We are forever grateful to our patient and thoughtful judges who spend hours and hours enjoying your films and sharing their insights with us. Judges' comments are not available to filmmakers or the public, but know that they are some of your strongest supporters.
Our 2021 panel of judges included:
Asheville-based Jill Boniske is a reviewer at Chickflix.net (recognized by Lifehacker and O, The Oprah Magazine), which offers fun, informative, easy-to-digest thoughts on movies—from a female perspective. As “Arty Chick,” Jill usually covers documentaries, foreign flicks, and indies. Her film career began when she moved into production and development, working on features ranging from cult classic The Toxic Avenger to director Sidney Lumet’s Power. An industry insider, Jill also wrote the screen adaptation of Clyde Edgerton’s Raney, has directed a documentary, served as associate producer, and shared the screen with Kevin Bacon—so, if you meet her, you’ll be 2 degrees. Her credits also include stints as a TV writer/producer for a number of series. She is currently directing The Secret of B, about a secret Hong Kong adoption that has an American filmmaker searching for clues to his origins.
Film curator at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Laura’s love for cinema also spreads to service as a member of the selection committee for Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and organizer of the Moviediva Film Series at the Carolina Theatre of Durham. She was also a longtime contributor to Movies on the Radio for WUNC with host Frank Stasio. Image credit: Eamon Queeney for Walter magazine
Dr. Alisa Johnson teaches introduction to film study at Meredith College and is coordinator of the Meredith College Documentary Film Festival. On the faculty of Meredith College for 20 years, she also teaches American and African American literature, women’s literature, and supernatural fiction. She is a resident of Durham, a faithful attendee of Alice Fest, and a lover of cats, coffee, meditation, and movies.
Craig Lindsey has been a Longleaf judge since year one! He is a journalist and film critic—an award-winning writer and blogger for several publications including the Raleigh News & Observer, the Houston Chronicle, the Philadelphia Weekly, the Baltimore City Paper, LA Weekly, Vibe, and the Nashville Scene. Craig knows film. And music. And pop culture. And if you’re lucky, he knows you, too.
John Rice is a communications graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, where he specialized in television and film production. He has since gained experience as a director and director of photography, working in traditional celluloid cinematography and electronic cinematography and in advertising commercial production. In addition, he has worked in the long-form narrative realm with production of several documentaries and numerous entertainment and journalistic programs. He is now director of marketing and creative services at CBS17, WNCN-TV, leading teams in production of local news and community service programs, local and regional commercials, and other special long-form programs.
Frank Thompson is a film historian whose background includes authoring more than 40 books (including a look at filmmaking in Asheville during the silent era and Nothing Sacred: The Cinema of William Wellman, with John Andrew Gallagher); writing hundreds of articles, interviews, commentaries, and reviews in newspapers and magazines across the country; lecturing; and creating podcasts. He also directs, produces, and acts with a focus on film-related documentaries and television shows and was an instructor at the Asheville School of Film.
Lawrence Toppman has a BA in English and history from Duke University and an MA in journalism from the University of North Carolina. He retired in 2020 after 46 years of daily writing, 40 of them covering all sorts of culture for the Charlotte News and the Charlotte Observer. He is a lifetime emeritus member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and serves on the board of advisors for classical radio station WDAV-FM. He has sung bass in the Opera Carolina chorus for 37 consecutive seasons, the longest tenure in the company’s history.