2017 Festival Team

Jolanta Lion

Jolanta Lion // Festival Director

After teaching Polish language, history of Polish Cinema, and scriptwriting at the renowned National Film School in Lodz and University of Lodz, Jolanta came to Pittsburgh in 1999 as a visiting Kosciuszko Foundation scholar and as a Professor of Polish Language, Film and Culture at the University of Pittsburgh. She directed the 2001 Pittsburgh Polish Film Festival entitled Through Polish Eyes, attracting over 2,500 viewers. Jolanta is currently the Assistant Director of the Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and is the Director of the annual Carnegie Mellon International “Faces” Film Festival, now in its 11th season.

The festival’s recent centerpieces, made possible through Jolanta’s efforts, included the former First Lady of Poland, Danuta Walesa, Academy Award-winning Director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), and Oscar-nominated Director Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing). Jolanta’s dedication to the CMU IFF and its mission to bring international film and culture to Pittsburgh is the reason Barry Paris, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Film Critic, wrote: “The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival is my annual favorite, due to the excellence of the choices by its director, Jolanta Lion, who deserves an Oscar in general.” No Oscar yet. Jolanta’s favorite film this year is I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach.

Lauralei Kraski // Festival Assistant Director

A recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, Lauralei joined the CMU IFF team for the first time as a Freshman in 2013. Four years later, she is the Assistant Director. Through her years in the CMU IFF, Lauralei has most enjoyed the opportunity to explore her new-ish home: Pittsburgh. She left her native Tennessee after graduating high school, choosing Pittsburgh for her college home and for the city’s pierogies. After the Festival ends, Lauralei intends to continue working in the nonprofit world here in Pittsburgh and hopes to eventually start her own nonprofit under the mission to connect youth with rescued animals to foster therapeutic relationships. When not on CMU campus working with students and faculty to build the annual Festival, Lauralei is an avid kayaker, loves to read, and enjoys Yanni. Her favorite film of the festival is El Futuro Perfecto.

Megan Mell // Logistics Coordinator & Head of Programming & Event Coordination

Megan Mell is a first-year Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) student at Carnegie Mellon University, and a first-time visitor to Pittsburgh. She grew up in Minnesota, completed her undergraduate degree in marketing & PR at the University of Minnesota, and worked at an ad agency in downtown Minneapolis. (Yes, it snows a lot. No, not all Midwesterners sound like characters from Fargo.) Megan is excited to serve as the festival’s logistics coordinator and head of programming & event coordination, and help the full team bring the festival to life. The selected films teach us about global issues and cultures, which is fitting because continued education and learning about different individuals, situations and viewpoints has shaped Megan’s own identity very much. We’ll see where these learnings take her as she heads into year two of the MEIM program in LA, with plans to begin a career in production or development. El Futuro Perfecto is her favorite film this year.

Cynthia Tam

Cynthia Tam // Communications Coordinator

Cynthia is an administrator at Einhorn Media Group, a small multimedia design firm in the South Side. One of her main roles with the festival this year is to help ensure a visual consistency in its marketing and promotional materials. Cynthia is moved by great storytelling in all forms. Whether on the page, through dialogue, in podcasts, or, in the case of the festival, on the screen, she is inspired by a story’s ability to expand your perspective and allow you to identify with situations that initially seemed so foreign. In her spare time, you can probably find her reading, biking, or drinking tea. Her favorite film this season is Disturbing the Peace.

John Apostolides // Event Coordinator

John is thrilled to coordinate several film events this year, as part of the Programming Committee. He discovered the IFF last year as an attendee, and was immediately impressed by its ability to broaden horizons and promote dialogue. He was active in theater throughout high school and he has always appreciated international friendships, travel, and studies as a second education. At CMU, John researches genomics in the Department of Computational Biology. He previously studied neuroscience and philosophy, and so he finds the theme of identity to be especially fitting. He finds one of the most inspiring aspects of the films this year is how we are each given characteristics that make up our identity; yet we can also define our identity throughout our lives. The Eagle Huntress is John’s favorite film in the 2017 lineup.

Daniel Carrol // Social Media Coordinator

Dan is a Junior attending the University of Pittsburgh for his Bachelors in English Writing and Political Science. He is from the Philadelphia area, however he has lived in Pittsburgh for three years now and has come to consider it home. Dan serves as the social media coordinator for the festival, managing the various social media accounts and working to network and cross promote with various content creators throughout the Pittsburgh area. He joined the festival to expand the scope of his knowledge and gain more experience in planning and marketing a large-scale event. He has had a wide range of experiences during his time in school, working as a research assistant for a clinical study, switching majors (twice), and working as a Resident Assistant, and so far working with the festival has proven just as challenging and rewarding as anything he has done in the past. His favorite film this festival is The Eagle Huntress.

Jessie Chen // Head of Chinese Component

Jessie is a master student at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Entertainment Industry Management. Prior to attending CMU, she went to University of Michigan- Ann Arbor for college. (Go Blue!) Jessie is passionate about film. Joining CMU IFF provides her with the opportunity to contribute to film-related events and to enrich CMU community with plenty of great films. She works with the Development & Marketing Committees and is the head of Chinese Film Component. She is enjoying working with everyone at CMU IFF so far. The diversity at CMU IFF has taught her how to work with diverse people and get work done under deadline pressure. Born in China, studied in Tokyo, Japan for 2 years and now having lived in the US for over 4 years, Jessie has become a multicultural person after being exposed to diverse culture and people. She is currently seeking internship at a major Film production company over this summer! Her favorite film this year is El Futuro Perfecto.

Sheril Christoper // Event Coordinator

Sheril is a sophomore Tepper Business student and a member of the Development and Event Coordination committees in the festival. This is Sheril’s first year at the film festival and she has enjoyed every part of it. She especially liked co-coordinating the Sneak Preview event for the Indian film “The Interrogation”, interacting with the festival team members, and connecting with various parts of the PIttsburgh community that she normally would not meet. Sheril plans to be a part of the festival for the rest of her college years. Outside of the festival, she enjoys watching soccer (Hala Madrid!) and learning languages. Her dream is to be fluent in 5+ languages and end up working and living in Madrid, Spain. El Futuro Perfecto is Sheril’s favorite film of the festival.

Jeffrey Diep // Photographer

Jeffrey is currently a freshmen in the Tepper School of Business. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, watching anime, and running. Jeffrey joined CMU’s International Film Festival in order to explore his more creative side by capturing important moments during the film festival and to learn more about film as a medium for communication. His future goals after the festival include working with other organizations both within CMU and in Pittsburgh in order to further pursue his passion for photography. 21 x New York is his favorite festival film this year.

Jay Einhorn // Einhorn Media Group Director

Jay Einhorn, a CMU alumnus, founded Einhorn Media Group (EMG) over 25 years ago and has since built up a firm that pulls in clients as diverse as BP Oil and US Steel. EMG is a Pittsburgh-based agency with strong roots in graphic design that has evolved to provide specialized services in corporate identity, print design, motion graphics, and web design. Jay leads the aesthetic direction and concept development of each and every project at EMG. He and his staff have partnered with the festival since its inception and have provided professional guidance in the creation of the festival’s identity and promotional materials, which set the language for the visual ‘face’ of each festival. www.einhornmediagroup.com

Devon Forward // Photographer & Event Coordinator

Devon is a Senior in Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, with a minor in History. She joined the International Film Festival to learn more about the film industry and planning film events, and for the festival she works as a Photographer, as well as on the Design, Programming and Event Committees. With this experience, she has gained substantial knowledge about event planning and indie film festivals, acquiring an appreciation for all the work these teams have to do. Devon has always been inspired by film, television, and other art, and her creative side has always shaped her choices and goals in life. After the festival, she plans to graduate from Pitt, and either stay in Pittsburgh or move to New York City to pursue a career in editing and postproduction for film and television. I, Olga Hepnarová is Devon’s favorite festival film.

Peter Geyer // Head of Development & Event Coordinator

Peter Geyer is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University studying Business. He is from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania (Taylor Swift’s hometown) and part of CMU’s Varsity Track & Field. All his life, he’s loved film; every step in a film’s creation interests him. So when he saw the opportunity to intern with the CMU IFF, he could not turn it down. In his position as Head of Development, his creativity and professional skills are consistently challenged. Being exposed to all the unique films made him feel more love towards the art of filmmaking. And while thinking about this year’s theme, he has seen film play an even greater role in shaping his identity. He finds himself thinking about and discussing film every day, which is good because he hopes to combine his love of film with his studies of business as a career. His favorite film of this year’s season is 21 x New York.

Tejashree Gharat // Webmaster & Event Coordinator

Tejashree considers herself a full time Poet and a part-time programmer. She is a Master of Science student in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. Her responsibilities include working on the website and its design. She is also an Event-Coordination intern who started her journey in CMU IFF by coordinating the very first Film Sneak Preview Event of the season for the movie “The Interrogation” which is an Indian Film selected for the Academy Awards. She believes that the CMU International Film Festival is a collective effort of the students at CMU to bring together everyone in an artistic way and understand each other’s perspective if not level entirely with their beginnings, journey and identity. She will remain aboard the event coordination train with the upcoming films that will be screened from March through April while making sure that she tends to the updates and refactoring of the website. Her favorite film this year is Marie Curie: the Courage of Knowledge.

Max Harlynking // Festival Trailer Filmmaker

Max Harlynking is a Senior Information Systems and Human-Computer Interaction Major with a passion for filmmaking and visual effects. Max is currently the President of the Carnegie Mellon Film Club and actively tries to be a part of as many film projects as he can fit in his schedule. For the last three years, Max has created the CMU IFF’s official trailer to promote each season’s annual theme.

Ariel Hoffmaier // Event Coordinator

Ariel is a Carnegie Mellon senior majoring in Creative Writing and Ethics, History, & Public Policy (EHPP). She joined CMU IFF because she wants to further explore a recently discovered passion for filmmaking. Ariel leaped at the chance to promote impactful, socially conscious films from around the world while also building a diverse skill-set in the many tasks that make a film festival happen. Currently, she is on the programming and marketing committee, helping to plan events and using her writing skills wherever needed. One thing that has shaped her identity was growing up in New York City, which fueled her love for art and diversity. After the festival, she plans to graduate and get a job in either publishing, non-profit communications, or film production. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is Ariel’s favorite film this season.

Elaine Kim // Design & Marketing Coordinator

Growing up as a Korean Canadian in Victoria, BC, Canada, Elaine learnt to appreciate the roles of her multi-cultural upbringing and hometown in realizing her identity. As a sophomore studying business with a minor in French studies, she is passionate about internationalism and the arts. Her favourite part of the festival has been the ability to see the variety in similarities and differences amongst the international perspectives on identity. She is working with the marketing committee and coordinating merchandise. Elaine especially enjoys how working with IFF has been able to provide an aspect of the arts in an otherwise heavily technical college. Her favorite film this festival season is When Two Worlds Collide.

Jonathan Kunitsky // Event Coordinator & Short Film Competition Coordinator

Having been born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Jonathan is brand new to the city of Pittsburgh. He is currently a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, intending to study English Literature and Communications. This is his first year working for the CMU International Film Festival and he is loving every minute of it. His favorite festival film this year is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

Kat Landry // Event & Logistics Coordinator

Kat Landry is a junior stage and production manager in the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. Her main areas of work are theatre, events, and themed entertainment. Each of these industries has given her wild challenges; whether she’s managing athletes at an Extreme Pogo World Championship in Philadelphia, or knocking down a wall of Pepsi boxes in an off-site warehouse for a Drama performance, or building a motion simulator ride in a classroom on a $0 budget… she’s always having fun. Her most recent wild challenge is the IFF. This is her first year as an event coordinator with the festival, and she could not be more pleased to be a part of it. She is consistently impressed by the dedication this team shows to shedding light on the stories of others and hopes that we are all able to inspire a little empathy in the hearts of those who visit us.

Roderick Luo // Head of Short Film Competition

Majoring in Entertainment Industry Management, Roderick Luo is the first year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the kind of guy who will go to cinema and watch the films he loves for more than 3 times, who still purchases physical CDs regularly and who prefers physical books to Kindle. As the head coordinator of the Short Film Competition, he is fascinated by the creativity and freedom and has leant a lot by taking part in this festival. He loves the people he met here. After the festival, Roderick will start his summer internship at 70th Cannes Film Festival in France. This August, he will move to Los Angeles to start his second year of the master program. The job he hopes to obtain upon graduation would be as a producer’s assistant.

Frank Magasich // Short Film Competition Coordinator

Frank is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Entertainment Industry Management. Outside of school he loves to watch movies, play sports, and drink cheap beer with his friends. Frank joined CMU’s International Film Festival because he loves film and feels as though the medium of film provides the perfect canvas to explore the marvels of diverse cultures. After the festival, Frank will be preparing to move to Los Angeles where he will be interning at a talent agency in Beverly Hills.

Twesha Mitra // Webmaster

Twesha, a student at the University of Pittsburgh is pursuing degrees in Computer Science and Economics. She is excited to combine her technical and creative skills as she takes on the role of web developer for the festival this year. She is looking forward to bringing The Eagle Huntress to Pittsburgh this year. Outside of her academic interests, she trains in classical Indian Dance, mentors for Strong Women Strong Girls, runs half marathons, and dabbles in photography

Elisa Ogot // Event & Marketing Coordinator

Elisa Ogot is a senior writing major at the University of Pittsburgh. Having two Kenyan-born parents, she can personally relate to this year’s theme of identity. Elisa joined the CMU IFF team because the festival is the perfect intersection of film and marketing/promotion which are two areas which really capture her interest. She serves on the marketing committee where her focus is on the non-CMU areas of Pittsburgh. While working in this festival, Elisa has enjoyed getting to see and talk about different films from all over the world and figuring out new and creative ways to promote those films. As for what’s next, Elisa is attempting to use what she’s learned at the CMU IFF to get an internship working at the Telluride Film Festival in Telluride, CO.

Marion Robertson // Event Coordinator

Marion is a dual citizen of the U.K. and U.S.A. and is lucky to have been able to explore opportunities in both countries. After she completed her undergraduate degree in Finance at Texas State University, Marion returned to London where she worked for Sky Media and Sony ATV before moving back to America to pursue this degree. Marion joined the IFF because she is passionate about film and wanted to help create this dynamic and influential festival. She has enjoyed working with such a diverse and fantastic group of people, each with unique backgrounds which allows for so many different ideas and contributions to the festival. After this festival, Marion will intern at Cannes Film Festival this May before moving to L.A. to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

Lilian Sheng // Event Coordinator & Chinese Component Coordinator

Lillian Sheng is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. She is a member of the Development and Event Planning committees. She joined CMU IFF because she believed the organization, being established this year as an official student organization, would bring in more social activism and raise political and humanitarian crises awareness to the campus. Lillian is constantly learning communication skills through reaching out to professions in various fields and exposing herself to professional skills through developing a budget plan as well as a proposal grant for sponsorships. Lillian plans on continuing her passion for film through engaging herself in more film discoveries and questioning the meaning behind each movie. She also hopes to maintain communication with the team, as it is the members as well as the head coordinators that motivate her to work her best. El Futuro Perfecto is her favorite film in this year’s lineup.

David Shumway // Humanities Center Director

David Shumway is the Director of the Humanities Center at CMU and founder of the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival. He is also a Professor of English and Literary and Cultural Studies at CMU. His special interests in American culture include film, popular music, and late nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction. He is the author of Michel Foucault, Creating American Civilization: A Genealogy of American Literature as an Academic Discipline, Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis, John Sayles, and Rock Star: The Making of Cultural Icons from Elvis to Springsteen. His next project will concern realism across media in the U. S. during the 20th century, and an investigation of status as distinct from class in contemporary society.

Lesley Smith // Event Coordinator

Lesley is a senior at Pitt double majoring in Film Studies and English Writing. As an aspiring filmmaker, she wanted to figure out what role she would play in the entertainment industry and more importantly how she could give back. With the skills she learned after four years at Pitt, she was ready to contribute to the independent film circuit, which is why she joined CMU IFF. She is a part of the Programming committee where she helps decide which films will be used and how to present them. Her main responsibilities are: the writing elements of the festival and the program booklets design and construction. She has enjoyed working with other members of the festival, who with a diverse background have shown her different ways of looking at film. The festival has opened up her understanding of identity and the importance of your own choice. After graduation she plans to begin working right away, and hopes to one day bring a script to life whether through late-night TV or the big screen.

Karena Zhang // Head of Marketing & PR

Karena Zhang is the Marketing and Personal Relations Director of the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival, a member of the Varsity Women’s Tennis Team, and a First-Year undergraduate business student in the Tepper School of Business. This is Karena’s first year working with the CMU IFF and she intends to make a huge impact with the CMU community through her leadership in heading the festival’s marketing initiatives. Karena has ambitions to work in the Business Fashion and Luxury Management industry, working around the world to do research about how to better market luxury products (particularly high-fashion goods) to cater to the specific demographic. When not in Hunt Library, Karena is participating in some sports-related activity or volunteering around the Pittsburgh community. Her favorite film this season is 21 x New York.

Louise Zhang // Festival Filmmaker, Event Coordinator & Short Film Competition Coordinator

21. Chinese. Female. Tartan. Computer Scientist. Filmmaker. French speaker. Cinema dweller. Boxer. Writer. Music illiterate. Political incorrect. Existentialist. Diehard romantic. Dreamt to be a truck driver. Kangaroos. Cliché. Hate labels. But just labeled herself.

Dave Robinson // Event Coordinator

Kate Tsai // Event Coordinator