The Lower East Side Film Festival is thrilled to bring a panel of judges for the 2018 competition that represent the bold and the fearless spirit of independent filmmaking.



Rosario Dawson is an actress, producer, singer, comic book writer, and political activist. She made her feature film debut in the 1995 independent drama Kids. Her subsequent film roles include He Got Game (1998), Josie and the Pussycats (2001), Men in Black II (2002), 25th Hour (2005), Rent (2005), Sin City (2005), Death Proof (2007), Seven Pounds (2008), Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), Unstoppable (2010), and Top Five (2014). 

For her role in Rent, she won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture; for her role in Top Five, she was nominated for the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress in a Comedy.

She currently portrays Claire Temple in five of the Marvel/Netflix shows: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders.



AJAY NAIDU recently completed production on The Kindergarten Teacher opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gael Garcia Bernal, which is set to premiere Netflix in winter 2018. Other film credits include cult classic Office Space, Richard Linklater’s SubUrbia (independent Spirit Award nomination), Bad Santa, Scary Movie 3, Hotel For Dogs, The Accidental Tourist, The Wrestler, The Honeymooners, The Guru, Hannibal, Requim For A Dream, Chutney Popcorn, and Pi. In 2006, Naidu directed his first feature film Ashes which had its release in 2010 and for which he won Best Actor accolades from the New York Indian Film Festival in New York and the London Asian Film Festival. Naidu's first professional acting job was the film Touch and Go (released in 1986) which he won from an open call.

Television include “Blindspot”, “Friends From College”, “Odd Mom Out”, “Deadbeat,” “Bored to Death,” “30 Rock,” “West Wing,” “Lateline”,“The Sopranos” and MTV India’s “The Ajay Show”. As an emcee vocals include Talvin Singhs Mercury award winner "OK.”

Theatre includes The Kid Stays In The Picture (Royal Court), Indian Ink (Roundabout), Master and Margarita and Measure for Measure (Theatre Complicite), Little Flower of East Orange alongside Ellyn Burstyn directed by Phillp Seymour Hoffman (Public Theatre) Darwaza (solo performance, Labrynth). The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui alongside Al Pacino, directed by Simon McBurney. In 2001 Naidu's solo theatre piece Darwaza was a sold-out hit at New York's Labrynth Theatre.



Heather Burns film credits include “Manchester by the Sea,” “Brave New Jersey,” “Fitzgerald Family Christmas,” “What’s your Number?,” “Ashes,””Breaking Upwards,””Choke,””Miss Congeniality,””Miss Congeniality 2,””Bewitched,””The Groomsmen,” “Two Weeks Notice,” and “You’ve got Mail.”

Her most recent television credits include “Sneaky Pete,””Blindspot,” and as Leah on “Bored to Death.”

She is currently performing in the New Group production of “Peace for Mary Francis.” Her other theatre credits include “The Kid Stays in the Picture” (Royal Court), “Dinner with Friends” (Roundabout Theatre Company), “Medieval Play” (Signature Theatre), “Middletown” (Vineyard Theatre), “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” (Roundabout Theatre Company), “Fran’s Bed” (Playwrights Horizons), “Writer’s Block” (Atlantic Theater Company), “Lobby Hero” (Playwrights Horizons, John Houseman Theater), and “This is our Youth” (West End).


After studying filmmaking with Leslie Thornton at Brown University, and French New Wave director Eric Rohmer at The University of Paris-Michelet, Sam Levy began his professional career as an apprentice to cinematographer Harris Savides.

Sam first gained recognition as a cinematographer in his own right when he photographed Wendy and Lucy for director Kelly Reichardt - voted one of the “Best 25 Films of the 21st Century” by The New York Times.

Sam went on to shoot three films for director Noah Baumbach: Frances Ha, Mistress America and While We’re Young.

Sam’s recent films include Lady Bird - nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture - as well as two projects for director Spike Jonze: Changers and Untitled Frank Ocean Project.



Matt FX is many things, but most of all, he is damn busy. A born-and-raised New Yorker who is best known as the music supervisor of the hit Comedy Central show Broad City, Matt is also a celebrated DJ, record producer, on-air host, and up-and-coming food personality. Referred to by Forbes as a 'musical polymath' and VICE / THUMP as an NYC 'nightlife institution,' Matt has garnered acclaim everywhere from the New York Times to Shanghai's 'Modern Weekly,' a style-focused magazine with a weekly circulation of over a million readers across Mainland China.

In summer 2016, Matt was asked to join the cast of Wonderland, MTV's first live music show in over 20 years, as a host and resident music expert. Shortly after he helped Spotify launch one of their first original podcasts, Unpacked, wherein he travelled to Austin to cover the madness of SXSW in an entirely new light, interviewing everyone from food truck owners to talent buyers of some of Austin's most legendary venues. In addition to Broad City, Matt has also recently served as music supervisor for a wealth of critically acclaimed comedies, including Hulu's Difficult People and Comedy Central's Detroiters.

Somehow, Matt still finds time to contribute his own music to the zeitgeist. In 2015, Matt spearheaded an original music project under the c:llective moniker Scooter Island, which he released under his own imprint, Amuse-Bouche. The project's debut EP garnered critical acclaim and love from KCRW, Apple Music Beats 1, The FADER, and Clash Magazine. Most recently from Amuse-Bouche is newcomer Synead, for whom Matt produced the debut single, Tropicao, which garnered support from Nylon, Saint Heron, and Teen Vogue. The music video, filmed on location in Trinidad during the national holiday of Carnival, is Matt's second directorial effort.

lesff Jury Alumni from years past