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Narrative Features: Jury Members

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Narrative Features: Jury Member

Lara Morgan

Lara is an Austin-based filmmaker and film fan. During her time working at the Austin Film Society, she worked with festivals such as Indie Meme, Austin Asian American Film Festival, Cine Las Americas, and Austin Polish Film Festival. She has worked with SXSW over the years in several different capacities: as a QC team member, a projectionist, and as a film screener. 


In addition to exhibiting film, she has worked on Austin projects such as NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY, which premiered at Sundance, ALSO STARRING AUSTIN, which played at Austin Film Festival and Dallas International Film Festival, and most recently Richard Linklater’s APOLLO 10 1/2, which is currently in post-production.


Narrative Features: Jury Member


Chithra makes intimate documentaries about identity, human relationships, race, art, and health. A failed attempt to fund a film in India led her to quit a decade-long career as a Physical Therapist and get an MFA in film. Her documentary work is supported by BGDM Sustainability Grant, Jerome Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, New York State Council for the Arts, BAVC Media Maker Fellowship, Made in New York Fellowship, American Institute for Indian Studies, Lancet, Dance Films Association, and pitched at competitive industry events like the IFP project forum and Sheffield Meet Market. In the near future, she hopes to direct narrative features and fantastical episodic content. She is an avid runner and has completed 14 marathons. Food is her first love.


Her current WIP is OUR DAUGHTERS, a feature documentary that provides a rarely seen look at adoption in America through an immigrant lens. A South Asian woman desperate for motherhood and a single white mother seeking a home for her twins cross paths unexpectedly. Through open adoption, both take big risks and make surprising choices for their daughters.

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Narrative Features: Jury Member


Bijan Tehrani is president and founder of Cinema Without Borders Foundation and Editor in Chief of Cinema Without Borders & CineEqul, two online publications dedicated to international and social justice cinema. Bijan has been an award-winning writer and film director that has also received multiple awards for his services for promoting international cinema in the US and around the globe.


During the last half of the century Bijan has been a member of numerous international film festivals. He has also organized several film festivals and recently he has been the Director of ELAC International Animation Day Festival, that in April 2021 will hold its 7th edition.  Bijan also founded Bridging The Borders Award fourteen years ago, that has been given to a film that helps to bring people of the world closer together, in eight festivals around the world.

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Documentary: Jury Members

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Documentary: Jury Member


Marisa Mirabal is a native Texan with a passion for film and business. She applies her love for local business and free press by working full-time as an advertising account executive at The Austin Chronicle. She is also a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic providing festival coverage during Fantastic Fest, SXSW, Austin Film Festival, MondoCon, and Texas Frightmare Weekend. Her film analysis is geared towards amplifying marginalized voices, maverick filmmaking techniques and the exploration of taboo subject matter through thematic storytelling. Marisa's work has been published by Birth.Movies.Death., /Film, Collider, The Austin Chronicle, Eater Austin, and Fangoria.


She served on the Documentary Jury for the Austin Asian American Film Festival and became a board member for Women in Film and Television International's Austin chapter in 2019. The next year, Marisa was inducted into the Austin Film Critics Association. She also spends time as a co-host on Black Magic Coven, an all-female podcast that covers genre films, folklore, and true crime.

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Documentary: Jury Member


Karen Kocher is a documentary media producer and the creator of Living Springs an on-going, multi-platform documentary series chronicling the history, science and culture of Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer. Living Springs’ home base is the interactive theater at the Beverly S. Sheffield Education Center at Barton Springs. The Living Spring series has been viewed by more than 30,000 households on KLRU. Living Springs can also be seen on  its dedicated website. In 2020 Karen was awarded the “Art in Service of the Environment” award from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.


Her most recent film, Origins of a Green Identity, explores the rise of Austin’s environmental ethic in the years 1950-1970. Her new, interactive exhibit, Barton Creek Time Stream: a celebration of 50+ years of stewardship opens at the Beverly Sheffield Education Center in Fall 2021. 


In 2006 Kocher completed Austin Past and Present, Austin’s first interactive digital history that was housed in kiosks in local buildings and integrated into seven grade levels in the Austin Independent School District. Karen hopes to raise funds to create a website based on the original DVD-ROM in the near future. All funds from the sales of the original DVD-ROM were donated to the Austin History Center Association. Karen’s work on Austin Past and Present was honored with the 2003 Katherine Drake Hart award from the Austin History Center Association.


Karen is an Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Radio-TV-Film where she has taught since 1998.

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Shorts Program: Jury Members

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Narrative Features: Jury Member


Jing Yang is a film director and film festival programmer. Jing received her MFA in film production at The University of Texas at Austin. Her documentary and narrative short films have screened and won awards at a number of festivals, including Austin Film Festival, Lone Star Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, DC Chinese Film Festival, Chick Flicks Festival, etc. Her short comedy MY SUPER VALENTINE (2013) was screened in the US and Europe as an official selection for Women in Film and TV International Showcase. Jing was a key member of the team that revived Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF) in 2014, and has served as a programmer focusing on documentary feature films and served as the festival director from 2018 to 2019. 

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Narrative Features: Jury Member


Chaya Rao is a multi-faceted personality. She is a a long time film buff, critic and reviewer.  Chaya Rao is also a documentary film maker and has created an acclaimed Travel & Food series on India called Masala Yatra and she has a great fan following. She has been the creator of  several theater and stage productions. She is also a music, culture food, & travel enthusiast and has made several short films/videos on these topics.  Chaya is fluent in many languages and has vast exposure to world films and various genres. Her articulation (in speaking & writing) on all these subjects is intellectual, engaging and fun!

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Narrative Features: Jury Member


Ananth Agastya, based out of Dallas, Texas, is an avid lover of cinema. He immersed himself in filmmaking after one-on-one writing tutorials from an Oscar winner. By collaborating with artists from various disciplines and backgrounds, Ananth hopes to work on all genres of film to bring to light, matters that are rarely a part of our current discourse.For his debut effort, Ananth created a short war film, set in an unknown enemy land. Ananth found the collaborative journey of filmmaking thrilling and gratifying, and hopes the audience find the short film engaging.

Ananth continues to develop entertaining yet provocative projects while working as a full-time IT Team Lead at a Fortune 10 company. 

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