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. While we would love to screen all the submissions we receive, we don't have enough time!  Judges' comments are not available to filmmakers or the public, but know that they are some of your strongest supporters.

Our 2020 panel of judges included:

Jill Boniske

Film industry insider Jill Boniske is a 2018 judge for Longleaf Film Festival.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 when she moved into production and development, working on features ranging from cult classic The Toxic Avenger to director Sidney Lumet’s Power. 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.

Kelly Creedon

Filmmaker Kelly Creedon is a judge for Longleaf Film Festival.Kelly Creedon is a documentary editor and filmmaker, based in Durham, whose most recent film projects have included Farmsteaders, which broadcast on POV: Documentaries with a Point of View, on PBS, in September 2019; You Gave Me A Song: The Life and Music of Alice Gerrard, an official selection film at numerous festivals in 2019; and Santuario, which has received international recognition. Her work has also been featured in Vimeo Staff Picks, National Geographic, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Reel South (a collaboration between UNC-TV, South Carolina Educational Television, and the Southern Documentary Fund), the PBS Online Film Festival, and The Bitter Southerner, among others. She has taught visual journalism and documentary storytelling at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the UNC School of Media and Journalism, where she received her MA in visual communication.

Alisa Johnson

Alisa Johnson is a judge for Longleaf 2018.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

Craig Lindsey is a 2018 judge for Longleaf Film Festival.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

John W Rice is a judge for Longleaf Film Festival in Raleigh NC || 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

Film historian Frank Thompson is a judge for Longleaf 2018.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.

Lawrence Toppman

LFF judge Lawrence Toppman Lawrence Toppman has a BA in English and history from Duke University and an MA in journalism from the University of North Carolina. He worked at the Charlotte News and the Charlotte Observer for a total of 37 years, covering all sorts of culture, and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. He currently freelances about the arts and writes about non-arts subjects for a variety of websites. He has sung bass in the Opera Carolina chorus for 37 seasons—which reminds him how hard artists work at their craft.