The Sundance Institute announced the juries for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival this afternoon and, as usual, it’s a mix of indie-film veterans and familiar names.
The selections are notable because they are responsible for picking the festival’s prestigious jury awards that often help smaller films get distribution. Moreover, unlike the Venice, Berlin and Cannes festivals, a Sundance jury is relatively small with just five members for the major categories. The most important jury is, arguably, the U.S. Dramatic jury, and this year, it will be made up by well-known actors Gael García Bernal and Peter Dinklage, filmmaker Jody Hill (“Observe and Report,” HBO’s “Vice Principals“), AFI Fest director Jacqueline Lyanga and four-time Oscar nominated production designer Jeannine Oppewall (“L.A. Confidential“).
Additional juries feature notable names such as Larry Wilmore, Sonia Braga and Patton Oswalt.
The festival also announced that “Daily Show” correspondent and “2 Dope Queens” co-host Jessica Williams will host the festival’s awards ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 28. Williams also stars in Jim Strouse‘s “The Incredible Jessica James,” which screens as part of the festival’s premieres slate.
The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 19-29. The juries with background information on each member provided by the Institute is as follows:
U.S. Documentary Jury
Diego Buñuel is a French filmmaker born in 1975 and the host and director of the National Geographic Channel series, Don’t Tell My Mother. He is also the host of a television news show in France called Les Nouveaux Explorateurs, broadcast on Canal Plus. In 2014 he was appointed director of documentaries and factual entertainment at Canal Plus.
Julie Goldman is an Emmy Award–winning producer and executive producer of documentary feature films. Julie produced Life, Animated and executive produced Weiner, which premiered and won awards at the Sundance Film Festival. She also executive produced 2015 Festival premieres 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets; and Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal; as well as 1971 and the Oscar shortlisted films Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry; The Kill Team; and Art and Craft. Julie produced Gideon’s Army; Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden; God Loves Uganda; The Great Invisible; and Buck, which was Oscar shortlisted and one of 2011’s top five grossing documentaries. Julie consulted on the Academy Award–winning The Cove and produced the Oscar shortlisted Sergio. In 2016 Julie was awarded the Amazon Studios Sundance Institute Producer’s Award and the Cinereach producer award.
Robert Greene is a filmmaker and writer. His films include the 2016 Sundance Film Festival award–winning Kate Plays Christine, the Gotham Awards–nominated Actress (2014), Fake It So Real (2011), and the Gotham Awards–nominated Kati With An I (2010). Robert has edited over a dozen features, including Golden Exits (2017), Queen of Earth (2015), and Listen Up Philip (2014) by Alex Ross Perry; the award-winning Approaching the Elephant (2014) by Amanda Wilder; and the Independent Spirit Awards–nominated Christmas, Again (2014) by Charles Poekel. Robert writes about documentary for Sight & Sound and serves as the filmmaker-in-chief at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri. His first book, Present Tense: Notes On American Nonfiction Cinema, 1998–2013 is coming in 2017.
During her 30 years as series creator and executive producer of American Masters on PBS, Susan Lacy produced over 215 documentaries about our nation’s cultural giants. Under her watch, the series garnered an unprecedented 71 Emmy nominations and 28 wins (including 10 for Outstanding Nonfiction Series), 12 Peabody Awards, and three Grammys. She directed and produced multiple award-winning films for the series too, portraits of David Geffen, Judy Garland, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Bernstein, Rod Serling, and Lena Horne. In 2013, Susan began a new chapter in her documentary career, forming her own company, Pentimento Productions. She’s now focused solely on directing and producing—her first films are already underway, all part of her company’s exclusive multi-picture deal with HBO.
Emmy Award–winner Larry Wilmore has been a television producer, actor, comedian, and writer for more than 25 years. He is perhaps best known for his role as host of Comedy Central’s critically acclaimed The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Offscreen, he serves as co-creator and consulting producer on Insecure and also helped launch ABC’s Black-ish as an executive producer. His additional television work includes Larry Wilmore’s Race, Religion & Sex, memorable appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and writing for In Living Color, The PJs (which he co-created), The Office, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He also served as creator, writer, and executive producer of The Bernie Mac Show, which earned him a 2002 Emmy Award and a 2001 Peabody Award.
U.S. Dramatic Jury
Gael García Bernal
Gael García Bernal recently gained critical acclaim—and a Golden Globe Award for best actor in a comedy series—for his role in Mozart in the Jungle. The series also won a Golden Globe Award for best comedy series, and the show returned for its third season in December 2016. Having worked as an actor since his childhood in Mexico, Bernal made his feature film debut in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Academy Award–nominated Amores Perros. His next roles were in the Academy Award nominees Y Tu Mamá También and El Crimen del Padre Amaro. Bernal was last seen in the 2016 films Desierto and Neruda, and he will be starring in the upcoming film Z, directed by Jonás Cuarón.
Peter Dinklage’s breakout role came in 2003, when he redefined the concept of a leading man in the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award–winner The Station Agent. Since then, Peter has been a constant force in the acting world, best known for his role as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, for which he has won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. He has starred in such films as X-Men: Days of Future Past, Death at a Funeral, Living in Oblivion, and many others. Peter will next be seen in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, opposite Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, and in Mark Palansky’s Rememory, with Anton Yelchin and Julia Ormond.
A native of Concord, North Carolina, Jody is a graduate of the filmmaking program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he met future collaborators Ben Best and Danny McBride. Years after graduation, the trio reconnected to make The Foot Fist Way, Jody’s debut feature, an ultra-low-budget taekwondo comedy. The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and caught the attention of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who championed its release through their production company, Gary Sanchez Productions. Jody’s sophomore film, Observe and Report, which he wrote and directed, was released in 2009. He reteamed with Best and McBride as co-creator of the HBO sports comedy series Eastbound & Down, which aired from 2009 to 2013. Jody’s most recent series for HBO, Vice Principals, also co-created with McBride, premiered in 2016.
Jacqueline Lyanga has been the director of AFI Fest—the American Film Institute’s annual film festival in Los Angeles—since 2010. She has worked for AFI as a film programmer and producer since 2005, and has been a guest and moderator of industry panels at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). She has reviewed grants for the Austin Film Society and the National Endowment for the Arts, and she has served on international film festival juries at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Outfest, and TIFF, among others. In 2014, Jacqueline was featured in Variety’s Women’s Impact Report as one of the entertainment industry’s female leaders deemed a game changer and innovator.
Jeannine Oppewall started her career working with Charles and Ray Eames, who were among the most famous American designers and filmmakers of the twentieth century. The first film that Jeannine designed was Tender Mercies. She has received Academy Award nominations for her production design on L.A. Confidential, Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and The Good Shepherd. Other films for which she is known are Catch Me If You Can, The Bridges of Madison County, The Music Box, and her most recent film, Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply. Oppewall served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for nine years, and she is currently on the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee.
World Cinema Dramatic Jury
After graduating from the Central Academy of Drama, Nai An started producing feature films as an independent producer. She also founded Dream Factory, which is dedicated to discovering, cultivating, and helping promising young Chinese directors. Nai An has produced several films directed by Lou Ye including Purple Butterfly (2003), Summer Palace (2006), and Spring Fever (2009), which were all selected by in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Spring Fever was awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes and Grand Prix at the Chinese Independent Film Festival. Blind Massage, also produced by Nai An, played at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival and won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution. As an actress, Nai An was awarded Best Actress at the 65th Festival del film Locarno in 2012 with When Night Falls.
Sonia Braga was born in 1950 and made her acting debut in the 1968 feature O Bandido da Luz Vermelha before achieving fame in Brazil as a star of telenovelas. Bruno Baretto’s 1976 hit Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands introduced Sonia to international audiences. In the 1980s, she moved to Hollywood to work with directors such as Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood, and also worked on various American TV series, including Sex and the City. After The Milagro Beanfield War in 1988, Sonia Braga returned to the Cannes Film Festival with Aquarius, the second feature by director Kleber Mendonça Filho.
Athina Rachel Tsangari
Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg premiered at the 2010 Venice Film Festival where it won the Coppa Volpi Award for Best Actress (Ariane Labed) and was showcased as a Spotlight film at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. In 2012 her short horror film The Capsule premiered at the Festival del film Locarno and played at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Her latest feature, Chevalier (2015), won Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival and was nominated for Best International Film at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Both Attenberg and Chevalier were chosen as Greece’s submissions to the Academy Awards. For the last ten years, Tsangari has operated Haos Film, a filmmaker-run production studio based in Athens, Greece. In 2015 she was the filmmaker in residence of the Film Society Lincoln Center, where she worked on the script for her upcoming film White Knuckles.
World Cinema Documentary Jury
Carl Spence began curating films and concerts at the University of Washington during the grunge era. He started his festival career in 1994 at the Seattle International Film Festival, which he helped grow over the past two decades to become one of the largest film festivals in North America. He also led the organization’s expansion into year-round exhibition, making SIFF the leading independent art house exhibitor in Seattle, and he served as SIFF’s director and chief curator prior to starting his own consulting firm, CCS Arts, in 2016. Carl held the position of director of programming for both the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival, and in 2014 he helped co-found the Orcas Island Film Festival as an advisor and chief curator.
Marina Stavenhagen is a screenwriter and film promoter. She has created and directed several film festivals in Mexico and has participated as a curator and advisor of many more. Marina is a member of the board of the Guadalajara International Film Festival, a film curator for the ArteCareyes Film & Arts Festival, and the executive director of the San Cristobal International Film Festival. She is also a member of the advisors’ board of the Iberoamerican “Fenix” Film Award, the Bergman Chair at the National University, and a member of the executive committee of the Mexican Film Academy. Her writing credits include In the Middle of Nowhere (1993); Streeters (2010), for which she won the Mexican Academy Award for best screenplay; Guerrilla & Hope: Lucio Cabañas (2006); and Round Trip (2008), among other awarded films. From 2007 to 2013, Marina was the director general at the Mexican Film Institute.
Lynette Wallworth is an acclaimed Australian artist and filmmaker whose work has been shown at the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier section since 2009. Her works include the interactive video Evolution of Fearlessness; the fulldome feature Coral, with its accompanying augmented reality work; and the virtual reality narrative Collisions, developed through the inaugural Sundance Institute New Frontier | Jaunt VR Residency. Collisions premiered at the 2016 World Economic Forum at Davos and the Sundance Film Festival. In 2014, Wallworth’s feature documentary Tender won the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award for best televised documentary and was nominated for a Grierson Award. In 2016, Wallworth was awarded a UNESCO City of Film Award and the Byron Kennedy Award for Innovation and Excellence, and she was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the year’s “100 Leading Global Thinkers.”
Short Film Jury
Shirley Kurata is a Los Angeles–based costume designer and wardrobe stylist. She studied fashion in Paris for three years and received a BA in general art before working as a costumer for several years on various television and film projects. From there she has gone on to do costume design for commercials, music videos, and films in addition to styling for various fashion editorials and runway shows.
David Lowery is a filmmaker from Texas. His films include Pioneer, St. Nick, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and Pete’s Dragon.
Patton Oswalt is a comedian, actor, writer, comedian, and writer. In his spare time he does stand-up comedy. You may have seen him acting in movies or television. He also writes.
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize Jury
Heather Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist, psychiatry professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and visiting scholar at the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute. She explores interactions of the human brain and mind to develop treatments for impulsive and compulsive psychiatric disorders. She’s also interested in the neural basis of consciousness, dynamic unconscious processes, and creativity. Berlin is a committee member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, and she hosts PBS’s Science Goes to the Movies and Discovery Channel’s Superhuman Showdown. She also co-wrote and stars in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway and Edinburgh Fringe Festival show Off the Top, about the neuroscience of improvisation. Berlin has made numerous media appearances, including on the BBC, History Channel, Netflix, StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and TEDx. She received her PhD from the University of Oxford and master of public health from Harvard University.
Tracy Drain is a flight systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She is currently the deputy chief engineer for the Juno Mission. Tracy obtained a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky and an MS in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology before beginning her career at JPL in 2000. In her 16 years there, she has participated in the development and operation of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (a science and relay spacecraft orbiting Mars), the Kepler mission (searching for exoplanets), and the Juno Mission to Jupiter. Tracy is passionate about space exploration and loves taking every opportunity to encourage students to consider pursuing exciting careers in STEM fields.
Nell Greenfieldboyce is a science correspondent for National Public Radio who covers everything from anti-matter to narwhals and DNA. She’s worked at NPR since 2005, and before that she spent about a decade writing news and features for magazines like New Scientist and U. S. News & World Report. She was honored for her writing talents with the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists. Greenfieldboyce earned her BA in social sciences and MA in science writing from Johns Hopkins University, where she also taught science writing for four years.
Nicole Perlman is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She won the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival’s Sloan Grant for science in film for her screenplay “Challenger,” which also placed on the Black List. Nicole co-wrote the 2014 blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, which won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. She is currently co-writing Detective Pikachu for Legendary Studios and Captain Marvel for Marvel Studios, and she is developing the science fiction series True Skin for Amazon Studios. Recently, Nicole wrote her first Marvel comic book, Gamora #1. She is thrilled to be a 2017 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab creative advisor and to participate in the Cinereach directing fellowship.
At the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Jennifer Phang’s sophomore feature Advantageous won a U.S. Dramatic Competition Special Jury Award. The film was acquired by Netflix and nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. A sci-fi drama about the future of women, Advantageous was the feature adaptation of Phang’s ITVS Award–winning short by the same name. This year Phang directed episodes of The Exorcist for Fox and Major Crimes for Warner Bros. Television. Phang’s debut feature, Half-Life, premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, screened at the SXSW Film Festival, and was released by SundanceTV.