HomeMoviesTribeca Film Festival Announces 2019 Juries -- Here's Why They Matter

Tribeca Film Festival Announces 2019 Juries — Here’s Why They Matter

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The Tribeca Film Festival announced the 2019 jury members who will select their winners in the Film and Immersive competition series. There are some exciting names on these lists, indicating that attendees can look forward to brushing shoulders with some true Hollywood legends and A-list talent as they head to the festival at the end of the month. But the lists reveals more than just some recognizable names…it indicates that the festival is dedicated to representing an array of opinions, allowing people from all walks of life to have a say in determining which films are worth celebrating in the expansive lineup.

Many film festivals are committing to exhibiting filmmakers from all different walks of life, in an effort to provide launching pads for directors or writers who are not typically given the same exposure as straight-white-male talent. And while some festivals work towards equity, those that program lineups with only male directors, or only white directors, are (rightfully) called out. The film industry has a lot of changing to do across the board, but making these changes at a film festival is crucial. It is here that many filmmakers are discovered, and where many Oscar campaigns begin. It’s important that all filmmakers are given a chance to reap the benefits a major festival like Tribeca can offer.

However, electing a diverse jury is a little bit different than that. Awards at film festivals play a crucial role in building buzz and getting a film attention after the festival closes. It can help secure distribution deals, or even serve as a prognosticator of what will win Best Picture. But different audiences experience movies in a variety of ways based on their lived-in experiences; and the canon of films considered classics has largely been decided by people who have been given access to a soapbox, leaving few slots for the many great films about people of color, women, the queer community, and those living in the intersection of multiple marginalized communities. By bringing a diversified jury in to judge the films at Tribeca, it creates the possibility that certain films would get noticed that may have been ignored when matched with a different, less diverse jury. And this is the sort of diversity in critics that feels necessary across the cinematic landscape, on blogs and news staffs, in the Academy, and on the jury of any major film festival.

Let’s take a look at the juries, with some quick thoughts on what these lineups mean for the festival. There’s still work to be done (there always is), but this is a solid step forward.

The jurors for the 2019 U.S. Narrative Feature Competition section are:

  • Jonathan Ames – creator of Bored to Death and Blunt Talk; author of You Were Never Really Here, which was recently adapted as a film.
  • Cory Hardrict– actor, The Oath.
  • Dana Harris – editor-in-chief, IndieWire.
  • Jenny Lumet – screenwriter, Rachel Getting Married.

Quick thoughts: It’s exciting to see a diversity in gender, race, and careers here. Having an author (albeit one with a history in television) and a journalist on a jury could create some interesting choices. And I’ll always take advantage of an opportunity to sing the praises of Rachel Getting Married.

The jurors for the 2019 International Narrative Feature Competition section are:

  • Angela Bassett – actress, What’s Love Got to Do With It, Black Panther; director, Whitney; executive producer , 9-1-1. Check out Pop Break’s interview with Ms. Bassett.
  • Famke Janssen – actress, X-Men.
  • Baltasar Kormákur – director, Adrift.
  • Rebecca Miller – writer and director, Maggie’s Plan.
  • Steve Zaillian – screenwriter, Schindler’s List; director, HBO’s The Night Of.

Quick thoughts: Any jury featuring Angela Bassett is one worthy of praise. I would go see literally any movie she recommended. But I’m also happy to Famke Janssen here … Hollywood might not respect camp goddesses, but Tribeca does!

The jurors for the 2019 Documentary Feature Competition section are:

  • Drake Doremus – director, Like Crazy.
  • Robert Greene – director, Bisbee ‘17.
  • Julie Goldman – producer, The Apollo.
  • Andrew LaVallee – editor and reporter, The Wall Street Journal.
  • Cheryl McDonough – producer, America Inside Out.

Quick thoughts: Again, it’s interesting to see someone involved in journalism on a film festival jury, but that certainly makes sense for a documentary lineup. Just take a look at the filmographies of Julie Goldman and Cheryl McDonough…I’m excited to see what they pick.

The jurors for the 2019 Best New Narrative Director Competition section are:

  • Stephen Kay – writer, director, and producer.
  • Bill Keith – deputy editor, Entertainment Weekly.
  • Justin Long – actor,  Frank and Lola.
  • Piper Perabo – actress, Turn Up Charlie.
  • Mélita Toscan du Plantier – producer, In the Fade.

Quick thoughts: An interesting, eclectic lineup. It’s strange to think that Justin Long is the most recognizable name of the five, but it’s fun to see Piper Perabo show up anywhere. And In the Fade is wonderful, so I trust du Plantier’s judgement when it comes to noticing directorial talent.

The jurors for the Best New Documentary Director Competition section are:

Quick thoughts: Two HBO alumni, a recent Broadway star, the director of an acclaimed documentary, and two famous comedians. Quite a lineup, and a somewhat strange selection for a Best Documentary lineup (what is David Cross doing here?). But it should make for an interesting winner.

The jurors for the 2019 Narrative Short Competition section are:

  • Maureen Dowd – Pulitzer Prize winner.
  • Topher Grace – actor, Blackkklansman.
  • Rosalind Lichter – lawyer.
  • Hamish Linklater – actor, Legion.
  • Lily Rabe – actress, American Horror Story.
  • Phoebe Robinson – comedian, 2 Dope Queens.
  • Jeff Scher –animator.

Quick thoughts: Maureen Dowd is here and that should absolutely be enough for everyone, but the rest of this lineup is pretty great, too. Exciting to see Phoebe Robinson on the jury, along with terrific and underutilized character actors like Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe. I’m also fascinated that a lawyer is on the jury, and that Topher Grace has become weirdly relevant again.

The jurors for the 2019 Short Documentary and Student Visionary Competitions section are:

  • Dr. Kevin Cahill – Chief Advisor on Humanitarian Affairs for three Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly.
  • David Krumholtz – actor, The Deuce.
  • Kathy Najimy – creator, Gloria: A Life.
  • Sheila Nevins – former President of HBO Documentary Films.
  • Agunda Okeyo – writer, producer and activist; former Director of Women’s March NYC.
  • Aaron Rodgers – football player, Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl Championship.
  • Buster Scher – founder of HoopsNation.

Quick thoughts: Imagine presiding on this jury and not being an activist? Wouldn’t you feel hopelessly inadequate?* What a crazy collection of opinions – can’t wait to see what they highlight.

*No disrespect to David Krumholtz, who I have stanned for decades.

The jurors for the 2018 Storyscapes Competition are:

  • Lisa Osborne – head of emerging media at Black Public Media, a 40-year-old, film nonprofit based in Harlem.
  • Paul Smalera – Executive Editor, Digital at Fast Company.
  • Adaora Udoji – an emerging technology strategist and maker.

Quick thoughts: A unique lineup for one of the more innovative lineups at the fest. These jurors will be reviewing films that use VR to tackle stories about real-world current events, and it looks like they picked the perfect jury to handle that big ask.

The jurors for the 2019 Nora Ephron Award are:

Quick thoughts: I mean, Debra Messing gets a life-long pass for her involvement/complicity in Smash. But yeah, it’s hard to argue with this selection of actresses, who will pick a female writer or director to honor at the fest.

The jurors for the 2018 Tribeca X Award are:

  • Nabil Elderkin – directed music videos Travis Scott, John Legend, Frank Ocean, James Blake, The Weeknd, Sza and Kendrick Lamar.
  • Kim Gehrig – multi-award-winning director.
  • Jason Kreher – Creative Director of W+K Studios, the agency’s development and production arm, overseeing IP and original entertainment properties.
  • Roy Lotan – Roy Lotan is a creative director and co-founder of Any_, the global experience design agency, crafting brands, products and IRL experiences for clients in lifestyle, media, and tech.
  • Kinjil Mathur – Chief Marketing Officer of Squarespace.
  • John Osborn – Chief Executive Officer of OMD USA.
  • Patrick Milling-Smith –  Producer and the Co-Founder/CEO of international production company, SMUGGLER.

Quick thoughts: Sorry for this list to go out with a whimper, but Tribeca X celebrates the “intersection between advertising and storytelling,” so it seems like they picked the right group for that!

The Tribeca Film Festival runs from Wed, Apr 24, 2019 through Sun, May 5, 2019.


Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor is the TV editor at The Pop Break, along with being one of the site's awards show experts. When he's not at the nearest movie theater, he can be found bingeing the latest Netflix series, listening to synth pop, or updating his Oscar predictions. A Rutgers grad, he also works in academic publishing. Follow him on Twitter @MattNotMatthew1.

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