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2021 Fine Cut Judge Bios

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Varda Bar-Kar

A woman in a dress holds a small video camera in her hand while leaning on a wall

Award-winning director Varda Bar-Kar entered film production as a script supervisor for maverick directors like Jim Jarmusch, Wayne Wang and Carroll Ballard. As an "artivist," Varda explores the breadth of the human condition directing projects ranging from scripted features, documentaries, episodic television and cause-driven viral videos that have amassed tens of millions of views. Her short films have garnered awards at major film festivals and her work has aired on HBO, Netflix, Fox, Amazon, Hulu, PBS, Sky and the Documentary Channel as well as numerous streamers. Varda's feature documentary "Big Voice" chronicling a challenging year in the life of a determined high school choir director won Best U.S. Premiere at the Heartland Film Festival and Best Documentary at New Filmmakers Los Angeles. Varda was selected to participate in Ryan Murphy's Half Foundation Diversity Program and was then hired to direct the hit FOX TV show 9-1-1. Her new documentary, "Fandango at the Wall," tells the story of an unprecedented musical convergence at the border between the United States and Mexico weaving together the powerful stories of Veracruz's masters of son jarocho, a mystical form of folk music, with an album recording at the border festival spearheaded by Arturo O'Farrill of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. "Fandango" premiered on HBO and can now be seen on HBO Max. Varda is currently in pre-production on a new feature documentary about an iconic female musical artist known for her unabashed truth-telling and musical mastery.

Varda sits on the board of New Filmmakers Los Angeles and is a member of the Director's Guild of America, Film Fatales, IDA.

Kimberly Dennison

A woman with black glasses smiles at the camera

Kimberly was promoted to SVP Creative Executive, Animation & Family for Gaumont Television in July of 2020. Kimberly joined the Gaumont team in April 2018 as VP, Creative Development, Animation & Family working on series and movie projects for a range of audiences. Prior to joining Gaumont, Kimberly served as Director, Development for Walt Disney TV Animation where she developed both original and Disney-branded properties. Over the course of her career, Kimberly has served as a network executive and has developed, produced and voice directed a wide range of animated projects for studios and networks including Walt Disney, the Hub Network (Discovery and Hasbro) and Rainmaker Entertainment. She has been fortunate to work with content featuring beloved characters and brands such as "Transformers," "Littlest Pet Shop," "Big Hero 6" and "Strawberry Shortcake."

Faridah Gbadamosi

A young African American woman in a peach shirt.

Faridah Gbadamosi is a pop culture-obsessed lover of film working towards making the space more inclusive. In particular, her interests are in changing the space of tastemakers, rethinking the models for curation and exhibition. She has worked in a variety of roles at different film festivals and other film organizations including the California Film Institute, Athena Film Festival, Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival, Tribeca, SIFF and many more. She is currently the Artistic Director of Outfest Fusion and Outfest Now, as well as Senior Programmer at Athena Film Festival. In addition to her programming roles, she is also Director of Distribution at Open Your Eyes and Think MF, the distribution wing of David Magdael & Associates, a consultant on different film projects and a freelance culture critic.

Emily Cohen Ibañez

Emily Cohen Ibañez

Emily Cohen Ibañez is a Latinx filmmaker with Colombian and Syrian Jewish heritage. She earned her doctorate in Anthropology (2011) with a certificate in Culture and Media at New York University. Her film work pairs lyricism with social activism, advocating for labor, environmental, and health justice. Her directorial feature documentary debut, "Fruits of Labor" will be having its World Premiere at SXSW 2021. Emily was a Fulbright Scholar in 2007-2008 based in Colombia, South America; she screened her film "Bodies at War" in 22 rural Colombian municipalities affected by landmines in partnership with the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines. Emily regularly makes commissioned short films for venues like The Guardian, The Intercept and Independent Lens. She also contributes cinematography to independent films including Bronx Obama (2014) directed by Ryan Murdock which won a Best in Fest award at AFI Docs.

Weiko Lin

An Asian American man

A bilingual writer/director, Weiko was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. when he was eight years-old.

He is a director in the Ryan Murphy HALF Initiative Program where he shadowed on 9-1-1 LONESTAR. In 2018, he wrote a pilot "Exclusively Chloe" based on a Penguin YA Novel for Super Deluxe and adapted the feature "River Town," based on the New York Times Notable Book and bestselling memoir by MacArthur Fellow Peter Hessler for Fugitive Films and director Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death, Disney Nature's Born in China). He has written for Shanghai Disney Opening Ceremony as well as other projects for The Mark Gordon Company, Ivanhoe Pictures (now SK Global), Don Mischer Productions, the Unison Company (Taiwan) and Wanda Pictures (China). He is currently developing a World War II feature biopic with producer Andrew Lazar of Mad Chance Productions (American Sniper).

Fluent in Mandarin, he produced and co-wrote the Chinese-language romance film "100 Days," which premiered at 2013 Hawaii International Film Festival followed by nationwide theatrical release in Taiwan. It premiered in Mainland China as an official selection of the 2014 Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival.

A Fulbright Senior Specialist, Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award recipient, and AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship Finalist, Weiko earned his MFA in Film and TV from UCLA. From the publisher of Save the Cat! and The Writers Journey, his book "Crazy Screenwriting Secrets" is available wherever books are sold.

A current active member of Writers Guild of America West and advisor for Sundance Institute Collab, Weiko is represented by Anonymous Content and United Talent Agency.

Tanya Meillier

A woman in sunglasses smiles with a background of a beach

Tanya was born in Manchester U.K. to a mixed Chinese and English heritage. Originally trained as an underwater videographer working primarily in Central America, Tanya's love for filmmaking has grown organically out of a love of adventure and immersive cultural experiences. Her first official assignments on dry land took place in 2005 and 2006 working for the United Nations as a mobile TV unit in East Timor and Indonesia. In 2007, Tanya produced and edited her first feature documentary film, "Obscene" which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by the Sundance Channel and Channel 4 in the UK. In 2012 she produced the feature film "Alias Ruby Blade: a Story of Love and Revolution," which premiered in competition at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and was subsequently acquired by Netflix and the Al Jazeera America. "Alias Ruby Blade" was awarded a prize for Most Valuable Documentary of the Year by the Cinema for Peace Foundation in 2014. In recent years, she produced "3100: Run and Become" and "Gather" both of which had robust community outreach attached that consisted of more than 500+ screenings. "Gather" was also acquired by Netflix and slated to launch in November 2021. Through her experiences as a creative artist and as a producer, she is able to bring invaluable insight and guidance in to the entire process of planning and guiding a successful film through production, post-production and distribution.

Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider

Michael Schneider has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years — most of that time at Variety, where he's currently a senior editor. He also hosts "Screengrab," a weekly segment about the TV industry, for Los Angeles public radio station KCRW. He was previously Executive Editor at IndieWire; the Chief Content Officer for TV Guide Magazine; and TV Editor at Variety and Daily Variety. Mike regularly moderates industry and TV show panels at events including Comic-Con, PaleyFest, HRTS, NATPE and others, and once won a staring contest with Jon Hamm on the Dolby Theatre stage.

Karimah Westbrook

A woman with curly hair wearing a green and white dress smiles by the window sill

Accomplished actress, writer and producer Karimah Westbrook stars as devoted single parent Grace James in The CW's hit series "All American," which has been picked up for season three. Starring alongside Taye Diggs, she plays the mother of South-Central L.A. football phenom Spencer James, who must navigate two very different worlds when he's recruited to play football for Beverly Hills High School. Her inspiring and relatable performance earned Westbrook a Black Reel nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. "All American" masterfully weaves compelling stories of family, race and coming of age while also shining a spotlight on powerful social issues. The series is inspired by the life events of NFL player Spencer Paysinger.

Westbrook, a Chicago native, loved performing from an early age. She acted in school plays and later in community theater productions. Her big break came when she fearlessly crashed a Chicago audition for the feature film "Save the Last Dance," despite having no appointment or representation. She landed a role in the Paramount box-office hit and never looked back, enrolling in the Academy of Dramatic Arts West and relocating to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.

Since then, Westbrook has captured the attention of audiences with diverse roles in television, film and theater. She has guest starred in many hit shows, including Showtime's award-winning dramedy "Shameless" and "Masters of Sex," Freeform's family series "The Fosters" and AMC's period drama "Mad Men." She also appeared in NBC's award-winning crime drama "Aquarius."

On the big screen, Westbrook can be seen in the upcoming film "After We Collided," the sequel to the box-office hit "After," based on Anna Todd's best-selling book series. She starred opposite Matt Damon and Julianne Moore in "Suburbicon" as the wife and mother of the first Black family to move into an all-white town. The project, directed by George Clooney, was inspired by the true story of Daisy Myers, known as the 'Rosa Parks of the North.' Westbrook also starred in "American Violet" opposite Alfre Woodard, "The Rum Diary" with Johnny Depp and the indie feature "Bolden," the reimagined life story of jazz icon Buddy Bolden. Her role in the romantic comedy "American Fusion" required the versatile actress to learn Mandarin Chinese.

On stage, Westbrook was recognized with an NAACP Theater Award nomination for her starring role in "It's Just Sex!" She also starred in "Pieces" at the Pasadena Playhouse, "The Girls of Summer" at Avery Schreiber Playhouse, "Boys Life" at The Cast Theater and "Glengarry Glen Ross" at The Working Stage Theater. In addition, her credits include the Stella Adler Theater production of "A Black Trilogy" and Ivar Theater's "Dawgs."

With her talent extending behind the camera, Westbrook wrote, produced and starred in the BET short film "Best Kept Secret," earning a Best Actress nomination from the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago. She also produced the award-winning short films "A Fire in a Dovecot," "Watts & Volts" and "Pastor Stuart."

Offscreen, Westbrook enjoys giving back. She has mentored at A Place Called Home, which helps at-risk youth in South Central Los Angeles develop healthy and fulfilling lives through programs in arts, education and wellness. She also volunteers at the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row and with My Friend's House Foundation, which provides food, clothing and services to the homeless.

Kelly Younger

A man with a beard and a button shirt smiles at the camera

Kelly Younger is a film and television writer/producer known for "Muppets Now," "Muppets Haunted Mansion" and "Ralph Breaks the Internet." He was part of the Disney Animation Story Trust and the Pixar Brain Trust on "Moana," "Frozen 2," "Raya and the Last Dragon," "Cars 3," "Incredibles 2," "Toy Story 4" as well as short films for both studios. He is currently in development on a film for Disney Originals, a feature for Disney Studios, a feature with Imagine Entertainment, two animated projects at Apple, an animated series at Skydance and a drama series at Amazon.

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