Miami, FL — The 39th edition of Miami Dade College’s acclaimed Miami Film Festival today announced 14 industry renowned jurors, including two previous winners, who will review films in the competition categories for its upcoming hybrid edition, running March 4 – 13, 2022. Winners in all top categories will be announced at the Festival’s award ceremony on March 12, along with the Festival’s virtual presentation of its Precious Gem Icon Award to Penélope Cruz.

Two previous Miami Film Festival winners headline in categories that they previously won: Alexandre Moratto (7 Prisoners), the 2019 winner of the Festival’s Jordan Ressler First Feature Award, and Keisha Rae Witherspoon (Berlin Golden Bear winner for T), the 2020 short film winner of the Festival’s Knight Made in MIA Award.

The Festival’s top award is the $25,000 Knight MARIMBAS Award, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. This is an international competition for new narrative feature films that best exemplify richness and resonance for cinema’s future. (A marimba is a variation of a xylophone that produces a deeper, richer and more resonant tone that a traditional xylophone. The marimba originated in Guatemala and Central America approximately 400 years ago and remains popular to this day in a wide variety of musical disciplines. The name of Miami Film Festival’s award is inspired by its 2011 winner in this category, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s Marimbas from Hell, which embodies the spirit of forward-looking cinema.) The 2022 jurors are:

  • Damon D’Oliveria is a Canadian film and television producer. Under the banner of Conquering Lion Pictures (with partner Clement Virgo), and Flimshow Inc., his films and television series have achieved wide international acclaim. Damon is currently in post-production on the film adaptation of Brother based on David Chariandy’s prizewinning book. Previously, Damon produced The Grizzlies, Canada’s highest grossing English film in 2019, and executive produced three recent feature films – Wildhood, Honey Bee and The Rest of Us starring Heather Graham. Damon’s first feature Rude world premiered in Official Selection at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. In 2015, Damon produced the miniseries adaptation of The Book of Negroes starring Aunjanue Ellis, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett Jr and Jane Alexander, which was nominated for two U.S. Critics Choice Awards (Best Limited Series and Best Actress in a Limited Series) and won the Content London 2015 Prize for Best Limited Series along with the CableFax Program Award for Best Miniseries – a first for a Canadian production. The series debuted to historic ratings on the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and in the US for BET. Damon is actively involved in the Canadian film community, currently as Co-Vice-Chair on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Media Producers Association.
  • April Dobbins is a writer and filmmaker based in Miami. Her work has been supported by Sundance Institute, Southern Documentary Fund, ITVS, Oolite Arts, Fork Films, International Documentary Association, and Firelight Media, to name a few. She serves as Programming Director at Coral Gables Art Cinema, and she is currently completing a master’s degree in Arts in Education at Harvard.
  • Rubén Peralta Rigaud was born in Santo Domingo in 1980. Doctor in Medicine by profession, and writer of cinematographic reviews, he was the host of a daily radio show named “Cineasta Radio” for three years, as well as a collaborator of Cineasta print magazine since 2010 and editor/writer of the portal Cocalecas for fifteen years. He gave talks on cinematographic appreciation and speaks openly about how important are films for our education. He has been a jury at Miami Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and the Global Film Festival. Currently, apart from the two mentioned media, he also collaborates for the Mexican websites Cultura Colectiva and SensaCine, for the digital newspaper Nota Clave and for the film section of the printed newspaper Listin Diario, both in the Dominican Republic. Ruben is a member of HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association), FIPRESCI, CCA (Critics Choice Association), FFCC (Florida Film Critics Circle), ICS (International Cinephile Society), and several other organizations related to promoting and preserving films.

The $55,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award, supported by Knight Foundation, will award a first prize ($30,000), a second prize ($15,000) and a third prize ($10,000) to three films that have a substantial portion of their content in South Florida and that best utilize their story and theme for universal resonance. The 2022 jurors are:

  • Mollye Asher is an Academy Award winning independent producer based in NYC. She produced Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, which won Best Picture at the Oscars, Spirit Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and Gotham Awards. This was Mollye’s third collaboration with writer-director Zhao. Other credits include the Spirit Award nominated and Tribeca Audience Award winner, Catch the Fair One, the Gotham-nominated Swallow, Zhao’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight top prize winner The Rider, SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner Fort Tilden, Spirit Award- nominated She’s Lost Control as well as Zhao’s debut feature Songs My Brother Taught Me (Sundance, Cannes). Asher won the Producers Award at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards and was included in Variety’s 2021 NY Women’s Impact Report. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and an alumna of NYU’s graduate film program.
  • Nicholas Griffin is a journalist and author of four novels and three works of nonfiction and has worked in both film and television.  His writing has appeared in the Times (UK), the Financial Times, and Foreign Policy, among other publications. His last book Ping-Pong Diplomacy was shortlisted for awards in both the US and the UK.  The critically appraised The Year of Dangerous Days was called ‘utterly absorbing’ by the New York Times.  He lives in Miami with his wife and two children.
  • Keisha Rae Witherspoon is a sci-fi, fantasy and documentary filmmaker. Witherspoon was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent film 2020” and the inaugural grantee of the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant for women. She is a 2022 USA Fellow. Her first short film, T, a hybrid doc-style narrative set in her hometown of Miami, won the 2020 Golden Bear at Berlinale; screened at Sundance, AFI and New Directors/New films, among others; and won audience awards for best short at the BlackStar and New Orleans film festivals. T and 1968<2018>2068, another of her hybrid shorts, are part of the Criterion Channel’s Afrofuturism program. She is cofounder of the Third Horizon film Festival, a Caribbean film, art and music festival presented annually in Miami. It was rated one of the top 25 coolest film festivals by MovieMaker in 2019 and 2021. Witherspoon is currently writing her first feature film—a Black sci-fi story, also set in Miami; it has received early support from Cinereach, Sundance and SFFILM/Westridge.
  • Johann Zietsman is currently President & CEO of Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, a role he has held since 2018. His lifelong passion for the transformative value and role of the arts in a community began in his native South Africa. In Ithaca, New York, he completed a Master’s degree in music. Returning to South Africa in 1982, Johann started a 20-year career in various executive arts management positions, including a music school, two orchestras, an opera and music theatre company, a community arts center, a large multi-theatre performing arts company, and a commercial communications company. During this time, he was actively involved in the political transformation of his homeland through pioneering work in the arts, resulting in recognition from Mr. Nelson Mandela’s government. As a volunteer, he launched and directed two community youth initiatives, which currently serve about 4000 at-risk children (annually) in townships. Johann and his family moved to the United States when he was recruited in 2002 by the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), based in New York City. From 2007-2009, he served as Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center, and Director of Arts and Culture for the city of Mesa, Arizona. From 2009-2018, Johann served as President and CEO of Arts Commons in Calgary, Canada.

The $10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award is presented to the best film made by a filmmaker making a feature narrative film debut. The award is sponsored by the South Florida family of the late Jordan Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University Film Studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions on Broadway hits before passing away in a tragic accident at the age of 23. The 2022 jurors are:

  • Estrella Araiza is the General Director of the Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG), and Cineteca FICG. Her career includes experience as director of Industry and Market of the FICG, sales agent, academic and cinema distributor in Mexico. She began her career in international distribution in 2005; by 2012 she began activities with her own company Vendo Cine. Araiza has implemented industry programs such as Inclusive Industry, focused on allowing people with disabilities to enjoy movies on the big screen and The beginning of the FILM to bring writers, screenwriters and publishing houses closer to the film industry. Since 2018, she has been on charge of FICG’s special projects, including Guillermo del Toro’s at home with my Monsters exhibition in Guadalajara.
  • Jonathan Cuartas is a Colombian-American writer/director from Miami. His debut feature, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2020, where it received a Special Jury Mention. Jonathan won the Citizen Kane Award for Best Directorial Revelation at Sitges and the New Direction Competition at Cleveland International Film Festival for his work on the film.
  • Alexandre Moratto is a Brazilian-American filmmaker. He studied filmmaking at the UNC School of the Arts where he was awarded a full scholarship. His thesis film won Best Latinx Student Filmmaker from the DGA and led to a job as the assistant to filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger) who became his mentor. Moratto’s debut feature film Socrates was produced by Unicef Brazil with a cast and crew of teenagers from São Paulo’s low-income communities. Released in 2018, Socrates achieved international critical acclaim and won him the “Someone to Watch” Independent Spirit Award. His sophomore feature 7 Prisoners, a Netflix Original, premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival to critical acclaim and debuted in the top 10 worldwide on Netflix. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, an SFFILM Rainin Fellow, a Film Independent Fellow, and a Cine Qua Non Fellow.

The $10,000 HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award, sponsored by WarnerMedia, is a prize given to the best nominated U.S. Hispanic or Ibero-American narrative feature film, and is awarded to the lead producer or production company. The 2022 jurors are:

  • Carlos Aguilar is a journalist and film critic originally from Mexico City, Carlos was chosen as one of 6 young film critics to partake in the first Roger Ebert Fellowship organized by, the Sundance Institute and Indiewire in 2014. Aguilar’s work has appeared in prestigious publications such as Los Angeles Times, Variety, The New York Times, The Wrap, Indiewire, Vulture,, MovieMaker Magazine, Remezcla, Filmmaker Magazine, Slate, Bustle, Americas Quarterly, among others. He is a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) and National Society of Film Critics (NSFC).
  • Leslie Cohen is Senior Vice President of Content Acquisitions for WarnerMedia, HBO/HBOMAX responsible for acquiring films from major studios, independent suppliers, international partners, and Latin content-including films, concerts, comedy specials, and series. In addition to the staple of film content for the platform, Leslie acquires artist-forward films for WarnerMedia’s 150, she developed the Entre Nos Comedy series with Viva Pictures, the Latin Grammy Award winning series En Letra De Otra with Sony Music Latin among other concert films including the artists Shakira, Juan Luis Guerra and Romeo Santos. Leslie is currently a producer on HBO Latino’s Habla series as well as Executive Producer on the 150 project Brownsville Bred. Leslie represents HBO MAX at the major film festivals, judges various film competitions, serves as an Advisory Board Member for Florida’s Gasparilla International Film Festival, and emeritus Board Member of the Picture House Regional Film Center in New York. Leslie is a strong supporter of and partner to music studios, emerging independent artists, and producers worldwide. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from New York University.
  • Brandon Harris is President and co-founder of the production company I’d Watch That with Judas and the Black Messiah director Shaka King. Formerly, he was a development executive with Amazon Studios.

The Festival’s Alcaran Music in Film Award, sponsored by Alacran Studios, honoring the Best Film Score of opt-in feature films in the Official Selection, will be selected and announced by Art of Light (Composer) Award honoree Cristobal Tapia de Veer, acclaimed for his scores on The White Lotus, The Third Day, Hunters and many more.

Additional juries of competition categories at the Festival include HBO and Miami Film Festival programmers for the $10,000 WarnerMedia Latino Short Film Award; select members of Miami Film Festival’s Program Committee for the $5,000 Miami International Short Film, Best Poster and Best Trailer Awards; previous Cinemaslam-winning alumni for the $1,000 Florida Cinemaslam Student Film Award; University of Miami School of Communications faculty members for the $500 UM Short Documentary Award; and film critics accredited to cover the Festival will select the winner of the Rene Rodriguez Film Writers Award.

Members of the public audience will vote to determine the winner of the Documentary Achievement Award.

Individual tickets for all Festival events are on sale to the general public. For more information on these award categories and the festival, visit

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About Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival
Miami Film Festival is an international film event that serves as a major film showcase for world cinema. Considered the preeminent film festival for highlighting Ibero-American cinema in the U.S, Miami Film Festival has become renowned for championing films made by the South Florida community, first-time feature filmmakers, and International Feature Film submissions to the Academy Awards. The annual Festival, produced and presented by Miami Dade College, attracts more than 60,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent, and industry professionals. Since 1984, the Festival has screened over 2,500 films from more than 75 countries and given out more than $2 million USD in cash awards to filmmakers and distributors. Miami Film Festival is the oldest major festival housed in a university or college and also operates a year-round art cinema, Tower Theater Miami and Miami Film Festival GEMS in October. For more information, visit or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

About WarnerMedia 

WarnerMedia is a leading media and entertainment company that creates and distributes premium and popular content from a diverse array of talented storytellers and journalists to global audiences through its consumer brands, including HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros., TNT, TBS, truTV, CNN, DC, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, and others. WarnerMedia is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T).

About Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund
The Jordan Ressler First Feature Award at Miami Film Festival recognizes and supports artists in their careers as professional screenwriters. It was created by the South Florida family of Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University film studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions with the Tony award-winning Broadway hits 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal and Jersey Boys.

About Alacran Group
Alacran Group is an independent entertainment company based in Miami and London and was born out of a deep love and passion for music and film. Alacran’s mission to turn dreams into reality and believes that the creative combination of sound and moving images deeply enriches the emotional experience.

MDC’s Miami Film Festival Media Relations Contacts


Steven Wilson, Scenario PR | (310) 497-4951 |

Chelsea Brandon, Scenario PR |


Rachel Pinzur, Pinzur Communications | (305) 725-2875 |