28th Raindance Film Festival Jury
Aki Omoshaybi trained as an actor and dancer and has starred in West End hits including Hair, Hairspray, Westside Story, Chariots of Fire, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and The Empress. Aki was a dancer in campaigns for Burberry and Armani and, most recently, starred in the films Real (which he wrote and directed) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Aki won Best Leading Actor at the British Urban Film Festival for the feature film Faces and a Rising Star Award at this year’s Screen Nation Awards. He is currently writing his first TV series, Little Faith.
S.O.U.L Film Festival Founder
Akua Gyamfi has over twenty years’ experience in the entertainment industry, with a career spanning fashion, film, television, theatre, print and online media. In 2012, Akua founded The British Blacklist, a platform that celebrates the talents of black British creatives across screen, stage, literature and sound. She produces the podcasts Your Aunties Could Never and TBB Talks. In 2019 Akua launched S.O.U.L. Film Festival, which showcases the best of black filmmakers and content creators from the UK and the wider Diaspora.
Alexandra Kotcheff is a writer, director, producer and actress based in LA. She is the founder of Fire Tiger Films, an auteur-driven production company. The Planters, her debut feature film which she wrote, directed, starred in and crewed with Hannah Leder, world premiered and won Film of the Festival at Raindance in 2019. Alexandra is developing a second feature film, Peachville, which was a finalist for the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. She has been involved in multiple non-fiction projects and is currently producing two feature length documentaries.
Anna Smith is one of the UK’s leading film critics and broadcasters and the host of the podcast Girls On Film, which was listed as the ‘Best Feminist Film Podcast’ by Stylist magazine. Girls On Film is now a YouTube show on the official BFI channel. A longtime contributor to Time Out, Metro, The Guardian and Sight & Sound, Anna appears regularly on BBC TV (The Film Review), Radio 4 and Sky TV and has hosted hundreds of Q&A across the UK. She is also a former President of the UK Critics’ Circle. She tweets from @annasmithjourno.
Ariyon Bakare is a British actor, writer and director who has been working across film, television and theatre since graduating from Drama Centre London. He has starred in the film Life (2017), as Darius in Carnival Row (2019) and in Amazon’s Good Omens (2019). Most recently, he played Lord Boreal in the BBC and HBO production of His Dark Materials. Ariyon has written and directed multiple episodes of the long-running BBC drama Doctors. This year, he launched iCARE, an initiative to raise conversation about racial equality.
Baga Chipz MBE is a multi-award winning cabaret artist, television presenter and Drag royalty. Baga was a finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 1. Most importantly, she is the people’s princess and Queen of the battered sausage!
Colman Domingo is a playwright, director, producer and Juilliard School Creative Associate. Over his thirty year career, he has been nominated for a Tony, Lawrence Olivier and the Lucille Lortel Award. Colman hosts and is Executive Producer of Bottomless Brunch at Colman’s for AMC.com. He will next be seen in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Zola and Candyman. His television credits include: Fear The Walking Dead and HBO drama Euphoria.
Conor MacNeill is a BAFTA-nominated writer and actor from Belfast, Ireland. He is known for his performance in the 2019 Broadway production of The Ferryman. He has starred in hit TV series 101 Dalmatian Street, The Fall and No Offence and his film credits include The Current War and Artemis Fowl. As a writer, Conor was nominated at the 2017 BAFTA film awards for his short film The Party. Conor most recently finished filming a lead role in Industry, due out this year.
Film Content Manager at VUE
Dean Cross is Senior Screen Content Manager for Vue Cinemas. Dean’s job places him on the frontline of the UK film industry, working with both major film studios and independent filmmakers to bring the very best films to the British market. A devotee of all film genres, Dean has a passion for high concept films and independent films in particular.
Edward Watts is an Oscar-nominated, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning filmmaker who has directed twenty-five narrative and documentary films, telling true stories from far-flung corners of the world. His films have won over fifty awards including Best Director at the BIFAs, two Royal Television Society Awards and the L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival.
Born in Sheffield, Elizabeth Henstridge trained classically and worked in theatre and film before moving to LA in 2012. Elizabeth’s most notable role is Simmons on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has brought her wide critical acclaim. This autumn, Elizabeth will star with Uma Thurman in the highly anticipated Apple series, Suspicion. Elizabeth loves working with the cleft lip and palate charity Smile Train, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Teen Cancer America in Los Angeles.
Esme Creed-Miles is an English actor and director, best known for starring as the titular character in Amazon’s Hanna, Series 3 of which is currently in production. Esme made her feature film debut in Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely, and has gone on to garner acclaim for her performances in Dark River and Pond Life. This year Esme has written, directed and starred in Jamie, which has begun a successful film festival run.
Francine Stock is a broadcaster and writer who has been presenting The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4 since 2004. Her published work includes In Glorious Technicolor, a social history of cinema, as well as film criticism and novels. Francine has been a Guest Artistic Director of the From Page to Screen Festival and she is a patron of the Borderlines Film Festival.
Georgie Henley is an English actress best known for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie in 2005 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Georgie has starred in the films Perfect Sisters (2014), The Sisterhood of Night (2015) and Access All Areas, (2016). In 2015, Georgie wrote and directed her first short film, TIDE. Her TV credits include BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006) and STARZPlay’s The Spanish Princess.
Film Critic for The Observer
Guy Lodge is the UK film critic for Variety, a weekly home entertainment columnist for The Observer and a regular contributor to The Guardian and Attitude among other outlets. Born and raised in South Africa, he studied at the London Film School, working as a screenwriter before moving into film journalism. Based in London, he specialises in international film festival coverage from Sundance to Cannes to Busan.
Hannah Leder is a filmmaker and actress. She attended New School University in New York, where she received a BA in Writing and wrote her first novella. The Planters, her debut feature film which she wrote, directed, starred in and crewed with Alexandra Kotcheff, world premiered and won Film of the Festival at Raindance in 2019. She is developing a second feature film, Peachville, which was a finalist for the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. Hannah is currently a recurring guest star on the Apple TV+ series The Morning Show.
Theatrical Sales Executive
Jamie Mendonça is the Theatrical Sales Executive for Curzon Artificial Eye, handling films for Irish and UK cinemas. Before entering the world of film distribution, Jamie worked in film & television. His personal career highlights include working in the costume department for Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air and as set decorator at Shepperton Studios on the indie supernatural film noir Puritan. Jamie is also a graduate of Elliot Grove’s 99 Minute Film School.
Jeremy Irons has enjoyed a rich and varied career in theatre, film and television. He is a Golden Globe, Emmy, Tony, and SAG award-winner and he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1990 for his performance as Claus von Bülow in Reversal of Fortune. Other film highlights include The Mission (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), The Lion King (1994), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Lolita (1997), The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Most recently, Jeremy starred in the HBO series Watchmen.
Jessica Brown Findlay
Jessica Brown Findlay is a British actress of stage and screen. This year, Jessica will lead the cast of SKY One’s Brave New World, an adaptation of the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley and she is currently in Harlots on BBC Two. Jessica began her career with the National Youth Ballet and is perhaps most well-known for her role as Lady Sybil in huge BBC drama Downton Abbey. Other film credits include The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society England Is Mine, This Beautiful Fantastic, Lullaby, The Riot Club and Albatross.
Consumer Marketing Lead at Spotify
Kieran Lancini is UK/IE Consumer Marketing Lead. Kieran has worked all over the world, firstly as Head of Global Relations for Madame Tussauds and later as PR Director for Merlin Entertainments Group working on SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND. Since joining Spotify, Kieran has delivered a one of a kind partnership with Saatchi Gallery on their sell out Sweet Harmony Sounds exhibition, and brought to life the popular Spotify playlist Who We Be Live, which became Spotify’s fastest ‘Sell Out’ live event to date.
Kris Hitchen played the lead role of Ricky Turner in BAFTA-nominated Sorry We Missed You, directed by Ken Loach for Sixteen Films. His performance earned him a nomination for Best Actor at the BIFA Awards 2019. Kris recently wrapped on the new drama Four Lives opposite Sheridan Smith for BBC One. He will star in the upcoming independent film The War Below, as well as the new BBC drama The North Water for See-Saw Films.
Lily Cole is an actor, activist and filmmaker. In 2009 she was cast as the female lead in Terry Gilliam’s celebrated film The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Lily also played Greta in Rupert Sanders’ Snow White And The Huntsman (2012), and the lead character Ernessa in Mary Harron’s screen adaption of The Moth Diaries (2011). Lily has also directed several short films, including Marblehill (2018), a film about the “moneyless man Mark Boyle” living without technology; and Balls (2018) exploring the issues of race and gender in 18th Century England.
Artist Marketing Lead at Spotify
Leroy is Artist Marketing Lead for the UK+IE music team. He is responsible for thinking creatively about how to bring music campaigns to life, partnering with exciting new talent and ensuring Spotify’s creative output for music is always industry leading. Leroy’s career has been consistently in the culture marketing space, leading music and fashion projects as head of culture at Red Bull for five years, and more recently setting up a new global culture marketing team for ASOS.com
Mike Rogers has been a well-known DJ and producer in Japan for over thirty-five years. His newest radio show, The Mike Rogers Show, airs on thirty-eight stations and in eighteen countries including the UK. Mike is also the founder of the Japan Indies Film Festival. He wrote and produced Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost Story and Matsuchiyo – Life of a Geisha. Both films premiered at Raindance Film Festival.
Head of Consumer Marketing at Spotify
Olga Puzanova is UK/IE Head of Consumer Marketing at Spotify. Olga has always been passionate about the entertainment industry. Having grown up in Ukraine and educated in Poland, she relocated to LA where she was Marketing Manager at Paramount Pictures. After Paramount, Olga spent seven years at PlayStation where she led marketing for network services and launched Spotify on PlayStation Network. Olga has now been at Spotify UK/IE for close to three years.
Olly Stothert has considerable experience in cutting both commercials and feature length films. He has enjoyed great success at film festivals in Europe and around the world, notably for his feature My Pure Land which gained critical acclaim as the UK’s 2018 Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film. Olly is also a member of the British Film Editors Guild.
Pippa Bennett-Warner is a British actress who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. 2019 saw Pippa star as the female lead in the critically acclaimed feature film Real, which premiered at London Film Festival. Pippa will next be seen in BBC’s drama Roadkill and Channel 4’s new series Maxxx. Earlier this year she starred in Gareth Evans’ Gangs of London for Sky Atlantic and Sitting in Limbo for the BBC.
Photo Credit: Matt Crossick
BAFTA “Breakthrough Brit” Ray Panthaki is an actor, producer, writer and director who works across film, television and stage. Ray began acting in 1998 and co-produced, raised funding for and acted in the 2006 culture-defining British film Kidulthood. He was recently seen in Wash Westmoreland’s 2019 drama Colette opposite Keira Knightly, and currently stars in Jason Katims’ Netflix drama series Away, SKY UK’s series Gangs of London and Netflix/ITV’s series Marcella.
Ruhtxjiaïh Bèllènéa is originally from Leyton, East London and trained at ArtsEd. While studying, she received the Laurence Olivier Bursary Award. Ruthxjiah’s notable credits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (The Palace Theatre), The Last Tree, (BFI/Prodigal Films), Dark Money, (BBC1), Rise Above, Exposed, (Fully Focused Productions) and Venice at Dawn (Sulk Youth Films).
Sam Spruell is an English actor. His film credits include London to Brighton (2006), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), The Hurt Locker (2008), Defiance (2008), Snow White & the Huntsman (2012), The Counselor (2013), Starred Up (2013), Legend (2015), Outlaw King (2018), and Steve McQueen’s Mangrove (2020). His television roles include Spooks, Catastrophe and Luther.
Simon Brew is the founder and editor of Film Stories and Film Stories Junior magazines, independent British movie publications that champion and celebrate films of all sizes. Simon is also the author of three books about film and TV, and he previously founded Den Of Geek, which he edited for eleven years.
Stephanie Beacham has enjoyed a successful career across TV, film and theatre. She is known for her roles as Sable Colby in Dynasty and The Colbys and as Miss Jessel in The Nightcomers. Some of her recent screen roles include playing Patricia in Bucket on BBC Four and Maureen in Boomers on BBC One. In theatre, she has taken on roles such as Judith Bliss in the national tour of Hay Fever and the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Thomas Brodie Sangster
Variety Magazine’s ‘Artist of Distinction’ Thomas will next be seen taking on the role of ‘Benny Watts’ in The Queens Gambit on Netflix in October and recently played ‘Newt’ in the popular YA Maze Runner trilogy, ‘Whitey Winn’ in Netflix’s Godless, ‘Rafe Sadler’ in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, ‘Jojen Reed’ in HBO’s Game of Thrones, ‘Paul McCartney’ in Nowhere Boy and other notable screen credits include: Albatross, J.J. Abraham’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Death of a Superhero, Richard Curtis’s beloved Love Actually, Nanny McPhee.
Tom Payne is a graduate of London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He made his feature film debut in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day and starred in the feature The Physician. Tom starred as Jesus Monroe in the hit cable series The Walking Dead. He has also worked extensively on UK television, including roles in the series Skins, Waterloo Road, Casualty, and Agatha Christie’s Marple.
Tom is currently starring opposite Michael Sheen as Malcolm Bright on the hit series Prodigal Son.
Photocredit: Rod Spicer
Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry. Her work in film, television, music and the Broadway stage has garnered her four Emmy nominations, eleven Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, three SAG award nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards and three Satellite Awards. Vanessa received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. She is a strong advocate for equal rights, particularly for the gay community and minorities.
Zara Balfour is an award-winning director, writer and producer. Her first feature documentary Children of the Snow Land won the BIFA Raindance Discovery Award in 2019. Zara has lectured on cinema and human rights advocacy and has appeared on Talk Radio, BBC World and BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and she runs Snowland Journeys CIC, a non-profit organisation which supports Himalayan communities.