Meet the Judges

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 2023 panel of judges included:

Jill Boniske

Film industry insider Jill Boniske has served as a judge for Longleaf Film Festival 2021 and 2022.Asheville-based Jill Boniske is a reviewer at (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 after a stint in film school, when she moved into production and development to work 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 science 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 in the US and China. Currently, she is patiently waiting to get back to completing The Secret of B, a documentary about a secret Hong Kong adoption that has an American filmmaker searching for clues to his origins.

Alisa Johnson

Alisa Johnson has served as a judge for Longleaf Film Festival in 2021 and 2022.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 25 years, she is assistant dean in the School of Arts and the Humanities and also teaches American and African American literature and supernatural fiction. She is a resident of Durham and a lover of cats, coffee, meditation, and movies.

Craig Lindsey

Craig Lindsey is a 2022 Longleaf Film Festival judge.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 Muck Rack, 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.

Frank Thompson

Film historian Frank Thompson is a judge for Raleigh North Carolina's Longleaf 2022.Frank Thompson is a film historian whose background includes authoring more than 45 books, including The Compleat Beau Geste (2023); Asheville Movies, Volume I: The Silent Era (2017); and Nothing Sacred: The Cinema of William Wellman (with John Andrew Gallagher, 2018). In addition, he has published hundreds of articles, interviews, and reviews in newspapers and magazines across the country and has produced, written, and directed several documentaries and television shows. He also maintains The Commentary Track, a website of podcasts featuring in-depth interviews with authorities on film history—people who preserve it, who write about it and, in some cases, who made it.

Lawrence Toppman

LFF judge Lawrence Toppman Longleaf Film Festival, Raleigh North Carolina 2022Lawrence 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 39 consecutive seasons, the longest tenure in the company’s history.