TRIFF 2016 announces judge line up

Published 10:00 pm Friday, September 23, 2016

The organizers of Tryon International Film Festival, to be held over the Oct. 8 and 9 weekend, announce the judges for the festival.

Best Short Film

Daniel Espeut, producer, director

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Born and raised in Georgia, Daniel Espeut has been making unique cinematic productions for many years. He discovered his passion for directing motion pictures while he was attending Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Ga. By his senior year, he received six AECT International Student Media Festival awards and a media internship position with ZDF, one of Europe’s largest broadcast television networks located in Mainz, Germany. 

In 2009, he became a cum laude graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design with a bachelor of fine arts in film and television. Shortly after his college graduation, he began to self-fund his first feature film, “GreasePaint.”

In 2014, Mr. Espeut’s filmmaking career soared when “GreasePaint” was named an “Official Selection” of the 16th Annual Sarasota Film Festival and the 15th Annual Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival.

It was at Bare Bones that Mr. Espeut became the first documentary filmmaker in the history of the festival to win one of their most prestigious awards, Indie Auteur of the Year.

Best Feature Film

Frank M. Calo, film producer and director

Frank M. Calo is an independent producer and director whose film “The Believer,” starring Ryan Gosling and Billy Zane, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Festival. That film won all the festivals that year including The Berlin Film Festival. It was shown nation wide and had a great box office run. 

His film, “Here & There” with Cyndi Lauper and David Thornton, has won the Best N.Y. Narrative In World Competition 2009 at Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and had its official New York premier played to wide audiences domestically and overseas.

Mr. Calo has worked with Robert DeNiro (“Godsend”), Demi Moore, Mike Myers Shelly Winters, Marlon Brando and many more.  His film “The Cookout,” with Queen Latifah, had a great box office run distributed by Lions Gate Films.

He worked for two years with The Motion Picture Bond Company under Robert Bordiga, as a producer working on films throughout the tri-state areas.

He is currently in pre-production with his featured film, “Eyes Of The Kings,” which begins shooting in New York the fall of 2016. He was one of the few and only directors who studied privately under Mr. Elia Kazan.   

Best Overall TRIFF 2016 Award

Gordon Hamilton, city planner

Gordon Hamilton is a city planner with extensive experience in municipal and multi-jurisdictional land use projects. Gordon worked for 30 years in the City of Los Angeles Planning Department, including 14 years as its deputy director. In private practice as Gordon B. Hamilton & Associates, he provides land use services to property owners, investors, city planners and real estate professionals to achieve the best land use decisions and desired outcomes.

Gordon is a lifelong fan of motion pictures and has worked within his career field to encourage film studio preservation and expansion in the Los Angeles area. This includes the adaptive reuse of the famed Howard Hughes Spruce Goose hangar building in Playa Vista to an active sound stage and the coordination of cities in Los Angeles County to expedite issuance of on-site film permits.

Gordon was born in Tryon but was raised in East Hollywood, Calif. After being a part-time resident of Tryon for years, he and his wife recently moved here to live full time.

Best Human Right & Dignity Film

Homayra Sellier, founder of Innocence in Danger (IID)

IID is an international child protection organization, operating in eight countries, France, United Kingdom, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, United States of America, Austria, Iran and Morocco.

Sellier, who lives in Europe and travels constantly to her many offices, has also agreed to speak remotely to the TRIFF audience, about the relevance and importance of the category. Sellier was also instrumental for arranging for Cecilia Peck’s inclusion of “Brave Miss World” to the 2016 programming schedule.

Since Sellier is multilingual, fluent in Spanish, French, English and Farsi, she will also be selecting all films submitted to the HRHD category. Further, since Sellier has been devoting her life to human rights issues, she is well suited for the task.

Over the years, Sellier’s organization has utilized television documentaries, billboard campaigns and other media platforms to help raise awareness on human abuse.

A number of the French, Swiss, and German films and visual works which Sellier and her offices have been involved with have been nominated for the prestigious prizes, such as PRIX DEBOUZY one of France’s most prestigious awards and short films/spots at Cannes film competition categories.

Best Student Film

Kevin L. Powers, director, writer and producer

Mr. Powers is the program director for the GCI Film Festival (Duluth, Ga.). For the last three years his responsibilities for the GCI Film Festival have been to organize submissions, meet with filmmakers, program scheduling, and organize panels and workshops, among many other duties. He has worked with four other film festivals in the past but this is the first one in which he is credited with co-creator.

Mr. Powers has been working in the independent film industry for over 15 years. He has written and produced and/or directed numerous shorts and features for Southlan-Films, Blank Stage Productions, Infectious Films Entertainment, PDG Entertainment, Chitwood Studios and Broken Lighthouse Pictures, to name a few. For these same companies he has also been employed as cinematographer, production manager, assistant director and still photographer, among other jobs. 

Some of his more recent films include producing the short films “Restricted Diet” and “Atheist’s Dinner Party” and writing and directing “The Morning After,” with Infectious Films Entertainment. He is currently producing several other shorts and in pre-production on his next feature film.

Best Documentary

Jeff L. Lieberman, journalist, producer and filmmaker

Jeff L. Lieberman is an award-winning journalist, producer and filmmaker and the founder of Re-Emerging Films. The company’s feature films have appeared in theatres throughout the world, and the filmmaker’s work has appeared on CBS, HBO, CNN, FOX and on the websites of Yahoo!, The New York Post, CBS Moneywatch and The Huffington Post.

Lieberman is the writer, director and producer of the company’s brand new feature-length documentary film, “The Amazing Nina Simone.” The film premiered in October 2015 to sold-out audiences and has played in over 100 cinemas in more than 10 countries, remaining in theatres for four weeks in several cities.

“The Amazing Nina Simone” is the only documentary film to tell the story of the legendary singer, songwriter, pianist and activist, through over 50 exclusive and intimate interviews with the people who knew Nina best, her friends, family, musicians and fellow activists, including Eric Burdon (The Animals), Sam Waymon (Nina’s Brother and longtime band member), Nikki Giovanni (poet, professor and friend) and Marie Christine Dunham-Pratt (Nina’s lover and friend).

– article submitted by Kirk Gollwitzer