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Sundance 2018 Jury Includes Jada Pinkett Smith, RuPaul Charles, and Co-Stars from ‘The Shape of Water’

Jury selections were announced on January 16, two days before the famed festival commences in three Utah cities.

2018 Sundance Film Festival jury members Jada Pinkett Smith, Shirley Manson, Michael Stuhlbarg, and RuPaul Charles

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World Cinema Documentary Jury (Joslyn Barnes, Billy Luther, and Paulina Suárez)

Among the films Joslyn Barnes has been involved with producing since co-founding Louverture Films are Bamako (directed by Abderrahmane Sissako), Trouble the Water (Carl Deal and Tia Lessin), The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 and Concerning Violence (both directed by Göran Hugo Olsson), The House I Live In (Eugene Jarecki), The Time that Remains (Elia Suleiman), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Cemetery of Splendour (both directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul), House in the Fields (Tala Hadid), White Sun (Deepak Rauniyar), Zama (Lucrecia Martel), and Strong Island (Yance Ford). Forthcoming films include Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross); Angels Are Made of Light (James Longley); and Aquarela (Victor Kossakovsky). In 2017, Barnes received both the Cinereach Producer Award and the Amazon Studios Producers Award.

Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo) is the director and producer of the award-winning documentary Miss Navajo, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS’s Independent Lens. He studied film at Hampshire College and worked on various projects for the National Museum of the American Indian’s film and video center. His second documentary feature, Grab, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and aired nationally on public television. His latest short documentary film, Red Lake, premiered at the 2016 LA Film Festival and was nominated for best short at the 2016 International Documentary Association Awards. He is currently in production on alter-NATIVE, a docuseries exploring the world of Native American fashion designers.

Paulina Suárez is director of Ambulante, a non-profit organization that supports and promotes documentary cinema culture across Mexico. She holds a BA from UNAM (Mexico’s national university), an MA from the University of Chicago, and is completing her PhD at NYU. Her research and writing have focused on Mexican cinematic modernity, fictional and nonfictional melodramas, and expanded documentary cultures. Since 2016, Suárez has directed Ambulante’s film training program and its annual traveling festival, which screens nonfiction works at over 140 venues across Mexico. Suárez is committed to cinema’s vocation as a public art and to exploring its potential as a catalyst for social change.


Short Film Jury (Cherien Dabis, Shirley Manson, and Chris Ware)

Cherien Dabis is an award-winning filmmaker and television writer/director who made her feature debut with Amreeka, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and won the coveted FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It went on to win several more international awards (including the Humanitas Prize), was nominated for the IFP Gotham Award for best feature, and was named one of the top 10 independent films of the year by the National Board of Review. Dabis made her onscreen debut in her second feature, May in the Summer, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Dabis has also written and directed for several television series, such as Showtime’s groundbreaking The L Word, Fox’s hit Empire, and USA Network’s critically acclaimed crime thriller The Sinner.

Shirley Manson is best known as the lead vocalist of the critically acclaimed alternative rock band Garbage and has been an active recording artist for more than 30 years. Garbage has sold over 12 million records during the course of an award-winning career that includes the recording of the James Bond movie theme “The World Is Not Enough” and the formation of their own independent record label, STUNVOLUME. Last year they released an autobiographical coffee-table book titled This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake and embarked upon a co-headline tour across North America with the legendary post-punk band Blondie. They are currently in the studio working on their seventh record, and they expect to be hitting the road later in 2018 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Grammy-nominated record, Version 2.0.

Chris Ware is the author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and Building Stories, which was named a top 10 book of the year by the New York Times and a top 10 fiction book of the year by Time. A regular contributor of comic strips and over two dozen covers to the New Yorker, his work has been exhibited at MOCA Los Angeles, the MCA Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and he was a focus of the “Chicago” episode of the PBS program Art in the 21st Century in late 2016. His book Monograph by Chris Ware was released by Rizzoli in October 2017.

NEXT (RuPaul Charles)

RuPaul Charles is an actor, singer, songwriter, and the two-time Emmy-winning host and executive producer of RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul studied theatre before moving to New York City in the mid-eighties, where he was crowned the Queen of Manhattan in 1989. RuPaul shot to international fame with the 1992 hit song “Supermodel (You Better Work),” followed by a seven-year contract as the first face of MAC Cosmetics. In addition to Drag Race, RuPaul has appeared in more than 50 films and television sitcoms, released 13 solo albums, published 2 books, and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2017. RuPaul currently hosts the weekly podcast What’s the Tee? with Michelle Visage as well as the bi-annual drag convention RuPaul’s DragCon.

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Jury (Robert Benezra, Heather Berlin, Kerry Bishé, and Nancy Buirski)

Dr. Robert Benezra is a member of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a professor of biological sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University. He received his doctoral degree in biological sciences at Columbia University and completed his postdoctoral training at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Dr. Heather Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Passionate about science communication, Berlin is a committee member of the National Academy of Science’s Science & Entertainment Exchange and the New York Times series TimesTalks. She hosts StarTalk All-Stars with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and she hosted the CUNY TV series Science Goes to the Movies and the Discovery Channel series Superhuman Showdown.

Kerry Bishé is an actor and writer for theatre, film, and television. Her work can be seen in movies including Argo, Red State, and Blue Highway. She played computer engineer Donna Clark on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. Kerry is an ardent science enthusiast who works to expand access to computer science education and help scientists articulate their message for a broad audience.

Nancy Buirski is the director/producer/writer of The Rape of Recy Taylor, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, where it was awarded the Human Rights Nights Award. It is also a nominee for the NAACP Image Award for outstanding documentary. Buirski is also the director/producer of By Sidney Lumet (2015), Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq (2013), and the Peabody Award–winning and Emmy-winning The Loving Story (2012). Buirski is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

The 34th annual Sundance Film Festival lasts from Thursday, January 18 to Sunday, January 28. 

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