A cartoonist, a Scottish alt-rocker, a trio of Oscar winners, and the world’s most famous drag queen are among the two-dozen jurors headed to the Sundance Film Festival later this week. The chosen cinephiles will comprise seven juries and award 28 prizes to their favorite entries. Actor Jason Mantzoukas — already scheduled to be in Park City with his comedy, “The Long Dumb Road” — will host the award ceremony on Saturday, January 27, the penultimate day of the festival. Last year’s winners included “Icarus,” “Ingrid Goes West,” and “I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore.”
Find out more about the 2018 jury members below, thanks to Sundance.
U.S. Documentary Jury (Barbara Chai, Simon Chinn, Chaz Ebert, Ezra Edelman, and Matt Holzman)
Barbara Chai is head of arts and culture coverage at Dow Jones Media Group, a suite of publications including Barron’s, Penta, MarketWatch and the U.K.’s Financial News. She is also the editor of MarketWatch Entertainment. She was previously a longtime arts and news editor at The Wall Street Journal and was the managing editor of Speakeasy, the WSJ’s pop culture and entertainment site. In 2012, Chai traveled to Dharamsala, India, to blog about Buddhism and conduct the first of two video interviews with the Dalai Lama. She has lived and worked overseas for a decade, in Brussels and Hong Kong as an international news editor, and in Taiwan as a volunteer English teacher. Chai received her M.F.A. in fiction and poetry from Hollins University, where she also taught undergraduate creative writing as a fellow.
Simon Chinn conceived and produced Man on Wire, which won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win an Academy Award and 40 other international awards. He followed that up with a string of award-winning feature documentaries including The Imposter, Project Nim, and Searching for Sugar Man, which also won an Academy Award and two prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2014 Simon launched Lightbox with his LA-based cousin, Jonathan Chinn. Focused on producing high-end nonfiction for multiple platforms, Lightbox has produced major projects for big and small screen alike, including LA 92 for National Geographic and the only authorized documentary about Whitney Houston, directed by Kevin Macdonald, which will be released theatrically around the world in 2018.
Chaz Ebert is the CEO of the movie review site RogerEbert.com, heads the TV and movie production company Ebert Productions LLC, and is the co-founder of Ebertfest (Roger Ebert’s Film Festival), now entering its 20th year. As president of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, her civic interests include endowing programs to help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color, providing education and arts for women, children, and families, and encouraging empathy, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Through these programs she also supports emerging writers, filmmakers, and technologists at various film festivals and universities.
Ebert’s affiliation with Sundance Institute includes supporting a program for Ebert Fellowship recipients at the Sundance Film Festival and participating as a creative investor in both the Catalyst Forum and Catalyst Women. She has also provided grants to many documentary films, among them Radical Grace, Strong Island, and They Call Us Monsters.
Ezra Edelman is an award-winning filmmaker. He directed O.J.: Made in America, which won the 2016 Academy Award for best documentary feature and is the third film Edelman has made for ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series. Edelman has also produced and directed three films for HBO, including the Peabody Award–winning Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals and the Emmy-winning Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush. In 2013, Edelman co-produced the Academy Award–nominated documentary Cutie and the Boxer.
A native of Washington, DC, Edelman graduated from Yale University and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Matt Holzman is host and producer of The Document, a new mash-up of radio and documentaries from NPR’s Southern California flagship station, KCRW. A veteran public radio producer and reporter for film, culture, and the arts, Holzman previously created The Business, KCRW’s weekly radio show about the entertainment industry, and has appeared regularly on PRI’s Studio 360 and The World. On his new program, Holzman works with documentary filmmakers to tell riveting stories—with no pictures. Holzman is also the creator and host of KCRW’s documentary screening series.
U.S. Dramatic Jury (Rachel Morrison, A.S.C., Jada Pinkett Smith, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Joe Swanberg)
Cinematographer Rachel Morrison has emerged as a refreshing talent in contemporary cinema. She has shot several features that have played at the Sundance Film Festival in recent years, including Fruitvale Station (which won both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award); indie breakout Dope; What Happened, Miss Simone? (an Academy Award nominee for best documentary feature); and most recently, the period drama Mudbound. Morrison has a background in photojournalism and completed a master’s degree in cinematography at the American Film Institute. She has also been nominated for two Emmys and received the Kodak Vision Award. Morrison’s next film, Black Panther, reunited her with Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and made her the first woman to be director of photography on a blockbuster superhero film.
Jada Pinkett Smith was born in Baltimore and has starred in many successful films. Her most recent film, Girls Trip, became the first film that starred and was produced, directed, and written by African Americans to break $100 million at the U.S. box office. Smith has also produced several films, including The Secret Life of Bees, The Karate Kid, and Free Angela and All Political Prisoners. Other films she has starred in include The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and The Nutty Professor, as well as voicing Gloria in the Madagascar films. The Will and Jada Smith Foundation launched Careers in Entertainment—an initiative to help underrepresented voices enter the entertainment industry—in 2016, and then in 2017 the Foundation partnered with Sundance Institute to support diverse independent filmmakers through the Screenwriters Intensive.
As a veteran character actress and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents, Octavia Spencer has become a familiar fixture on both television and the silver screen. Her critically acclaimed performance as Minny in the DreamWorks film The Help won her an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Critics’ Choice Award, among numerous other accolades. Earlier this year, Spencer portrayed real-life mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in the Academy Award-nominated drama Hidden Figures, for which she also received her second individual Academy Award nomination. She can currently be seen in Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy drama, The Shape of Water, which won the coveted Golden Lion Award at this year’s Venice Film Festival and has since been awarded a wide range of accolades including individual Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Spencer.
Michael Stuhlbarg can currently be seen in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, and Steven Spielberg’s The Post. His other film credits include Doctor Strange, Arrival, Miles Ahead, Trumbo, Lincoln, Hugo, and A Serious Man, the latter of which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Stuhlbarg received his BFA from The Juilliard School; he also studied at UCLA, the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, the British American Drama Academy, Balliol College and Keble College (both of the University of Oxford), and with Marcel Marceau. Stuhlbarg is also known for his acting on the stage, having worked numerous times with Shakespeare in the Park and earning a Tony nomination for his performance in Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.
Joe Swanberg has directed several films, including Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas, and Win It All. He contributed to the anthology horror film V/H/S and has acted in Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, Ti West’s The Sacrament, and Annie Clark’s segment of XX. He is the creator of the Netflix original series Easy, which he produces, writes, and directs, and his directing work in television includes episodes of HBO’s Looking and Netflix’s Love. In addition to his own work, Swanberg finances and produces films through his Forager Films production company, including Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth and Golden Exits, Zach Clark’s Little Sister, and Dustin Guy Defa’s Person to Person. Swanberg works in Chicago, where he lives with his wife—filmmaker Kris Swanberg—and their two children.
World Cinema Dramatic Jury (Hanaa Issa, Ruben Östlund, and Michael J. Werner)
Hanaa Issa has held several senior responsibilities through the founding and establishment of the Doha Film Institute in Qatar. Currently, as director of strategy and development, she oversees initiatives for film funding, training, and development, as well as the institute’s programming, and she ensures that DFI’s core programs deliver on their mission of nurturing and strengthening local and regional film industries. Some of the films supported by the institute include the Academy Award nominees Timbuktu (by Abderrahmane Sissako) and Mustang (by Deniz Gamze Ergüven), Loving Vincent (by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman), and the Academy Award–winning The Salesman (by Asghar Farhadi). Issa is also the deputy director of Qumra, DFI’s annual industry event that provides mentorship, hands-on development, and international market access to emerging filmmakers from around the world.
As an avid skier, Ruben Östlund directed ski films for five years, solidifying his taste for long sequence shots. In his mid 20s he went on to study film at the University of Gothenburg, where he developed his skill in constructing well-thought-out sequence shots, and this knowledge has continued to evolve through all his films. His works are best described as both humorous and accurate observations of human social behavior—film blended with sociology. His last four feature films have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival; Force Majeure won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize in 2014, and his latest film, The Square, won the Palme d’Or, was distributed in over 75 territories, and became a box-office success. Östlund is also a professor of film at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Michael J. Werner is an American-born, Hong Kong–based producer, strategic consultant, and producer’s representative. He has been credited as a producer or executive producer on nearly 30 high-profile independent films, including Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus and How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin. Werner was a partner in the pioneering foreign-sales company Fortissimo Films. He has served as a consultant or advisor to numerous industry and festival events in Asia, including the Hong Kong’s HAF, the Asian Film Awards, Screen Singapore, the Busan International Film Festival, and the International Film Festival and Awards of Macao. He most recently was a consultant to Fox International Productions and was an executive producer on 212 Warriors, their new Indonesian-language co-production. Currently he is producing a new film (Suk Suk) from Hong Kong director Ray Yeung.