Special Guests

Lena Khan

LENA KHAN

Writer/Director, The Tiger Hunter

A writer and director, Lena gained experience at companies like Participant Media (Syriana, The Kite Runner) before focusing on directing her own work. Lena has directed commercials, films and music videos for international artists such as Maher Zain and her videos have been broadcast on TV across the world and received over 20 million hits on YouTube. Lena graduated from the prestigious UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. The Tiger Hunter is her first feature film.

Lena Khan will be present to discuss the festival’s opening night spotlight feature, the Virginia Premiere of THE TIGER HUNTER.


Megha KadakiaMEGHA KADAKIA

Producer, The Tiger Hunter

Megha Kadakia brings a unique blend of business experience and artistic vision to the world of independent filmmaking through her production company Blue Velocity Pictures. Kadakiaʼs producing projects have received wide acclaim, garnering her entry into the Film Independent Producerʼs Workshop, Tribeca All Access, the Producerʼs Network at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Strategic Partners Conference. She holds a Masterʼs Degree in Business Administration from Columbia University, Graduate School of Business and serves on the boards of Creative Visions Foundation, Social Capital Philanthropists and America India Foundation (AIF).

Megha Kadakia will be present to discuss the festival’s opening night spotlight feature, the Virginia Premiere of THE TIGER HUNTER.


RizwanRIZWAN MANJI

Actor, The Tiger Hunter

Rizwan Manji is perhaps best known for playing Rajiv, the hysterically officious, scheming assistant manager of a call center in the NBC comedy “Outsourced.” Part of the network’s prestigious Thursday night comedy lineup, this groundbreaking TV show was the first American sitcom to be based in India and feature a predominantly Indian cast.

With a prolific career spanning nearly 20 years to date, some of Rizwan’s memorable film credits include The Wolf of Wall Street, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Dictator, Transformers, Don JonEquals, The Tiger HunterPaterson, and the Canadian/Indian co-production Dr. Cabbie. Rizwan has also appeared on many popular TV shows including “Glee,” “Arrested Development,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Without a Trace,” “NCIS,” “Bones,” “Schitt’s Creek,” and “The Magicians.”

Rizwan Manji will be present to discuss the festival’s opening night spotlight feature, the Virginia Premiere of THE TIGER HUNTER.


ARAM VIDAL

Writer/Director, El Pez Azul

Cuban filmmaker Aram Vidal began his career as a writer. He won the El Caballo de Coral, Premio Nacional FEU prize and the Pinos Nuevos award which led him to publish his book La gente sí se da cuenta (2007). In 2005 he graduated from the University of Havana with a degree in Communication and started to work as a screenwriter and director at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). He has participated in artist residencies in Cuba, Mexico and the United States. His fiction productions include Recursion (2012), Relief (2013), and Cat (2016), which have garnered numerous awards. He is currently working on his debut feature film Blue Fish (El Pez Azul).

Aram Vidal will be presenting a Director’s Cut of his debut feature production EL PEZ AZUL on Friday, February 24.


BradBennettBRAD BENNETT

Executive Producer / Co-director, Forgive-Don’t Forget

Beginning his career documenting professional surf culture around the world, Brad focused on cinematography and video journalism until he founded Shaking Hands Productions in 2004. The company has garnered numerous awards for cinematography since its inception and has been featured in various publications.

Brad Bennett will be present for a discussion following the Virginia Premiere of FORGIVE-DON’T FORGET on Friday, February 24.


AustinJourneyAUSTIN JOURNEY

Writer/Editor/Co-director, Forgive-Don’t Forget

Having studied film and media in school, Austin (W&M ’11) began freelance work as a video producer in 2011 working with such organizations as Monticello and Hello Studios. Previously, Austin edited the 2011 film Rough Draft which won Best First Feature at the Williamsburg International Film Festival in Brooklyn.

Austin Journey will be present for a discussion following the Virginia Premiere of FORGIVE-DON’T FORGET on Friday, February 24.


GilbrideMEGAN GILBRIDE

Producer, TOWER

Megan Gilbride (W&M ’00) is an Emmy-winning and Independent Spirit Award nominated producer of narrative and documentary films. She produced Lovers of Hate, a Sundance US Dramatic Competition premiere, released by IFC and nominated for a FIND Spirit Award. She produced the PBS-broadcast documentary Sunshine and coproduced Where Soldiers Come From which won the Truer Than Fiction FIND Spirit Award, aired on POV and won a 2012 News and Documentary Emmy.

Megan Gilbride will be present for a Q&A discussion following the screening of TOWER on Friday, February 24.


Chad GraciaCHAD GRACIA

Director / Producer / Editor, The Russian Woodpecker

Chad has worked in New York theater for nearly 20 years as a producer, dramaturg, and playwright, with a focus on plays in verse. His works have seen productions in various cities in the United States and Europe. He co-wrote Gilgamesh, a drama based on the Sumerian epic, with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Yusef Komunyakaa, and has long collaborated with the American verse playwright Kirk Wood Bromley. The Russian Woodpecker is his first film.

Chad Gracia will be present for a discussion following a screening of THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER on Friday, February 24.


SARMAD SEHBAI

Writer, Mah E Mir

Sarmad Sehbai’s work as a poet, author, playwright and filmmaker highlights his innovative approach to art and culture. His vision is reflected in the diverse languages and mediums he works in, from poetry collections (Neeli Kay Su Rung, Un Kahi Baton Ki Thakan) to Pakistan Television dramas (Naya Qanoon, Toba Tek Singh), theater plays (The Dark Room), a documentary (Mughals of the Road) and his films and dramas (Fankar Gali, Jal Pari and Mar e Mir). In 2016 Pakistan chose Mah e Mir as its entry in the foreign language Academy Awards competition.

Sarmad Sehbai will be present for a discussion following the Virginia Premiere screening of MAH E MIR on Saturday, February 25.


AyeshaGilani

AYESHA GILANI TAYLOR

Anchor / Reporter / Producer, Voice of America

Ayesha Gilani Taylor is a television anchor, reporter and producer at Voice of America. She is most well-known for her work on the popular television show called Kahani Pakistani (Pakistani tale), a magazine show watched by millions within and outside of PakistanShe is also a writer, model, actor, speaker and holder of ten beauty pageant titles ranging from Miss Pakistan World 2009 to Mrs. District of Columbia USA Earth 2016. She currently runs a production team with her husband. 

Using her own life experiences, she highlights the common threads between all people, and encourages people to challenge their own stereotypes. As Pakistan’s Dawn News wrote, While the world has mostly had Pakistan on their minds for the [backlash] it is suffering from the Talibaan, some Pakistanis have made the international media for their talent, hard work and commitment. Ayesha Gilani is helping to promote ‘the beautiful land of rich culture and traditions’.”

Ayesha Gilani Taylor will host a discussion following the Virginia Premiere screening of MAH E MIR on Saturday, February 25.


CraigCackowskiCRAIG CACKOWSKI

Actor, Drunk History / Community

Craig Cackowski (W&M ’91) has been seen on your television as a regular cast member on “Drunk History” and as Officer Cackowski on “Community.” Other film and television appearances include “Bajillion Dollar Properties”, “Girlboss”, “Shrink”, “Veep,” “Newsreaders,” “Comedy Bang Bang,” “The Mindy Project,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Trust Us With Your Life,” “Workaholics,” “The Kings Of Summer,” “21 And Over,” and “Year of The Dog.” He has been involved with the iO and iO West Theaters as a performer and teacher since 1992. In Chicago, Craig performed with the Second City Mainstage and ETC, as well as with the National Touring Company. He may also be heard on such podcasts as “The Thrilling Adventure Hour,” “Spontaneanation”, and on his own podcast “Craig’s List” where he makes his wife Carla watch his 100 favorite movies.

Craig Cackowski will be participating in the I.T. 30th Anniversary Showcase on Saturday, February 25.


Ryan O'QuinnRYAN O’QUINN

Actor/Producer, Believe / Alias

Ryan O’Quinn (W&M ’94) is a twenty year veteran of the entertainment industry and president of Damascus Road Productions. In 2016 O’Quinn produced and starred in the feature film “Believe” from Sony Pictures and also signed a first-look deal with Smith Global Media (Overbrook Entertainment) via their output deal at Sony.

Shortly after attending William and Mary O’Quinn experienced success primarily in episodic and sitcom television including memorable roles on Beverly Hills 90210AliasJAG and ER. His first two feature films were Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, That Thing You Do and Sony’s iconic Starship Troopers directed by Paul Verhoeven.

Ryan O’Quinn will be participating in the I.T. 30th Anniversary Showcase on Saturday, February 25.


Curtis ShumakerCURTIS SHUMAKER

Actor, Theatre / Film and Television

Curtis (W&M ‘89) is a founding member of Improvisational Theatre (I.T.) all those many years ago and despite his advanced age is still a working professional actor doing theatre, film and television. He has appeared in Broadway, Regional theatre and touring productions. His film and television appearances include “The Detour,” “The Blacklist,” “The Good Wife,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Hits” and “Mr. Popper Penguins.” He also coaches acting, working with actors of all ages and experiences on successful auditioning techniques. He lives with his patient wife in NYC.


DavidCrankDAVID CRANK

Production Designer, The Double

David Crank (W&M ’82) is the Emmy-winning art director and production designer for almost 30 major projects, including Water for Elephants, the John Adams series, There Will Be Blood, and Hannibal. After receiving his undergraduate degree from William & Mary in 1982, he received a MFA from Carnegie-Mellon. David worked on regional theater productions for a decade before transitioning to film. In 2011 he received the Leslie Cheek Medal from William & Mary, an award honoring outstanding artistic achievement.

David Crank will be present for a discussion on following THE DOUBLE on Saturday, February 25.


Daryl Davis - Promo PicDARYL DAVIS

Author / Lecturer / Documentary Subject, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America

Daryl Davis is an author, actor, and accomplished musician who has performed all over the world with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. In his spare time he likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan- something few black men can say. Daryl has built his relationships person by person and his campaign has proved remarkably effective. Many members of the KKK he has connected with have been forced to reconsider their beliefs, with some even leaving the organization as a result.

Daryl Davis will be present for a discussion following the Virginia Premiere of ACCIDENTAL COURTESY: DARYL DAVIS, RACE & AMERICA on Saturday, February 25.


MATT ORNSTEIN

Director, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America

Matt Ornstein founded Sound & Vision Productions in 2006. Since then, Sound and Vision has produced and developed music videos, commercials, and short and feature length films. Sound & Vision produced the Matt Ornstein directed Atlantis in 2012 staring Jason Ritter and the space shuttle Atlantis. It appeared in film festivals including Austin, Orlando, London, Cannes, Santa Barbara, Taiwan and 15 others.

Matt is the Creative Director of Sound and Vision, and has directed music videos for artists including Radiohead, Daft Punk, Penguin Prison, Cobra Starship, Ashtar Command, and Harmar Superstar. He studied film at Bard College.

Matt Ornstein will be present for a discussion following the Virginia Premiere of ACCIDENTAL COURTESY: DARYL DAVIS, RACE & AMERICA on Saturday, February 25.