Film Festival Jury

You are here

Film Festival Jury Members

The Film Festival Jury brings their talent and expertise as screenwriters, writers, producers, directors, and editors—as well as a passion for study abroad. The jury is comprised of accomplished IES Abroad alumni and film studies-related faculty from our Centers.

The jury will select the top student films for public voting on the basis of capturing the spirit of study abroad, production quality, entertainment, and originality.

Ismael Byers

Public Health Research Assistant
IES Abroad Santiago Alumni, 2016
2017 Film Festival Grand Prize Winner

Ismael Byers is a graduate from Hope College, where he earned a B.A. in Biology and Spanish. Ismael was the winner of the 2017 Study Abroad Film Festival after spending his semester abroad in Santiago, Chile. Ever since he was 10 years old, he has had a passion for traveling and seeing the world beyond the four walls he called home. Inspired by world traveler and storyteller, Anthony Bourdain, Ismael has always wanted to capture life abroad through video and film. It was on the first day of his program when he saw the flier advertising the IES Abroad Film Festival at his IES Abroad building in Chile and it was then that his dream felt closer to reality. After connecting with his classmate and co-producer, Kyle Arnold, they spent the whole the semester on their project "Solitude: A Companion Abroad" to recount their stories of loneliness and solitude during their time abroad. Ismael is currently doing public health research at the University of Michigan and hopes to pursue medicine and specialize in Family Medicine and global health. He plans to continue traveling and making films and is also currently assisting his aunt with a documentary series about the Afro-Latino culture of all Latin America including Panama where his family is from.

Kate Domaille

Film Educator
IES Abroad London Faculty - Film Studies

Kate Domaille has been a professor of film studies at IES Abroad London since 2012.  She teaches three courses: two in British cinema, one with an emphasis on the role and effects of film censorship in Britain.  Most recently she has developed and now teaches a course on Visiting Europe in Cinema In this course the students look at issues around economics of European cinema, the importance of film festivals, questions of language, subtitling and dubbing, and the cultural exchange value of European cinema. In other work Kate has worked with the BFI Film Academy Programme.  This programme gives opportunities to young filmmakers to work with expert input from established filmmakers in the production of a short film. Students work in teams from original script to finished film, developing craft skills and knowledge of industry practice along the way. Read Kate's Meet the Jury Feature to get to know more about her.

Gwen Field

Director & Producer
IES Abroad Paris Alumna, 1970-71

Gwen Field is an award-winning producer of independent films and has competed twice at Sundance and once at Slamdance.  Her vision is to create movies and television products that entertain and inspire as well as provoke and push people to higher ground.  Among her many credits, she has produced Black Irish (2007), Charlton Heston Presents The Bible (1997), Modern Vampires (1998) and the seminal indie classic PATTI ROCKS (1988). Gwen has a BA from the University of California Berkeley, and an MA in film studies from the American Film Institute.  She was an avid photographer when she studied abroad in Paris, which may have foreshadowed her career in film production.  Gwen has been a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for over 20 years.  When she’s not at work in Hollywood, she’s on tour with her daughter, actress Ayda Field, and son in law, Robbie Williams or collaborating with her son, writer-director Dylan Trussell.

Willard Huyck

Writer, Director & Producer
IES Abroad Paris Alumnus, 1965-66

Willard Huyck is a motion picture screenwriter and director whose film credits include American Graffiti, Lucky Lady, French Postcards, Best Defense, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Radioland Murders. He also worked on the screenplays for the first Star Wars and the first Mission Impossible. Huyck (along with George Lucas and Gloria Katz) received the NY Film Critics Circle and the National Association of Film Critics Best Screenplay awards for American Graffiti. He was nominated for the Best Screenplay Academy Award for the same film, which was recently designated as one of the Best One Hundred American Films by the American Film Institute. Huyck received his Bachelor's degree in Cinema from the University of Southern California. His junior year was spent in Paris studying at the Institute of European Studies (now IES Abroad).  French Postcards was inspired by that experience. He is a former member of the Foreign Film Selection committee of the Academy Awards and is a current member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also chairs the Writers Guild Screen Credits Committee. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, film collaborator Gloria Katz. Read Willard's Meet the Jury feature.

Mary Kirby

Art Director, Film Buyer, Graphic Designer, and Developer of US Public Library Media Collections
IES Abroad Vienna Alumna, 1968

Mary Kirby, a native Chicagoan, has enjoyed a long career in the theater and movie distribution business beginning as a film buyer for Brotman Theatres and ultimately as Assistant Marketing Director and Associate Film Buyer for Plitt Movie Theaters which was at the time the largest privately owned movie theatre chain in America.

Mary has experience serving as on the jury for the Chicago International Film Festival Documentary Division. Mary continued her lifelong study of the history of cinema through 10 years of study with the University of Chicago Film Studies taught by the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert.

Mary was the Executive Director of the non-profit, Library Media Project, which established the first independent educational documentary media collections in many US public libraries. The project was originally funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in order to assist librarians in their education media collection development. As of 2008, the Library Media Project collections are in over 2,800 libraries that served over 280 million people across America.

Mary has a BA from Cabrini University in Literature, and she did her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison in Communication Arts.

Franz Leithold

Writer, Director & Editor
IES Abroad Freiburg Faculty - Film Studies

Dr. Franz Leithold earned a Ph.D. in Slavic and German Studies from the University of Freiburg. He is currently Media and Computer Center Director at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg library, where since 1996 he has taught seminars and lectures on German film and literature. He pursued a degree in Library Science in Cologne from 1989-1990. Current research areas include film history, film theory, aesthetics of film, and film production. Dr. Leithold has also produced several TV features. Among his more recent publications: Studien zu A.P. Cechovs Drama "Die Moeve” (1989), 193 p.; several articles on Russian literature, which were published in Harenbergs Lexikon der Weltliteratur. Autoren –Werke – Begriffe. 5 volumes (1989). In addition to this he has also produced his own films, including stage direction, camera, editing, and screenplay writing. He has also received several awards and prizes, including: Lehrpreis des Landes Baden-Württemberg (2001), Intermedia-Globe in Gold – Worldmediafestival inHamburg (2002), and Förderpreis beim Medienpreis der Universität Freiburg für Uni-TV (2005). Read Franz's Meet the Jury feature.

Leland L'Hote

Program Dean for Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Quito, and Santiago
IES Abroad Chicago

Leland L’Hote has been a Program Dean for IES Abroad since 2010 and currently supervises the IES Abroad Centers in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Santiago, and Quito.  He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies from the University of Kentucky and previously served on the faculties at Longwood University and Iowa State University, where he primarily taught courses on Hispanic Cinema and Spanish Cultural Studies.  He has published and given numerous presentations on contemporary Spanish film, including the works of directors Agustí Villaronga and Pedro Almodóvar, as well as the representation of immigrant minorities in Spanish documentary cinema.  Lee founded Iowa State University’s European Film Festival, and he includes among his favorite film courses he has taught: “Cuban Cinema Since the Revolution”, “Spanish Cinema of the Franco Era”, and “Almodóvar as Auteur.” Read Lee's Meet the Jury feature.

Regge Life

Producer/Director
Former IES Abroad Board Member

Regge Life's ethnographic documentaries on Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean have won him international praise. His documentaries are part of the permanent collections at more than 800 schools and libraries. After serving as an NEA Creative Artist Fellow in Japan, he went on to produce an award-winning trilogy of films, Struggle and Success: The African-American Experience in Japan, Doubles: Japan and America's Intercultural Children, and After America...After Japan. Recent work includes Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story, and the recently completed, Cocktail Party, adapted from the Akutagawa Prize-winning novel of the same title. Cocktail Party details the complicated and often tragic relationship between the US military stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and the local residents. Regge is Senior Distinguished Director-In-Residence in the Department Of Visual & Media Arts at Emerson College and has been awarded a Fulbright Journalist Fellowship, three CINE Golden Eagles, and nominated for three Emmys. Learn more about Regge by reading his Meet the Jury Feature.

thamine nayeem

Thamine Nayeem

Video Creator at Al Jazeera
IES Abroad Rabat Alumna, 2015
2016 Film Festival Finalist

Thamine Nayeem is a multimedia content creator who believes stories are a means of bridging different realities. She currently makes daily news videos at AJ+, a part of Al Jazeera, covering a range of stories – from the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border to the deadly wildfires in Greece. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Richmond with a B.A. in English Literature. Thamine was a finalist in the 2016 Study Abroad Film Festival for her video “I Choose Openness,” on the reconciliation of complex intersectional identities. She thinks her semester in Morocco was deeply transformative and hopes more low-income, first-gen college students will be able to benefit from studying abroad.

Naomi Seekings

Director, Producer & Editor
IES Abroad London Faculty - Film Studies

Naomi Seekings has worked in theatre, film, and TV. In 1993, she was invited to join the groundbreaking theatre and film company The Grassmarket Project as Associate Director. For the last 25 years, she has been involved in the production of multi-award winning plays, film research and script writing, and the making of short documentaries. During this time, Professor Seekings also worked with other production companies on BAFTA-nominated and BAFTA-winning short films. Independent work comprises installation films commissioned by museums and promos that feature the innovative projects done by arts centres and institutes. She continues to design and deliver film and video production courses to those in the private and public sector. Professor Seekings has been teaching film at IES Abroad London since 2010. Read Naomi's Meet the Jury feature.

Courtney Spence

Social Entreprenuer & Global Storyteller
Founder of Students of the World & CEO of 
CSpence Group

Courtney Spence is a creative social entrepreneur and global storyteller. She is the founder and CEO of CSpence Group, a creative agency sought out for its expertise in purposeful, inclusive purpose, culture and brand strategies, with a particular focus on millennials, women and diverse audiences. Her clients include a broad range of companies and organizations, including the American Institute of Architects, Procter and Gamble, the Nature Conservancy, the Clinton Global Initiative, Pivot TV, The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, Duke University, Aurora Health Care, Louisiana Calling, an innovative education and workforce development organization.

Courtney is also the founder of Students of the World, a non-profit she launched in 2001 when she was a student at Duke University. Students of the World empowers and amplifies diverse and emerging millennial creatives, providing them with the skills, opportunities and distribution channels to tell stories of social good and justice. Through production experiences that have taken her from Cuba, Uganda and Cambodia to Haiti, Kosovo, Israel and the West Bank, Courtney has deepened her understanding of and expertise in inclusive storytelling and partnerships that enable companies to amplify their social impact and innovation.

Courtney was recognized by the International Youth Foundation with a Youth Action Net Fellowship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is the executive producer of a United Nations-endorsed feature-length documentary, The Children’s War, that captured the story of survivors of the civil war in Uganda. Courtney is also a leader in The Promiseland Project, an empathy-based communications campaign that aims to bridge the cultural divide in America. She is the co-founder of Kenzie Academy, a tech apprenticeship and coding school in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is also an advisory board member for Maverick Next, an initiative organizing the next generation of strategic philanthropists who aim to end extreme global poverty in our lifetime. She is also an advisory board member for Fringe Diplomacy, an initiative that has taken her on exploratory exchanges with investors, tech and social entrepreneurs to Myanmar and Cuba. She is currently producing a feature film as a partner in Test One Two Pictures.

Courtney’s thoughts on the transformative power of multimedia storytelling were featured at TEDxPeachtree talk, and she has shared a stage with President Bill Clinton and Paul Farmer. Currently living in San Francisco, Courtney is most frequently found on the road. From Milwaukee, Baton Rouge to Havana and Caen, Courtney brings creative leadership and design to companies and communities in need of 21st century solutions.

Past Film Festival Jury Members

Dr. Octavio di Leo

Writer & Producer
Former Center Director - IES Abroad Rio de Janeiro

Octavio di Leo holds a M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Yale University, where he studied with and served as an editorial assistant for the well-known literary and cultural critic, Harold Bloom. Dr. di Leo has taught at Yale University, the Free University of Berlin, the Technological University of Berlin, and the University of Buenos Aires. He has also collaborated in Rome with the German composer H.W. Henze in the writing of his memoirs, and a puppet opera for the Münchner Biennale. Dr. di Leo has been with IES Abroad since 2003, first in Barcelona, Rome, and now as the Director of IES Abroad Rio de Janeiro. He is a published poet, a literary critic, and a skilled translator. In 2013, Octavio’s first film, Stolica/Chair, which he wrote and produced, was accepted and screened in the Human Rights Documentary section of the 6th Naples Human Rights Film Festival. In the Spring of 2015 Octavio completed A Travessia, a film created with the assistance of IES Abroad Rio de Janeiro film course students. Read Octavio's Meet the Jury Feature.

Elisabetta Lodoli

Director, Screenwriter & Writer
IES Abroad Rome Faculty - Film Studies

Elisabetta Lodoli, an accomplished director, screenwriter, and writer, graduated in History and Philosophy at Bologna University (Italy) and received her Master’s degree in Film and Television at Calarts, Los Angeles, California. Now in Rome, she has been directing in cinema, television, and documentaries, including for RAI CinemaFiction, the most important Italian Public Broadcast. These include Più leggero non basta (A lighter burden to bear) and Lui e Lei 2 (He&She season 2) in 1999, Stiamo bene insieme (Happy together) in 2002, and Il futuro ha 50 anni (The future is 50 years old), a 2011 documentary on the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification. For IES Abroad, she recently directed Stolica/Chair, a documentary that records the stories of women and men who lived the 1992-95 war in Yugoslavia. The film was accepted and screened in the Human Rights Documentary section of the 6th Naples Human Rights Film Festival. Elisabetta also recently published her first novel, Questo mare non è il mio mare (This is not my ocean) about a 17 years old girl from Sri Lanka just arrived in Roma, Italy, to join her family. "But in some way Love is involved..." is the working title of the documentary Elisabetta is currently developing about violence against women. "This time it's the men’s turn to speak out” is the logline of the film which yields the floor to ex-abusers. It won't be an inquiry, but rather a creative documentary aimed at dismantling gender stereotypes, male and female alike, and promoting a different culture regarding relationships between men and women. Professor Lodoli has been teaching film at IES Abroad Rome since 2008. 

Kyle Rodriguez

2015 Study Abroad Film Festival Winner
IES Abroad Buenos Aires Alumnus, 2015

Kyle Rodriguez is a Senior Economics major at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After graduation, he hopes to relocate to Chicago to find work that he is passionate about. What that might be, he is not so sure. Kyle spent this past summer backpacking by himself through South America after a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His hobbies include but are not limited to playing guitar, filmmaking, music production, backpacking, and ultimate frisbee. Watch Kyle's winning film, It's Okay, and learn more about him by reading his Meet the Jury feature.

Alexa Penton

2014 Study Abroad Film Festival Winner
IES Abroad Beijing Alumna, 2014

Alexa Penton is an Orlando native and a cum laude graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she earned a B.A. in Mandarin Chinese and a B.A. in Art History. Alexa was the winner of the 2014 Study Abroad Film Festival after spending her spring semester abroad in Beijing, China. Her love for film and imagery was first inspired by her grandfather, Ted Perry, a screenwriter who served as Director of the Department of Film for the Museum of Modern Art and later taught film courses at several universities. She is also especially inspired by the filmmaker Terrence Malick and the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Her interest in China began as a freshman taking Chinese classes at Timber Creek High School and continued through her college career at Ole Miss, where she was accepted as a member of the prestigious Chinese Language Flagship Program. Alexa will be moving back to Beijing to work as a Resident Assistant for the IES Abroad program there and plans to continue using film to document her travels at home and abroad. Read Alexa's Meet the Jury Feature then watch her winning film, East of Here!

Jordan Cain

2016 Study Abroad Film Festival Winner
IES Abroad Vienna Alumnus, 2016

Jordan Cain is originally from a small city in Orange County, California called La Palma. He’s currently in his 4th year at Indiana University studying at the Jacobs School of Music, pursuing a Music Education degree with a minor in Wind Conducting. Music has always been Jordan's passion but he also loves connecting with people and discovering ways to help them reach their full potential. He hopes to be a teacher someday, as he feels that is the most fulfilling profession for him. Jordan danced his way to the top of the 2016 Study Abroad Film Festival, and took home the grand prize for his film “Even in Europe…”. Read his thoughts in winning the Festival, and he plans for the future in his Meet the Jury Feature!