Youth Jury

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Milena Salazar

Milena Salazar was born in San José, Costa Rica. After spending the last few years doing internships for film festivals, volunteering in a media arts centre and organizing a documentary screening group in UBC, she developed a passion for contemporary film culture. She recently completed her first short film, Theatrical Release, and is developing two other documentary projects to shoot in Costa Rica in the upcoming months. She has a soft spot for all forms of creative non-fiction and is especially interested in issues of memory, identity and visual culture.

Abbas Pardawalla

Hailing all the way from Pakistan and landing in Vancouver four years ago to study economics and film studies, Abbas is looking to graduate by next year and to take the job industry by storm. A huge cinephile who spends his time watching movies and listening to mostly old school and underground hip hop, his aim in life is to make every person he meets laugh at least once and live life to its fullest, on the code of “FISH.” To everyone reading this, I hope you’re all doing well, and living an awesome life.

Omar Linares

Originally from Mexico, Omar Linares undertook some studies in rural sociology before coming to Vancouver to pursue animation at Emily Carr University; he later switched to the Cultural and Critical Practices major where he continued pursuing his interests in animated motion pictures and documentaries, but on a theoretical level. Other interests include Latin American literature, philosophy and the arts in general, and their intersection with social change.

Sonia Medel

Sonia Medel was born in Vancouver to Peruvian-Chilean parents and fell in love with Latin American cinema in high school, thanks to her VLAFF enthusiast Mexican godmother. Her passions include working with Latin American youth in Vancouver to learn about their conceptualizations of a Latina/o-Canadian identity; running with the dog; all types of Latin dancing; and developing AfroVibras Perú, the Afro-Peruvian dance group she co-founded. Currently she is finishing her MA degree in the UBC Department of Educational Studies. Her thesis addresses the impact of Afro-Peruvian anti-racist activism on the enactment of a participatory radical democratic citizenship in Peru.

Paloma Pacheco

Paloma was born and raised in Vancouver, but her heart has always pulled her further south. She studied literature and international relations at the University of British Columbia; since graduating, she has lived and worked in Spain and plans to move to Mexico at the first opportunity. She is passionate about all things film, literature and language-related, and is interested in issues of personal and cultural memory and identity, social justice and the power of art to relate both intimate and global human experiences. She currently works for a Vancouver non-profit that assists immigrants and refugees in finding employment in the city.

Ahmad Salaj

Ahmad was born into a large family in the south of Iran. From an early age, he realized that his passion lay in writing and photography. He entered the Tehran University of Art to study Urban Planning. While studying, he started to write theatre scripts and became an assistant director on several plays. For an international student festival in Tehran, he directed a script that was subsequently banned because of the state censorship. From that time, he became a human rights activist and a photojournalist. After the Iranian Green Movement in 2009, he was expelled from his university for his political activities. Eventually, he had to leave Iran, go to Turkey for his refugee status and come to Canada. He arrived in Vancouver in February 2013 to start a new life. Ahmad works part-time and spends much of his free time writing.

Nahannee-fé Schuitemaker

Nahannee-fé Schuitemaker is a recent graduate from UBC. She was introduced to Spanish in her late teens but only began to seriously study the language when she entered her post-secondary education. She decided that learning within a classroom was not enough and moved temporarily to the Dominican Republic to become immersed in the language and vibrant culture of the country. Not only did this experience help improve her use of Spanish, but she also had the opportunity to learn first-hand the differences in colloquialisms that make the language unique to different Latin American countries. With this being the first year that she will not be in class, Nahannee is really excited to finally have free time to enjoy VLAFF and to participate as a youth jury member!

Natalia Moguel

Natalia Moguel was born in Mexico in 1983. She is currently a student at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC) in Mexico City, specializing in Film Directing. In addition, she has studied at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC) and Escuela Activa de Fotografía. Currently she is finishing her first documentary and working on the screenplay of her next short film. She has directed more than 10 short films including: Carlton Hotel (2011), Sara and Sebastian (2011) and The Date (2010). Her most recent short, La otra orilla (The Other Side), is part of the official selection at VLAFF 2013.

Luis Ernesto Doñas

Luis Ernesto Doñas is a Cuban film student who recently graduated with a specialization in Directing from the highly acclaimed Cuban film school in San Antonio de los Baños. He also holds a degree in art from the Art Institute of Havana. He has worked as an editor on a number of films, and he directed the documentaries To Awaked From A Dream and Break the Ice., as well the short films To Live is To Live, Cassette #1, Oslo and The Trout.