza. Spazio Italia Gallery at Italian Cultural Institute Los Angeles, The Loft at Liz’s Gallery, Gallery 825, Al Ferro di Cavallo Rome, Italy, Vorpal Gallery in New York.
Her work was included at Santa Monica Museum of Art, Torrance Art Museum, XII
Quadriennale Nazionale d’Arte di Roma., Mopla (Month of Photography in Los Angeles) MAAAC, Museo Cisternino Italy, IAMLA Italian American Museum Los Angeles, Arena 1 Gallery and featured at the “Italian Pavilion of the World” 54th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Italy.
Furthered by her post-graduate training in Film and Photography, her multidimensional oeuvre encompasses performance, still images and video. Her interest in filmmaking eventually led her to work in the movie industry in Rome.
With cross-disciplinary reach, the artistic repertoire includes creative collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, Dean Tavoularis and Luigi Comencini, among many others, and reflects a roster of acclaimed theatre productions and documentary films.
Recently, she organized and curated an outdoor exhibition in Santa Monica: De-Fence Art (Art in the time of Isolation) as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. It involved more than 35 artists, hanging their work on the fences at the Santa Monica Airport.
In 2018/2019 she invited more than 50 international artists to participate in a project called: “Between Two Seas”. It comprised of 3 exhibitions between Italy and Los Angeles. The exhibitions created a connection of cultures through the artistic project with the theme of immigration/emigration.
In 2014 she directed and produced “SMARTists” a documentary into the life and work of a community artists in Santa Monica.
In 2009 her documentary “Bocca della Verita`” (journey into sex slavery) was screening at the SEEFest Goethe institute, Los Angeles, and at WIF Women in Film in 2006 In 2007 she directed and produced a documentary “Not Just a House” about the building of an house for a Florida family struggling to re-start their life after hurricane Wilma. It was screened at the Majestic Crest Theatre in Los Angeles.
Martelloni received her MFA from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, and studied at the UCLA extension, Entertainment Studies/ Directing and at the Santa Monica College with a focus on Photography. 
luigiamartelloni.com