BSDFF is a competitive event with four competitions that shine a spotlight on the best of the festival and superior works in documentary filmmaking. An Oscar-qualifying event, winners in the Best Short and Best Mini-Doc categories qualify for Academy Award nomination in the Short Documentary category.

The 2019 films in competition will be announced in late January, stay tuned for updates. 

2019 Competition Jury

Toni Bell - International Documentary Association
Toni Bell is an independent filmmaker and Filmmaker Services Manager at the International Documentary Association where she is responsible for handling the day-to-day operations of the fiscal sponsorship program. She curates the IDA’s DocuClub work-in-progress screening series of which many of the films have premiered at film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, and CPH: Dox. She is a featured speaker and panelists at conferences, universities and a juror and mentor at documentary festivals and labs such as NALIP; Dok Leipzig, HotDocs, IFPWeek, Outfest, and the Firelight Media Impact Producers Retreat. She also serves on the advisory board of the Southeast European Film Festival (SEEFest) in Los Angeles. Her foray into documentary film began when she started writing and editing the newsletter for the Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers – West. This led to her first gig as a production assistant and then an archival researcher for the film, Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race, which aired nationally on PBS. Since then she has done archival research for several documentaries and television shows including Centric’s Being. She holds an M.A. in Visual Anthropology from USC, M.F.A in Creative Writing from Naropa University, and a certificate in professional screenwriting from UCLA.

Mia Bruno - Impact Producer & Independent Film Consultant
Mia Bruno combines an intricate knowledge of film distribution with a unique skill for innovative and effective marketing strategies. Mia works with filmmakers as a distribution consultant and impact producer, marrying an intricate knowledge of the marketplace with creative and targeted campaigns designed to connect with audiences meaningfully. In a time when the distribution landscape is rapidly evolving; Mia provides transparency, education, and analysis on what is working so that filmmakers are equipped to make the best decisions for their films. Beginning her career at the onset of digital distribution, Mia served as the Director of Acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures before branching off on her own to work directly with filmmakers and distributors. Some of her recent clients include the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship and George R. R. Martin's art collective, Meow Wolf.

Emily Buder - Film Curator, Atlantic Studios
Emily Buder is the Film Curator at The Atlantic, where she programs the short documentary series The Atlantic Selects and writes articles for the Culture vertical. Previously, she was the Managing Editor of No Film School, where she wrote extensively about independent film and covered film festivals around the world. Before that, she was a staff writer at Indiewire, where she conducted filmmaker interviews, wrote feature profiles, reviewed films, and managed Indiewire's social media. She discovered and developed the 2014 Sundance hit and Independent Spirit Award nominee "Infinitely Polar Bear" as a Creative Executive at Paper Street Films.

Robert Chang - Associate Producer, America ReFramed
Robert Y. Chang is the Associate Producer of America ReFramed, sister series of POV. Robert contributes to the curation of the series and assists in managing submissions, film evaluations, and filmmaker deliverables. He leads the generation of series social media and outreach activities, as well as, managing and mentoring its crew of interns. Robert Y. Chang is also a documentary filmmaker whose work is distributed by DER and has screened at domestic and international festivals.

Sean Flynn - Program Director, Points North Institute
Sean Flynn is the Program Director for the Points North Institute and has helped design and produce all Points North programs since 2011. Sean received a master’s degree from MIT’s Comparative Media Studies department, where he worked as a researcher at the MIT Open Documentary Lab. Sean began his filmmaking career as a producer and cinematographer working on two feature-length documentaries, BEYOND BELIEF and THE LIST, both of which had their premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and aired on national television. In 2012, Sean was a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow in Mumbai, India.

Eric Gulliver - Producer & Editor, American Experience
Eric is a Producer/Editor for American Experience, PBS’s flagship history series, based at WGBH in Boston. Eric has worked in post-production for a decade with experience in advertising, independent documentaries, and broadcast television. He founded the working collaborative The Non-Fiction Cartel in 2012, where he currently serves as Chair.

Maikiko James
Maikiko is Women In Film's Director of Programs, overseeing the Production Program, the Film Financing Intensive with Sundance Institute, the WIF/Black List Episodic and Features Labs, newly launched INSIGHT elevating the careers of women of color creators, among others. She came to WIF in 2014 after six years with Active Voice, working on multiple social impact campaigns including those of Food Inc., Welcome to Shelbyville, Gideon’s Army, Kids for Cash, among others. She acted as a Special Project Advisor on Debbie Lum's WIF supported documentary Seeking Asian Female, and co-producer of its sister web project,, examining ideas of race, power, and intimacy. An Upright Citizens Brigade and Groundlings trained improviser, she performs regularly around Los Angeles. Maikiko holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

Bahman Nooraei - International Distributor, Translator and Producer
Bahman Nooraei Beidokht is an international distributor of films, producer, translator and TV host who obtained two Master’s degrees in French Language and Literature, and English Translation Studies from the University of Tehran. A member of the organising team of Iran's prominent Fajr International Film Festival since 2004, Nooraei has also been involved with the organisation of numerous Iranian film festivals including Iran’s International Documentary Film Festival, Cinema Verite. He has worked as the Documentary and Experimental Film Center’s Head of Business and Distribution since 2014, and has also been on the jury or selection committee of several international film festivals. He has also translated many highly-acclaimed Iranian films to English and French.

Ben Popp - Northwest Film Center
Ben Popp is the head regional film programmer for the Northwest Film Center in Portland Oregon. He is also an animator and filmmaker who has screened his films around the globe and taught animation and filmmaking classes for adults and children alike. Most importantly however, Ben loves a good hot springs.


Talena Sanders - Independent Filmmaker
Talena Sanders makes moving image works that explore the development of individual and collective senses of identity in affinity groups. She believes there are endless means to present and interrogate materials from the real on the spectrum from nonfiction to narrative production approaches. Her work often places historical found/archival footage and audio in dialogue with contemporary media captured on location to question constructs of privilege and power in who gets authorized to tell the story of a shared experience.

She holds an MFA from Duke University’s Experimental and Documentary Arts program and a BFA from the University of Kentucky. Her work has been screened, exhibited, and collected internationally, including New York Film Festival, FIDMarseille, RIDM, Viennale, DokuFest Kosovo, Play-Doc Tui, and BFI London Film Festival. Her first feature documentary, Liahona, is distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.  She is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Sonoma State University.

Jeff Zimbalist - Independent Filmmaker
Jeff Zimbalist is an Emmy and Peabody Award winning writer, director and editor whose films, many produced in partnership with his brother Michael, have been broadcast on HBO, Netflix, Showtime, MTV, IFC, FOX, PBS, ESPN, CBS, Channel 4, the BBC and BET, as well theatrically distributed worldwide. Jeff’s film Favela Rising was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary, and among the 36 awards it won are the IDA’s Film of the Year and Best Director at the Tribeca Film Festival. In 2010, the brothers’ film The Two Escobars premiered as an official selection of Cannes and Tribeca, won 4 Gold Medals in the New York Film & TV awards, and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary, as well as the Writer's Guild of America's Best Nonfiction Script. Jeff and Michael are currently writing and directing The Ali Summit, a scripted series about Muhammad Ali, the FBI and civil rights in the 1960s for Showtime, a feature film titled Fura about emerald mafias in Colombia for Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures, and Cell 211 for CBS Films. 

Michael Zimbalist - Independent Filmmaker
Michael Zimbalist is an Emmy and Peabody Award winning writer, director and editor whose films, many produced in partnership with his brother Jeff, have been broadcast on HBO, Netflix, Showtime, MTV, IFC, FOX, PBS, ESPN, CBS, Channel 4, the BBC and BET, as well theatrically distributed worldwide. In 2018, the brothers released three feature documentaries: Nossa Chape, the critically acclaimed story about the rebuilding of the Chapecoense soccer club after a tragic airplane crash killed most of the team, which premiered at SXSW; Momentum Generation, about the world’s most legendary surf crew, winner of a Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award along with 11 other festival wins, executive produced by Robert Redford and released by HBO and Universal; and Give Us This Day, a Los Angeles Film Awards winner following three police officers and three residents in East St. Louis, the city with the highest homicide rate in the country, executive produced by Vince Vaughn.  They released their Fox series Phenoms, about young footballers in the lead up to the 2018 World Cup, and are currently rolling out ReMastered, Netflix’ marquee investigative music documentary series, which the brothers created.