AFRIFF Jury Profiles

 
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Danna Stern

Producer, Global Content Executive

Tel Aviv born, Berlin based, Stern is a seasoned executive producer working across borders, genres and formats.

As the founder of the Israeli based yes Studios, Stern created a distribution and development content powerhouse, focused on delivering premium content for international platforms.

She has been credited with helping bring Israeli content to global audiences and is responsible for the successful launches of numerous titles including “Fauda", "Shtisel", “The Devil Next Door”, “On the Spectrum", "The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem" etc,

In addition she has spearheaded dozens of adaptations of Israeli formats in multiple territories among them: “Your Honor" (originally ‘Kvodo”) which has become one the bestselling scripted global formats of recent years; the multiple award winning series "On the Spectrum" (as Amazon Prime Video “As We See It”), “68 Whiskey” (Paramount +) , “The Good Cop” (Netflix), “Significant Other” (ITV), “Fauda” ( as “Tabaav” on SonyLiv),  etc..

Stern has been selected twice as one of Variety Magazine’s “Top 500 Global Media Leaders”.

She is a journalist by trade with extensive content development and production experience as well as acute business acumen.  She holds a BA in English Literature from Tel-Aviv University and an MBA from Kellogg-Recanati.

 
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Femi Odugbemi

Femi Odugbemi is a filmmaker and TV Producer. He is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and has served as a four-time Head Judge of the prestigious Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA).

 

He has also been a Juror of the Emmy Awards, 3-time Head of Jury of the Uganda Film Festival, a Juror of the Johannesburg International Film Festival South Africa, and recently a Juror/Mentor of the NETFLIX/UNESCO African Folktales Reimagined project.

He was the pioneer Academy Director of the Multichoice Talent Factory West Africa (2018-2022). Odugbemi is Co-founder/Director of the iRepresent International Documentary Film Festival.

 

The Festival has pursued with vigour its theme of “Africa in self-conversation” by championing films and stories from Africa, about Africa and by Africans. As Executive Producer/CEO of Zuri24 Media Lagos,

 

Femi has brought to screen some of Africa’s favourite series on television including the longest running soap-opera in Nigeria ‘TINSEL’(2008), the telenovela ‘BATTLEGROUND’(2016) the crime series ‘BRETHREN’(2018) and his more recent short series ‘MOVEMENT: JAPA’(2021) He is currently working on bringing to screen the prison memoirs of a literature Nobel laureate.

 
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Steve Gukas

Steve is a multi-platform producer/director with experience spanning Television, Radio, Theatre, Advertising and Film. Steve obtained a Diploma in TV Production from the NTA Television College in Jos, then went on to read Theatre Arts at the University of Jos from where he graduated with a BA. He is also an alumnus of the prestigious London Film School.

 

Steve is the producer of Namibia – The Struggle For Liberation” the film starring Danny Glover and Carl Lumbly premiered at the 2006 Pan African Film Festival in L.A and has

gone on to win many awards. His other credits as producer/director include, “Keeping Faith” “A  Place In The Stars”.

 

In 2015 Steve Co-Produced and Directed 93Days a feature film about the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and has also screened at many other international film festivals. The film Has won several awards locally and internationally. This was followed by producing "Living In Bondage: Breaking Free", a sequel to the the industry defining film Living In Bondage. The film which stars Ramsey Nouah, Jidekene Achufusi, Kenneth Okwonko and Munachi Abi, went on to win several awards. 

 

Natives Filmworks, his production company is currently producing a slate of twelve films with first time feature filmmakers for whom it has provided training and mentorship. A number of these have completed production and are in Post Production, while others are in various stages of preproduction and production. 

 

Steve is also in pre-production for a Nigeria/South Africa co-production, which he is directing and Co-Producing. 

Having been actively Involved in the production, marketing, promotion and distribution of over 4 

films both Locally and internationally. Steve’s experience stand him in good stead 

When it comes to both production and distribution.

 

Steve is founder/CEO of Natives Filmworks Limited, a production company with offices in the UK and Abuja.

 
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Michel Zgarka

Michel Zgarka is an experienced executive with a successful career of over 35 years in the productions, communications, marketing, financial engineering and business development fields.

 

He is highly skilled in strategic and creative planning, marketing and personnel management for the media industry. Mr. Zgarka has produced, directed and distributed numerous film and television productions for the international marketplace, including “GUMMYBAR” which garnered over 6 billion views on YouTube.

 

He has been a guest speaker at over 50 international entertainment industries events as well as the Delegate general of the Montreal Israeli Film Festival whose celebrating its 13th year anniversary in 2018. He is persuasive and possesses excellent communication skills that help build strong relationships.

 

Mr. Zgarka holds a B. ED. (McGill University), B.A. (Concordia University) & a Master in International Communications (University of Nice).

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Wafa'a Halawi

Wafa’a is a Lebanese/French actress, writer and filmmaker. Having moved a lot in her childhood, she starts acting at age 5 and falls in love with theatre, where she finds a home.

 

In Lebanon, she joins the dance-theatre company Maqamat in 2001 and performs internationally. She also gets cast to act in Khalil Gibran’s play The Blind and various series by Elie Adabachi and Marwan Najjar.


In parallel, she gets a B.A. in Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut then pursues her Masters in Film at University College in London, and a Filmmaking diploma at the New York Film Academy while directing narrative shorts and dance films that screened in various festivals around the world.

 

She also develops the feature fiction script Cello that wins international screenwriting prizes.
Wafa’a just completed filming in the Amazon, where she played the lead role in Brazilian director Marcelo Gomes’ new feature film.


Shortly before that, she performed in Lebanese feature films: Morine (Tony Farjallah), A Petty Bourgeois Dream (Mazen Khaled), In the Name of Tomorrow (Celine Abiad), as well as in the German/Lebanese co-production Lilacs (avant-premiere at Berlin Film Festival). She was also cast the in the pan-Arab MBC series Aroos Beirut, as well as Karma (MTV).


In addition to teaching film at LAU from 2008 to 2018, Wafa’a is also the director of the Lebanese Film Festival since 2015.

 
 
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Nicolas Weinstock

Nicky Weinstock is the founder and president of Invention Studios, an independent creative production company developing a wide range of features and television series for both major American and international platforms.


Weinstock began his career in New York City as an editor at Random House and Riverhead Books, and then as the author of a nonfiction book and two novels, before moving to Los Angeles to develop series at 20th Century Fox Television. He went on to run Apatow Productions with writer/director Judd Apatow, where he produced movies including Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Get Him to the
Greek and Bridesmaids. He then helped launch the production company Chernin
Entertainment alongside Peter Chernin; and for the past six years was partnered with
actor/director Ben Stiller and served as the creative head of their company Red Hour
Films.

 

In 2022 he launched his own company, Invention Studios – powered by a first-look financing deal with Fremantle on the television side and a robust slate of theatrical, streaming and independent features on the movie side.


Most recently Weinstock developed and produced the Showtime limited series Escape at Dannemora, which was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards; the hit series In the Dark, which ran for four seasons on Netflix; the movies Alex Strangelove, The Package, Plus One and Queenpins; and the Emmy Award-winning Apple+ series Severance, which he continues to executive produce.
 

Weinstock is also the founder of Craft Services, an online support system for new screenwriters and emerging directors around the world. With more than 300 members in more than 20 countries – including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England, Italy, Germany, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi and beyond – Craft Services provides a revolutionary on-ramp to the global entertainment business regardless of geography,
economics, or previous connections or experience.

 

Weinstock’s company, Invention Studios, is currently producing movies and series with Fremantle, Paramount, HBO Max, CBS Studios, Endeavor Content, Amazon, Amblin, Apple+, Film One in Nigeria, and other studios and networks across the globe. Staffed by creative executives from Uganda, India and Romania as well as New York and Ohio, the company is devoted to groundbreaking projects and bold storytelling that represents the widest and deepest possible human experience.

 
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Kunle Afolayan

Kunle Afolayan is a multi-award winning Nigerian filmmaker.

Ace movie Producer/Director, Adekunle Ayodeji Afolayan is one of Nigeria’s foremost “2nd generation filmmaker “and son of the highly respected Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade-Love), a passionate theatre artist who co-pioneered the movement from travelling theatre to the celluloid film format as introduced by Ola Balogun.

 

Having trained as a Business Administrator, and with a career in Banking, Kunle was cast into Tunde Kelani’s multiple award-winning movies Saworoide, earning him the first accolades and first appearance in the industry. In his commitment to self - improvement and professional excellence,

 

Kunle enrolled at the New York Film Academy in 2005 and thereafter began to shoot short feature pieces. His first full-length movie, Irapada, gave credence to the unique ability and versatility, Kunle has shown great tenacity by paying great attention to details, giving creative interpretation to the issues of life, problems of the society; and by the almost-uncanny ability to bring his subject to life on film.

 

The works of Kunle Afolayan has garnered acclaim and set box office records to unprecedented proportions.

 

In the past 16 years, Kunle Afolayan has gone to produce successful and widely acclaimed feature films, namely; Irapada (Redemption), The Figurine (Araromire), Phone Swap, October 1, The C.E.O, and the Africa Magic commissioned trio (Omugwo, Roti, The Tribunal). He went further to produce Mokalik in 2019 and Citation (A Netflix Original) in 2020.

 

In 2021, Kunle Afolayan signed a 3- slate deal in partnership with Netflix to produce three movies, where two has been produced; Swallow and Anikulapo with the third movie yet to be produced. He was commissioned in 2021 to produce A Netflix Original Movie- A Naija Christmas (this is asides his 3-slate deal with Netflix). Most of his movies have been featured and showcased variously at international film festivals across the globe.

 

Presently, his most recent film, Anikulapo is doing well globally and is the rave of the moment on all social media platforms.

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Syrinthia Studer

Syrinthia Studer is Executive Vice President, Worldwide Acquisitions, Paramount Pictures

Syrinthia Studer serves as Executive Vice President of Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures. She is responsible for acquiring films for theatrical release, as well as for worldwide distribution across multiple platforms. Among her recent acquisitions are the breakout comedy Book Club starring Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen, and the action-packed caper Overdrive, starring Scott Eastwood.

Studer previously held the position of Senior Vice President of Marketing and Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures’ Worldwide Home Media and TV Licensing divisions, where she launched and managed the studio’s efforts focused on ancillary-driven acquisitions, overseeing the negotiation and acquisition of groundbreaking domestic and international films. She was responsible for a multi-picture relationship with IFC Films that included the home media release of the award-winning feature film Boyhood, film festival favorites The Intervention, Goat, A.C.O.D, Ashby and Love, Rosie, and numerous internationally distributed features, including Academy Award®-winner Spotlight, for select territories. She additionally oversaw home entertainment marketing efforts on behalf of Paramount’s network and cable brand partners including CBS, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET and Showtime.

Prior to Paramount, Studer served as Vice President, Strategic Marketing for Loews Cineplex Entertainment, where she set the strategic vision for the theater chain’s domestic new business development unit and oversaw all ad sales relationships and revenue-generating promotions for the company. Her career also included business development and promotional marketing roles with Fortune 500 companies, including General Mills and IBM.

Studer holds a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University.

 
 
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Jenny Alonzo

A dynamic, proven leader in content development & production, marketing, multicultural markets, and corporate media strategies/operations, Jenny Alonzo has worked on some of the strongest brands including NBC, BET, Turner, IBM, FUSE, AFV, and The Wall Street Journal. A member of the executive team that launched Lifetime Television and its groundbreaking positioning of Television for Woman, Alonzo held multiple leadership roles including Senior Vice President of Production & Inventory Strategies, leading a team of 70+ that supported all marketing and creative services efforts for three networks, digital platforms, and multiple franchises. She was also part of the leadership that launched numerous franchises including the award-winning Intimate Portrait series, the iconic and award-winning Lifetime Original Movies franchise, plus two brand extensions — sister networks LMN and LRW.


From 2012 through 2013, Alonzo served as CMO and special consultant at NUVO, overseeing the launch of the strategic partnership with Jennifer Lopez which set the stage for the acquisition of FUSE.


Alonzo has been featured in Broadcasting & Cable, The New York Times, Diversity Inc., and Black Enterprise. She was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine and received the distinction of being ranked No. 13 on CableFAX Magazine’s CableFAX 100 list. In the same year, she was honored by Multichannel News with the highly coveted Wonder Woman Award and has been the recipient of numerous awards including PROMAX/BDA for creative excellence in show packaging, image, and branding campaigns.

 

Alonzo has served two terms with the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age, chaired the Sub-Committee for Career Advancement, and led the creation of a Best of the Best Practices Report on Career Advancement for the FCC. Alonzo served as the first Latina Chairwoman of the Board for the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). She also served on the Advisory Council for Premier Automotive Group (Land Rover, Volvo, Jaguas, Aston Martin), three terms as a board member of the National Board of Directors of Girls Scouts USA and is a past Chair of The Nielsen Company's Hispanic Latino Advisory Council. She serves on St. John's University’s Board of Governors. Alonzo executive produced two feature films — The Men In My Life, inspired by the life of Rochelle Aytes of White Chicks, ABC’s Mistresses, and currently on CBS’ S.W.A.T; and American Cherry, a coming-of-age feature film starring Hart Denton of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and CW’s Riverdale. American Cherry has won multiple regional film festivals.


In 2021, Alonzo served as the Creative Director for the Africa International Film Festival
(AFRIFF) in Lagos, Nigeria. Alonzo is currently consulting on a lifestyle digital brand focused on travel and a healthy eating brand addressing food shortage in America. She continues to work with investors, writers, and producers to identify, package, and develop content for global ecosystems.