Each year the Women’s Voices Now Online Film Festival jury consists of award-winning activists, filmmakers, producers, educators, and film and human rights experts. Judges are assigned categories based on their expertise and select winners for each award category and our grand prize. We judge all film submissions based on the relevance of subject matter to our film festival call, the strength of a film’s storytelling, and the technical aspects of filmmaking.
Samina Ali is an award-winning author, activist, and cultural commentator. Her debut novel, Madras on Rainy Days, won France’s prestigious Prix Premier Roman Etranger Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in Fiction. Ali’s work is driven by her belief in personal narrative as a force for achieving women’s individual and political freedom and in harnessing the power of media for social transformation. She is the curator of the groundbreaking, critically acclaimed virtual exhibition, Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices. Her Tedx talk on the hijab touched a nerve and went viral with nearly two million views globally. Her current project, a memoir of her near-death experience delivering her firstborn, takes an unsparing look at gender bias and the crisis of preventable maternal deaths in the United States. A former cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Daily Beast, Ali has spoken extensively at universities and other institutions worldwide. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, Vogue, National Public Radio (NPR) and elsewhere. She lives in California with her family.
An award-winning writer, Joobin Bekhrad (BBA, MSc.) is the founder and Editor of REORIENT, a contemporary arts and culture publication. He has also contributed to a host of other notable publications, such as Columbia University’s Columbia Journal (where he served as the Guest Editor in late 2016), The New York Times, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Forbes, and the BBC, been interviewed by news outlets such as Newsweek, Monocle, PRI, and the CBC, and seen his articles translated into a wide variety of languages.
In 2015, Joobin was granted an International Award for Art Criticism (IAAC) by London’s Royal College of Art. In addition to his many articles, he is also the author of a translation of Omar Khayyam’s Robaiyat from Persian into English, a novella (Coming Down Again), a book of essays and stories (With My Head in the Clouds and Stars in My Eyes), and a volume of poetry (Lovers of Light).
A Bay Area native in Los Angeles, Alexander received both his BA and MA from San Francisco State University in Cinema Studies where he likewise lectured film theory-related classes. Additionally, he has programmed in various capacities for the Arab Film Festival since 2011. This is his fourth festival with WVN.
Alexandra Hidalgo is an award-winning Venezuelan filmmaker, whose documentaries have been official selections for film festivals in 12 countries and been screened at universities around the United States, and whose videos and activist writing have been featured on The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, NPR, and Women and Hollywood. She is an assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. Her video book Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition was published by Computers and Composition Digital Press in 2017. Her academic video essays have been published in Enculturation, Kairos, Technoculture, Itineration, Present Tense, and Peitho. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the digital publication agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmaker and a managing editor for constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space.
Jasmine Jaisinghani is a versatile figure in the Los Angeles film community, established as an independent filmmaker and consultant in international cinema. She is experienced in film festivals at all levels from Artistic Director to Cultural Relations. Jasmine is an alumna of the Tribeca Film Institute and Film Independent’s talent programs. With roots in the theater, Jasmine holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama program in Direction. Jasmine has worked extensively with AFI FEST, a program of the American Film Institute, overseeing Cultural Relations and previously facilitating the attendance of international auteurs and several Foreign Film Language Oscar contenders. She has garnered funding support from consulates, embassies, international trade and promotional organizations, and media networks to support the festival’s robust slate of world cinema.
Aliza Khan is an Indian filmmaker and activist based in Los Angeles, with a passion for political cinema and the role a community can play in fostering young filmmakers. She works at a film center and is the events producer for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
Ivana Massetti is an award-winning writer-director-producer, a feminist, and an equal rights activist. She has worked on music videos, nationally broadcast PSAs, television, and features in Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Brazil, South America, and now the United States. With her international inclusive, women-powered production company IM From Mars Films based in Los Angeles, she is developing and producing content that makes a difference.
She is the founder and CEO of Women Occupy Hollywood, a movement to eradicate gender bias in Hollywood and a platform to develop, finance, produce, and distribute content written, directed, and produced by women, to create an alternative to the male-dominated industry and to shape a new paradigm for the present and future generations of women in film.
Roxanne Morrison is an actor, filmmaker, artist, and social activist. She co-directed and produced Moonfaze Feminist Film Festival. Her theatrical experience started professionally when she was 10 years old and since then has worked and performed with Parsons Nose Production Company, VCT, and Pacific Repertory Theater. She lives in Los Angeles and is currently project producing for Unique Inc. and in pre-production for a pilot series set to be released later in 2018.
Barbara Ann O’Leary
Barbara Ann O’Leary is an activist, filmmaker, and catalyst for transformation. Her love of film inspired her to launch the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party initiative in 2015 to encourage discovery and celebration of work by women directors. She created and curates a list of women who have directed film, which currently includes information for over 11,711 directors. A graduate of Indiana University in Theater and Drama, she later served as IU Cinema’s founding social media and web specialist, and she was the founding editor of A Place for Film, IU Cinema’s blog. She is in her third year as a member of the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s screening committee and has previously screened films and served on the World Cinema Jury for Indy Film Fest. Her online activism in support of women’s empowerment and authentic creative expression extends back to the 1990s, when she founded Virtual Sisterhood, a global network of women strategizing feminist uses of emerging online technologies. This work followed her groundbreaking implementation of online communication strategies for the UN NGO Women’s Caucus led by Women’s Environment and Development Organization.
Director, Choreographer, Photographer, Sarah’s work focuses on the convergence of post-modern contemporary dance and narrative storytelling. She is interested in the intersection of highly choreographed movement, gestural body language, and pedestrian being. Sarah’s movement films and live performance pieces have been featured in festivals worldwide including in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Utah, Paris, Spain, and Vietnam.
She is also the Curator and Festival Director for In/Motion Chicago’s International Dance Film Festival, creating a platform for interdisciplinary collaborations as a driver for social change, dance as a means of movement therapy for adaptive populations, and grassroots connections as encouragement for the importance of sustainable artistry. She received a B.A. in Film and Digital Media Production and a Dance Minor from Loyola University of Chicago in 2015 studying the convergence of the two mediums and was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, Provost Fellowship, Outstanding Dance Minor, Best Media Production, Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research, and School of Communication Scholarship.
Scenery Samundra is a Los Angeles-based music supervisor and music programmer. She spent her youth in the punk scene of the San Francisco/Bay Area and later worked as a DJ at KDVS, while studying at UC Davis, showcasing underground artists and her cultural roots in Punjabi Bhangra music. She has worked as a programmer for the Sundance Institute’s Film Music Department, and as an assistant to veteran Music Supervisor, Tracy McKnight. In 2016, she worked for the inaugural David Lynch Foundation’s Festival of Disruption, with musical guests Robert Plant, Debbie Harry, St. Vincent, and Twin Peaks composer, Angelo Badalamenti. She currently works with UK record label Tru Thoughts, produces for NTS Radio LA, and is a staff music writer for Culture Collide. Aside from working with highly acclaimed artists (Common, Lalah Hathaway, Robert Glasper, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Daveed Diggs) she’s also worked on music videos for artists such as Superfruit, Adrian Younge, and Grammy-winning artist Terrace Martin. Scenery remains true to her underground sensibilities— discovering and championing artists that push the envelope creatively.
Samira Saraya is a Palestinian gay woman, born and raised in Haifa, a city in northern Israel. She is an acclaimed television, film, and theater actress. Her accolades include a 2012 Special Mention Award for Unique Acting at the Acre Festival for alternative theater; Best Supporting Actress at the Fringe Theater awards in 2015 and 2017; and Best Actress Award in the 2017 Jerusalem Film Festival. A feminist and activist, and co-founder of Aswat (Palestinian Gay Women), Samira holds a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and is an MA student in Cinema at Tel Aviv University.
Born in Brazil, Ana Souza was raised in Amsterdam. She holds a BA from the University of Warwick and an MA from USC. Souza has produced a number of shorts and has contributed to numerous film-related publications, including Indiewire, We Eat Film, Front Row Reviews, and The Artifice. She has worked in various capacities with Sundance, NEXT Fest, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Slamdance, and Project 168 Film Festivals. She sits on the screening panels for Ambulante USA, LA Film Festival, and AFI FEST, and is an Associate Programmer for the No Budget Film Festival. She was the Programming Coordinator for the latest edition of Outfest. Recently she produced, “Blast Beat”, a short starring Mateo and Moises Arias.