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Film Festival Jury 

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 their 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 Ismael Byers

Public Health Research Assistant
IES Abroad Santiago Alumni, 2017
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 DomailleKate 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 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 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 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 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 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 Regge Life
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.

thamine nayeemThamine 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 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 SpenceCourtney 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.


Last Updated: 1/9/19