The 2023 Jury
The CIFF Jury will select the Jury Choice film in each category, as well as Audience Choice Awards in each category. Each category will have a jury of 2-3 circus and film professionals.
Meet the Jury
Under 18 Jury
Izzi Kessner (USA)
Izzi Kessner (they/them) is a circus artist originally from Los Angeles, and currently based in Quebec City. They specialize in aerial rope and acrodance, and strive to share stories of identity and authenticity through contemporary circus. Izzi is interested in questioning traditional form and practice in their circus storytelling, and exploring how aspects of their transgender identity inform their creation. Through their work, Izzi has performed and coached circus across the United States and internationally, and partnered with major brands such as Nike.
Christo Tsiaras (USA)
Christo Tsiaras, known to all his friends and colleagues simply as Christo, has been at the forefront of the production community in Boston since 1982. Having been a senior editor at some of the hottest shops in Boston such as National Video and Videocraft, Christo has had an exhilarating ride editing thousands of projects. Previous clients have included leading ad agencies like Arnold Worldwide and Hill, Holiday as well as Fortune 500 corporations, filmmakers, directors and independent producers. As editor and director, Christo has won many awards for his television commercials, innovative music videos, thoughtful documentaries, corporate videos and, most recently, digital photography.
Previous and current clients include Hasbro, The Disney Channel, Tommy Hilfiger, CNN, Turner Classic Movies, USA Networks, Timberland, Reebok, McDonalds and Animal Planet. Current projects include editing the award winning independent film “Red Flag” which has won numerous awards around the country including Best Picture at the Boston Comedy Film Festival and From Zero to I Love You which has garnered critical acclaim in major LGBT festivals around the country and in Europe. Christo studied communications and music at Emerson College. Today Christo spends much of his off-line time enjoying life with his daughter Bethany and a camera rarely out of reach.
Starting gymnastics, swimming, and soccer at the young age of 5 has led me down a path of personal, physical and professional growth. Paired with the desire to not just watch but also want to be on my favorite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; It has taken me from my beginning performing days of live shows in theme parks such as Disneyland, and Sea World where I learned new skills and made lifelong friendships. To the hustle and bustle of the Vegas performing community of ten shows a week, where I not only was on the stage but above it and below it. Gracing the stages of Le Reve and Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles LOVE was a dream within itself but it even allowed me to expand more than I expected and compete on a historical world stage in Paris at the 34th Festival Mondial Du Cirque De Demain. With change in the air I made the decision to pursue that childhood dream and make my way into the film and TV world in 2016 by moving to LA and actively beginning my stunt career. Since then the path has just become more exhilarating and exciting, getting to experience new ways to challenge my physical brain but also my emotional performance has been invigorating. Culminating in my most recent last two years where I got to bring all my skills that I’ve acquired in my past performing years and use them to help bring Black Panther 2’s ‘Namor' to life on the big screen. I’m honored to have been asked to participate and I hope that my experiences and knowledge are a useful tool, thank you for having me.
Frederick Buford (USA)
Bio coming soon.
Victoria Liu (USA)
Victoria's passion for the creative arts began with interests in music. She started performing music at the age of 11. After studying music at UBC, Berklee School of Music, and attending a summer program at Princeton University, she found her niche in the world of VFX Production. Victoria has worked on many large studio productions including Black Panther, Avengers: Endgame, Fantastic Beasts, and the recent summer release of Blue Beetle. During a summer job with Cirque du Soleil, Victoria fell in love with the circus. What started out as a hobby quickly turned into part a time job. She earned an Instructor in Circus Arts diploma from Ecole Nationale de Cirque and is currently in their Trainer program for higher level coaching. Victoria performs in the greater Vancouver area and is currently a coach and the Director of Aerial Arts at West Coast Circus.
Shorts - Documentary
Eve Gordon (NZ)
Eve trained as an actor at the turn of the century but quickly sought a career in the physical arts and eventually landed in circus theatre, founding The Dust Palace, Aotearoa’s most established producer of circus arts. The last decade has seen Eve develop physically, artistically and creatively as a practitioner and as a leader. It has also seen her develop into an accomplished producer, artistic director, business woman and executive director. She has won awards, been sought after and was heralded as the ‘Beyonce of New Zealand Circus’. Despite the demands of running the company she has managed to maintain and develop her circus practice alongside the other core team. Eve is technically at the top of her game and within the top tier of circus artists in Aotearoa.
Eve is wholly dedicated to furthering the circus sector in Aotearoa. All of her work with The Dust Palace is bent on bolstering the industry, artistic output, support and facilities available to circus practitioners. To this end she also became involved in ANZCA, the Aotearoa New Zealand Circus Association at its inception. With Carlene Newall de Jesus, Eve wrote “Circus Safe - a best practice guide for circus in Aotearoa New Zealand”, released in 2018. She became chairperson in 2017 and led the organisation to undertake a nation-wide census in 2019. She most recently wrote ANZCA’s Code of Ethics for Circus in Aotearoa.
Veronica Blair (USA)
Veronica Blair is a professional aerialist with over 15 years of performing and teaching experience. She is currently Aerial Director for Celebrity Cruises Entertainment. Expanding her portfolio beyond performing, Veronica launched the development of “The Uncle Junior Project” in 2010. The ongoing documentary shines a light on the careers of African-American circus performers, including Emanual “Uncle Junior” Ruffin who remained largely uncredited for his contributions to American Circus until after his death. In 2017, she was invited to speak at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival about her experience as producer and director of “The Uncle Junior Project”, and served as organizer and moderator on a panel highlighting the African-American circus experience. She’s also worked with the African-American Art and Culture Complex to stage "Entrapment to Entertainment: A Celebration of Blacks in American Circus", a three-month exhibition that ran from October, 2013 – January 2014 with over 1,000 attendees.
Shorts - Non-Documentary
Johnny Kim (USA)
Johnny Kim started out as a gymnast and classically trained pianist when he was young and moved into Drama and Theatre as a teenager. He accompanied the musical ‘Pippin’ at the age of 16 and musically directed Rancho Buena Vista High School’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ at just 18 years of age.
He had an eclectic performance background in dance, musicals, and circus and graced many stages around the globe. Favourite productions include working for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Music of the Night’ and Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Encore Mr. Producer’ with Jean Ann Ryan Productions, ‘Les Folies Bergere’ at the Tropicana, ‘Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular’ – Arena Tour, ‘Miss Saigon’at North Carolina Theatre, ‘Cirque de la Mer’ for World Entertainment and ‘Voyage de la Vie’ at Resorts World Sentosa.
On pushing the boundaries in entertainment, he is also the only male to have played the female role “Dark Queen” at Franco Dragone’s ‘The House of Dancing Water’. He also served as the Choreography Captain of the show and transitioned into management as the Artistic Coordinator of cast changeover and operations for several years. Johnny landed a dream job with Cirque du Soleil as the Assistant Artistic Director on the creation of 'VOLTA’, and spent two years creatively shaping the production with his mentor. After a successful stint on that North American tour, he then joined ‘TOTEM’ as their Artistic Director. Most recently, he was the Artistic Director of the relaunch of Cirque du Soleil’s ‘ALEGRIA’ and is now proud to be the Artistic Director here on ‘BAZZAR’.
Tristan Cunningham (USA)
Tristan Cunningham started her circus days when she was only ten and toured with Circus Smirkus for 8 summers!
She is a S.U.N.Y Purchase Theater Arts and Film Conservatory Graduate and a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. She has won the 2016 TBA Outstanding Performance Award and the 2016 BATCC Excellence in Theater Award. She is also a trained acrobat and juggler and has performed with Circus Bella, Velocity Circus, Medical Clown Project, Cirque Berzerk, San Francisco Mime Troupe and circus legends Alberto Zoppe and Marcel Marceau.
Most recently she was in All Rise on CBS, The Fugitive starring Kiefer Sutherland, NCIS, 9-1-1,
Mr. Mayor, Netflix’s comedy show Family Reunion, CSI Vegas, The Conners and Hulu’s Reasonable Doubt as Toni.
She is the youth circus program director at Cirque School LA, Circus Smirkus board member and chair of the Diversity and Access Committee, and a resident artist with Prescott Circus Theater.
Thomas Chambers (CAN)
Thomas Chambers at 32 years old has over 2 decades of professional experience within the performing arts industry. Since he was 8 years old, Thomas has been apart of many large scale productions as an actor in both film and television while being actively involved in a variety of sports, including competitive Trampoline. At the age of 15, he would direct his motivation as a professional Trampolinist, competing in many national championships and proudly, representing Canada at the Indo Pacific Games in Japan, in 2010. After over 10 years as a competitive athlete, Thomas then began his journey as a circus artist, pushing the acrobatic limits of the circus discipline Trampoline Wall. Seeing early success in this field, his career would take him around the world performing for prestigious companies, notably spending 4 years with JOYÁ by Cirque du Soleil near Cancun, Mexico from 2016-2020. After 20 years as a performer. Presently, Thomas has been paving the way to be creative in the performing arts industry, off stage. From artistically directing over a dozen small-mid sized circus productions. To most recently being the Casting Director with Lafontaine Studios for the Harry Potter: A Yule Ball Celebration Presented by Warner Brothers and Fever in Montréal , while going to McGill University for a professional certificate in Executive Production in Creative Industries. Thomas looks to continue being inspired and collaborative within the performing arts industry.
Dream. Create. Inspire.
Joel Gershon (USA)
Ever since he studied abroad in Rome during college, Joel dreamed of working in a creative field and having adventures around the world. Luckily for him, his fantasy became real shortly after he graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2003, but first he worked for the environmental organization, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the groundbreaking Air America Radio network, where he was a producer on a show hosted by Rachel Maddow and Chuck D. and worked alongside such talents as Mark Maron and Al Franken.
It was in 2005 that Joel got his incredible chance to live and work abroad when was hired as a reporter for the International Herald Tribune in Bangkok, and stayed for the next 12 years. During his time there, he also worked as the regional correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter, worked as a consultant for human rights oriented NGOs, filed print and broadcast stories for CNN, and was a reporter/producer for the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand.
In 2011, he began developing "Cirque du Cambodia," his first feature-length documentary film about two young Cambodians who dreamed about being the first from their country to take the stage with the world-famous Cirque du Soleil. In 2020, he completed the film, which has won multiple awards (including the 2021 Circus International Film Festival's Jury Prize for Best Feature Film), and the film is still making the rounds and wowing audiences at different film festivals.
Joel finally moved back to the U.S. in 2017 after accepting a lecturing job at American University in Washington D.C. He is now working as the Director of Education and a content producer for the community TV channel, DCTV. You can learn more about Joel at joelgershon.com.
Eric Bates (USA/CAN)
Eric is a cigar box juggler and russian bar porter and co-founder of the company Cirque Barcode. After over a decade performing around the world, some of his accomplishments include multiple medals at Cirque de Demain, a Guinness World Record, and performing for the world's leaders with Cirque du Soleil at G7. In recent years he has turned his attention to filmmaking, focusing on combining movement based arts with cinematography. In 2023 his short film All That We Have won the Circus Film Festival's Audience Choice and Best Short Documentary prizes, and his short film Branché (based on Cirque Barcode and Acting for Climate's show of the same name) won the Portland Dance Film Fest long form prize. He is also the author of The Contemporary Handbook, a book about successfully bringing collaborative projects to life.
Daniel Martin (UK)
Daniel Martin is a highly acclaimed filmmaker and photographer, widely recognized for his expertise in capturing the beauty and essence of the Dance and performing arts sector. With a remarkable background as a professional contemporary dancer, Daniel received rigorous training from the esteemed London Contemporary Dance School, where he honed his skills and developed a strong foundation. Throughout his career, he has showcased his exceptional performance abilities across numerous venues throughout the United Kingdom. Renowned for his meticulous planning and communication, Daniel brings immense value to the businesses he collaborates with. His visionary approach ensures that every project is executed with precision, leaving no room for ambiguity. His clear and positive style fosters a collaborative environment that consistently leads to exceptional results, offering a comprehensive and unforgettable experience for all involved. Daniel possesses an innate understanding of how to elevate brand relevance and create impactful visual content, whether for emerging artists or high-profile dance organizations. His work with world-renowned companies and organizations such as Sadler's Wells, OneDanceUK, Swindon Dance, Pavilion Dance South West, Dance In Devon, Greenwich Dance, Plymouth Conservatoire, amongst many more, exemplifies his ability to translate their artistic vision into captivating imagery. With Dan Martin & his team behind the lens, clients can expect nothing short of exceptional creativity, professionalism, and a commitment to delivering breathtaking visual narratives that resonate deeply with audiences worldwide.