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
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.
Izzi Kessner (USA)
Izzi Kessner (they/them) is a circus artist from Los Angeles, California. They are currently a first year student at Ecole de Cirque de Québec. Izzi specializes in aerial rope and strive to tell powerful stories through contemporary circus arts, often relating to their trans nonbinary gender identity. They also create video content, primarily through their Instagram page, to be a voice for young LGBTQ+ individuals and advocate for equality and acceptance. Through their work, they have performed and coached circus throughout the United States, 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.
Kevin Beverly (USA)
Kevin is a dancer, acrobat, & cinema buff. He began his journey with gymnastics and dance as a child in the suburbs of Chicago. He danced his way through the Chicago Academy for the Arts High School, spending his free time learning circus. Having discovered a way to combine his passion for dance and acrobatics, he attended the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont, and then later graduated from the National Circus School of Montreal, specializing in dance trapeze and Chinese hoop diving. Kevin is grateful to have had the opportunity to work for companies such as Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 doigts de la main, Midnight Circus, MOTH Poetic Circus, Company XIV, and Les Productions Haut-Vol. Currently on the road with Gravity & Other Myths, Kevin has been increasingly throwing himself behind the camera. With a passion for film & photography, he strives to make captivating art combining circus & film.
Shorts - Documentary
Léah Wolff (CAN)
As a kid growing up in Ottawa, Canada, Léah used to cry when her parents picked her up from the dance studio because she wanted to stay longer. Flash forward a few years, Léah started circus, learning aerial technique under the mentoring of Dawn Shepherd, followed by Meaghan Wegg.
After some time, Léah knew it was time to make a big step and push further, so she crossed the world to attend l'École Supérieure des Arts du Cirque (ESAC) in Brussels, Belgium. There, under the coaching of Roman Fedin, she made her craft an art, and worked to unearth the infinite links between aerial technique and her dance background.
Since her graduation in 2016, Léah has toured internationally with world renowned companies, including Cirque du Soleil, The 7 Fingers, Strut and Fret in Australia, and GOP Varieté in Germany
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.
Sonya Ballantyne (Cree/CAN)
Sonya Ballantyne is a Swampy Cree writer, filmmaker, and speaker from the Misipawistik Cree Nation. Her work focuses on contemporary and futuristic portrayals of Indigenous women and girls. Her published works include children’s book Kerri Berry Lynn as well as contributions to anthologies such as Pros and Comic Cons, A Howl, and Resurgence. She has also written for television and video games, such as Paul Rabliauskas' Acting Good and The Walking Dead: LAST MILE. She is currently working on her first feature film and a graphic novel memoir.
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’.
Isabelle Chassé (CAN)
A pivotal figure in Quebec’s circus history and a highly accomplished contemporary artist, Isabelle Chassé entered the National Circus School of Montreal as a child. She is among a group of core artists who contributed to the success of Cirque du Soleil.
The recipient of numerous awards, including the gold medal at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain de Paris and at the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, Isabelle toured internationally from a young age, performing hundreds of shows with an innovative and dynamic contortion quartet. As a young adult, she left a mark with her memorable performance on the aerial sliks in Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. Isabelle has also participated in several film projects including the film Martyrs and the Grammy-nominated short film Satie and Suzanne.
Co-founder of The 7 Fingers, Isabelle co-directed and performed in Loft, La Vie, and Temporel. She also co-directed Vice & Vertu and the third segment of Tryptique as well as the movie Out of Order. She served as assistant director on Passengers, Reversible, Amuse, and Psy, and was a collaborating artist in the Fibonacci Project on multiple occasions.
Isabelle has been a jury member with several organizations, among them the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
A fully fledged circus artist at a stage of deep creative maturity, she worked on the conception and staging of Moment Factory’s Soul of the Ocean at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park.
In 2020, Isabelle directed Summer Tale, scheduled in Ontario, Canada as part of Together Apart, one of the first post-covid events with live public audience.
In 2022, she co-directs with Patrick Léonard, the staging of the 3 Géants for the Montreal Completement cirque festival.
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.
Junru Wang (CHN)
Junru Wang is from Wuhan, China. She started her acrobatic training with an award-winning coach in China at the age 4. At the age of 9, she started touring as a solo hand-balancer with Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion. After 5 years with Cirque du Soleil, Junru went on to win China's Got Talent season 4, and the same year she created a Guinness World Record for hand balancing which she still holds.
In 2015, Junru starred in a feature film produced by China and Austria. The next year, Junru moved to the U.S. as an extraordinary alien. In 2019, she was accepted by University of Southern California where she majored in Film & TV Production, and her focuses were cinematography and directing. During her school years, Junru directed multiple short films including: If I Were to See You Again - A Chinese family drama, which was selected by multiple film festivals.
Junru also starred in some student films during her school years for which she won Best Performance in Hollywood North Film Awards and Best Actress in Beirut International Women Film Festival.
In 2022, Junru joined 7 Fingers’ resident show Dear San Francisco, the inspiring experience with the pioneer contemporary company rekindled her with circus.
Mel Bayol (UK)
Born and raised in the suburbs of Liverpool, England, as a child she excelled in gymnastic disciplines; artistic gymnastics, sports acrobatic, Trampoline and Power Tumbling. At the age of 19, after ranking 5th in the World as a Tumbler for Great Britain, she was scouted and recruited by Cirque du Soleil. Cast as a house troupe acrobat in Mystere and then La Nouba, Mel enjoyed an 18-year long performing career, working on teeterboard, chinese poles, fast track, power track, trampwall, and eventually as an acrobatic character. Following her performing career, Cirque du Soleil hired her as an acrobatic casting advisor for their resident and touring productions, where she successfully supported multiple directors, simultaneously coordinating all aspects of the casting process, whilst also scouting and auditioning talent from across the World. Today Mel is based in Montreal, Canada, and continues working with well-known companies and productions as a freelance acrobatic casting director, doing what she loves; connecting creative humans!
Taras Shevchenko (USA/CAN)
Born into the world of circus, Taras grew up traveling with his father, a former circus artist, learning different disciplines ranging from acrobatics to juggling to rola-bola to ballet to mime. Ever since his mother’s piano lessons since the early age, he always had an ear for musical scores and rhythm. A big part of his childhood was spent watching 80s Hong Kong action films, reinforcing his understanding in the importance of precise movement and rhythm. What started as choreographing fight scenes with friends for short films, turned into an obsession with filmmaking, motivating Taras to taking college film courses while still in high school.
In 2003, Taras joined Cirque du Soleil as part of new act development, which lead to debuting as an artist on a touring show. While performing on tour and later in a Cirque resident show for the next 18 years, he continued to pursue studies in filmmaking and visual storytelling. In addition to making his own passion projects, he collaborated with different live-entertainment companies on creative projects, serving behind the camera as director/producer/camera operator/budget designer/editor/composer.
In 2019, Taras was a Creative Director for An Annual Choreographers’ Showcase, a collaboration between Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil shows and Nevada Ballet Theatre, challenging the choreographers to design their narratives to expand beyond the stage. The show, appropriately titled ’Beyond the Stage’, successfully combined each choreographer’s live performances with predesigned digital content aided by projections. The next logical step was to expand this ‘live’ event to choreographers on touring shows...but then happened an event in 2020, during which this wonderful Circus International Film Festival was born.
Upon finishing his 18 year stint as an artist on stage in 2022, Taras continues to be involved in the world of circus as a member of Cirque du Soleil Casting Team.
LeeAnn Ball (CAN)
Hi! I’m LeeAnn and I’m a creative and entertainer who enjoys making and sharing art with the world.
After graduating from a 3 year classical conservatory theatre training program, I found myself with a lot of free time. This time allowed me to find circus. It started as a hobby but quickly grew into a passion that turned into a career.
Most recently, I debuted two new aerial trio acts on one-of-a-kind custom aerial apparatus the “hoop-eze” and “aerial carousel”. These acts premiered on Canada’s Got Talent with my performance troupe “Trillium Entertainment”. I hold 4 Canadian National Championship titles in Acrobatic Pole and Aerial Hoop. In 2019, I had the opportunity to represent Canada at the IPSF World Aerial Championships and won my first World Championship title for Aerial Hoop.
Above all, I am a storyteller. What I can’t say with words, I say through movement.