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2024 Jurors

Narrative Jurors

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

A recent poll of international film critics and the British Film Institute have ranked Daughters of The Dust #60 out of the 100 Greatest Films Ever Made.

 

JULIE DASH

 

Breaking racial and gender boundaries with her Sundance award-winning film (Best Cinematography) Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash became the first African American woman to have wide theatrical release for a feature narrative film. The Library of Congress placed Daughters of the Dust and her UCLA MFA senior thesis, Illusions, in the National Film Registry. These two films join a select group of American films preserved and protected as national treasures by the Librarian of Congress. In March 2024 A Dash of Excellence was held at the International African American Museum in Charleston, SC. Seeking: Mapping Our Gullah Geechee Story, written and directed by Dash and produced by the Ummah Chroma Creatives, at the International African American Museum in Charleston, SC.  Mayor John J. Tecklenburg presented Julie Dash with an award from the White House, Joseph R. Biden’s President’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award for a lifelong commitment to building a stronger nation, the highest civilian honor for volunteer service in the United States.

Her recent television episodic work includes Reasonable Doubt seasons one and two for Disney+/ Hulu, the ABC limited series Women of The Movement, Our Kind of People for FOX/Hulu, and Queen Sugar for OWN TV.  Dash has written and directed for CBS, BET, ENCORE STARZ, SHOWTIME, MTV Movies, HBO, and OWN Television. Her long-form narrative films include the NAACP Image Award-winning, Emmy, DGA nominated, The Rosa Parks Story, Incognito, Funny Valentines, Love Song, and Subway Stories: Tales From The Underground. Her work as a film director includes museum and theme park exhibits and design for Disney’s Imagineering, Brothers of the Borderland for The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum, and Smuggling Daydreams into Reality at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Her most recent museum installations include Standing at The Scratch Line at the Philadelphia Museum of African American History and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Shine a Light, a large-scale video mapping projection for the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit.

Dash has several documentary projects in the works, including Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, a feature-length documentary in progress about Vertamae Smart Grosvenor, a world-renowned author, performer, and chef from rural South Carolina.  Julie Dash is a Fulbright Scholar who earned a BA in Film Studies from the City University of New York, an MFA in Screenwriting at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies, and an MFA in Theater Arts (Film & Television Production) at UCLA.  She is the Diana King Endowed Professor in the Department of Art & Visual Culture at Spelman College.

ZIG MADAMBA DULAY

 

Zig Dulay, a filmmaker from the Isabela, Philippines, is renowned for his compelling regional films that delve into socio-political and cultural issues. In the early stages of his career, he garnered both local and international acclaim for his screenwriting talents, penning numerous screenplays including Ekstra (The Bit Player), Posas (Shackled), Qwerty, Kasal (The Commitment), and Ad Ignorantiam. As he collaborated with acclaimed directors, he transitioned to writing and directing, creating a portfolio of award-winning films such as Gawad Urian 2014 Best Short Film – Missing, MMFF New Wave 2014 Jury Prize –  M. (Mother’s Maiden Name), Brussels International Film Festival 2015 Best Film Bambanti (Scarecrow), Tofarm Film Festival 2016 Best Film – Paglipay (Crossing), Vesoul International Film Festival 2018 Best Film – Bagahe (The Baggage), Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2018 People’s Choice Award – Akin ang Korona (The Crown is Mine), 18th Cinemalaya Best Short Film – Black Rainbow and the Metro Manila Film Festival 2023 and Firefly – Manila International Film Festival 2024 Best Film.

Additionally, he helmed the culturally significant drama series for the Philippines’ largest TV network, including Sahaya, Legal Wives, and Maria Clara at Ibarra. Notably, he was invited to serve as an international jury member at the Vesoul International Film Festival for Asian Cinema 2022 in France, and he also presided as a jury member at the Kaş International Film Festival 2023 in Kaş, Turkey. He recently received the Best Director Award in the1st Manila International Film Festival held in Hollywood, USA.

 
 
 

 

RAWLE D. LEWIS

 

Rawle D. Lewis is a versatile actor, comedian, and filmmaker with a rich portfolio of television and film credits that highlight his dynamic presence in the entertainment industry. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Lewis moved to the United States, where he embarked on a successful career in show business.

Lewis first gained widespread recognition with his role as Junior Bevil in the 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings. The film, based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team to compete in the Winter Olympics, became a beloved classic, and Lewis’s performance as the kind-hearted and determined Junior Bevil remains a standout.

Beyond this iconic role Lewis has an impressive array of television and film credits. His television appearances include notable guest roles on popular series including: Bite Size Halloween – A horror anthology series with various short films; Malcolm & Eddie – A comedy series where Lewis showcased his comedic talent; Narcos: Mexico – He played Detective Clark in this critically acclaimed crime drama series; Atlanta – Lewis made an appearance in this popular FX series created by and starring Donald Glover and Life In Pieces – A family comedy series starring James Brolin and Colin Hanks.

Lewis has also appeared in films such as: Driven – A crime thriller where he played a supporting role; Angel of Death – An action-packed feature; Where We Begin – A drama in which he played the character Charles; Spy Hard A comedy film starring Leslie Nielsen; K-PAX (2001): A science fiction drama featuring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges; and Poet Heads – A feature film that Lewis directed and starred in, demonstrating his skills behind the camera.

Rawle D. Lewis’s contributions extend to stand-up comedy, where he performs internationally, drawing from his Caribbean roots and personal experiences to connect with audiences around the world. His comedic timing and relatable humor have made him a favorite on international comedy circuit.

Lewis’s work as a director and producer further underscores his multifaceted talent in the entertainment industry. His dedication to storytelling, both in front of and behind the camera, continues to inspire and entertain audiences worldwide. With a career spanning diverse roles and genres, Rawle D. Lewis remains a respected and influential figure in show business.

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON

 

Liza is a playwright, actress, poet and author who has worked steadfast with incarcerated populations for more than two decades. Her critically acclaimed one woman show The Peculiar Patriot, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, is available on Audible and toured in 35 prisons across the country.  Angola Do You Hear Us; Voices from a Plantation Prison, is a short documentary featuring her historic performance of The Peculiar Patriot at Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka Angola). It was shortlisted for an Academy Award and is currently streaming on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime.

Her memoir, ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island (Hachette publishing) was commissioned by The Old Globe Theater to adapt into a stage play, and she has developed a TV pilot based on the book. Liza was featured in Ava DuVernay’s Emmy award winning documentary, The 13th, and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary Rikers (PBS).

Liza recently wrote and starred in two short films, MERLINA and Black Love Manifesto.  You can find out more and get updates about Liza here.

Documentary Jurors

 

 

 

 

 

CAT BREWER

 

Communications Professor and self-taught multiple-award-winning Filmmaker, Cat Brewer, has a passion for communicating, educating, and advocating! This passion shines through in her award-winning documentary Sign the Show – the first of its kind to shed light on the challenges faced by the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community as they fight for access to entertainment – something most hearing people take for granted. Brewer has been interviewed on The Kelly Clarkson Show (2019 & 2024), NPR, SiriusXM Radio, NBC Bay Area, KTLA and more to bring awareness to the subject of accessibility in hopes that her film creates a cultural shift in the entertainment industry by making open access the norm for a more inclusive world.

 

STACEY L. HOLMAN

 

Stacey L. Holman is a Harlem-based filmmaker who has directed and produced several award-winning documentaries on PBS. She has produced/directed three series hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: GOSPEL (February 2024 on PBS), The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, and Making Black America: Through the Grapevine. In addition, Stacey directed/produced the third episode of the duPont-winning Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, and she also produced Buffalo Soldiers, the third episode of the Black Patriots program for The History Channel.

Other credits include Producer on the critically acclaimed documentary Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities, Associate Producer on the Emmy winning Freedom Riders, and Coordinating Producer for the Peabody winning Freedom Summer, all directed by Stanley Nelson. She was also Co-Producer on Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band.

Stacey has directed/produced award-winning shorts and content for cable TV (Red Heeled). Her documentary Dressed Like Kings — filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa — garnered the Tribeca Film Festival All Access Award and aired on the WORLD Channel as part of the AfroPoP Shorts Program.

Stacey Holman Headshot Session – October 10th, 2023 – Photography Provided By: KOLIN MENDEZ – © 2023 KOLIN MENDEZ PHOTOGRAPHY – www.kolinmendez.com – All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

CRYSTAL KWOK

 

Crystal holds a PhD in Performance Studies and Women’s Studies Advanced Graduate Certificate at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Starting out as an actress in the Hong Kong movie industry, Kwok established herself as an award winning filmmaker and provocative radio/TV talk show host. Her documentary, Blurring the Color Line has won multiple awards including Best Documentary at the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Mira Nair Rising Female Filmmaker Award at the Harlem International Film Festival. The film streamed on PBS last May. Kwok now teaches at the University of Hong Kong and most recently published a paper, “Afro-Asian Intimacies: Cross Pollination and the Persistence of Anti-Blackness in Chinese Culture” in the Genealogy journal.

Mira Nair Award Jurors

 

ERIKA BOWMAN

 

 

Before Erika Bowman took her first acting class, she landed a part in the American Family Theatre’s historical children’s musical, The Black Journey, where she met and starred with B. Lorenzo Roaché, co-founder of Harlem International Film Festival. The show toured across the South and Midwest. She then booked a Eugene O’Neil short play, Moon of the Caribbees at the Flea Theatre in New York.  Once she realized she wanted to make performance her life’s journey, she began her training at T. Schreiber Studio.

In 2003 she moved to San Francisco, California.  There, she continued her pursuit of an acting career in theatre, by becoming  a cast member of Berkeley Playhouse’s musical Once on This Island in the role of Mama Euralie.  In this production she first met and worked with a young Zendaya as Little Ti Moune.  Erika then landed one of the most coveted roles in San Francisco as Glinda in the famed Beach Blanket Babylon, which at the time was one of the longest running shows in the country.

Erika soon followed her dream of working in television to Los Angeles.  After receiving her SAG card, her first television role was co-starring on CBS’ Scorpion. From there, as fate would have it, she worked again with a now fully-grown Zendaya on HBO’s Euphoria.  Soon more television Co-Star roles would follow including Showtime’s Shameless with William H. Macy, The Conners with Sarah Gilbert, and Unprisoned with Delroy Lindo.  Most recently, New York came calling, this time she co-starred with Awkwafina in Nora from Queens, Comedy Central and as Wanda in STARZ’s Power Book III: Raising Kanan.

 

 

 

ABIGAIL HORTON

 

Abigail Horton is a narrative writer & director who loves dark comedy. Her debut feature film, the comedy-thriller BLOW UP MY LIFE starring Jason Selvig & Kara Young, premiered at Austin Film Festival and won Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival. It went on to play in over a dozen theaters in the fall of 2023 and is now available to watch on-demand. Her upcoming film, GESTURES, is currently in development. Her short films have played at SXSW, Fantastic Fest and have received multiple Vimeo Staff Picks.

She has been named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” shortlisted for the D&AD Next Director Award, a 2018 Webby Award Nominee, and received two Gold Cannes Young Director awards. She also works as a director on commercials for brands including Kraft, General Mills and Spotfiy. Abigail studied film at Wesleyan University and is a member of the National Board of Review and Film Fatales.

 

 

SAMUEL SMITH

 

Samuel Smith was born in Miami, Florida and completed his undergraduate studies at Alabama State University under the direction of Dr. Tommie Stewart. Shortly after graduating Brandeis University with an M.F.A in Theatre Arts, he started teaching the craft to school children with the aim of helping to build their confidence and communications skills.

As an actor Samuel has been seen in his recurring role in Epix’s GODFATHER OF HARLEM, which followed his recurring Guest Star in SHADES OF BLUE on NBC with additional credits in SEE YOU YESTERDAY and independent projects ESCAPECATION and WHEN IT RAINS.

 

 

 

CHARISE SOWELLS

 

Charise Sowells is a multifaceted award-winning storyteller who has written several musical scripts for shows such as COCOMELON and VIDA THE VET on Netflix. She also wrote for a TBA Nickelodeon show and consulted on projects in development at Disney. When it comes to her own IP, (562) was adapted into a feature film and another play she wrote, AN OCEAN IN MY SOUL, was produced twice in one year at the Santa Monica Playhouse. SUN TEA, the short film she made during the pandemic, won awards in film festivals both regionally and abroad.

In addition to scriptwriting for a variety of mediums, Charise is a singer-songwriter who is a voting member of the Recording Academy. She has toured the country in a band, played shows internationally, and recorded music with an array of artists. Charise graduated from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and Orange County School of the Arts with honors and awards. After finishing her studies she volunteered at an early Harlem International event and is honored to have been invited to sit on the 2024 jury for this full circle moment years later.