Meet the 2024 Manila International Film Festival Jurors

By Oliver Carnay

MARIE JAMORA, Head of the Jury
Born in Manila, Philippines, Marie Jamora is one of the first Filipinos in the Directors Guild of America (DGA), having directed episodes of QUEEN SUGAR (OWN), FIRE COUNTRY (CBS), THE RESIDENT (FOX), GREASE: RISE OF THE PINK LADIES (Paramount+), and both seasons of the CLEANING LADY (Fox).  She was an executive producer and the director of both seasons of FAMILY STYLE (HBO Max).  
She produced and directed her films, FLIP THE RECORD and HARANA, which won the Grand Jury Awards for Best Narrative Short at Urbanworld and the Sarasota Film Festival, respectively, as well as her feature WHAT ISN’T THERE ( ANG NAWAWALA), which internationally premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival after winning the Audience Award at the Cinemalaya Film Festival.  Marie was also a part of the 2020 Warner Bros. Television Directors’ Workshop, the Lifetime Director Shadowing Program, and the DGA Women’s Steering Committee Squad.
In 2013, Jamora immigrated to the U.S. and with a desire to amplify Filipino stories and as a champion of Philippine cinema, she founded CINEMA SALA,  a screening and workshop series that showcases Filipinx artists in film and the performing arts through programming, distribution, and dedication. Cinema Sala has since partnered with (Ava Duvernay’s) ARRAY, Visual Communications, Outfest, CAPE, NALIP, and AFI Fest for their various screenings and events to showcase Filipinx works and is supported by the Sundance Institute, Cinereach, and the California Arts Council.


In a pivotal moment in the 70-year history of Birns & Sawyer, one of the oldest and most well-known motion picture camera rental and sales companies in Hollywood, Mari Acevedo led the transition to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).  In 2019, empowering the dedicated team that contributed to the company’s success.  The subsequent year marked another historic milestone as Acevedo assumed the position of CEO, becoming the first female leader in the company’s impressive 66-year history.
In 2023, she spearheaded the Birns & Sawyer initiative to lead a filmmaker grant, specifically aimed at supporting aspiring filmmakers from underserved communities.  Her visionary leadership culminated in the successful launch of the inaugural FilAm Creative Film Festival in November 2023, drawing thousands of attendees – an exceptional achievement for a first-year festival in the competitive Los Angeles landscape.
Leah Anova is a Los Angeles-based Director of Photography.  She was born in Quezon City, Philippines and was raised around the globe as a military brat (her father was in the U.S. Navy).  Because of her upbringing, Anova developed a strong passion for storytelling at a young age.
After earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in Cinematography from the American Film Institute Conservatory, Anova started her journey as a Director of Photography.  The DP’s projects have received significant recognition, including her latest feature documentary film, EVERY BODY, directed by Academy Award nominee, Julie Cohen, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was distributed by Focus Features.  EVERY BODY was shortlisted by NYDOC for the 2023 Oscars.  The film is currently playing on AppleTV, Amazon Prime, and Peacock.
Reggie Lee starred as Sgt. Wu on NBC’s hit sci-fi police drama GRIMM.  Most recently, he starred as Head Deputy District Attorney Thomas Choi on CBS’s ALL RISE and as Angelo Soto on Netflix’s LINCOLN LAWYER.  Before GRIMM, he was best known for his role as Secret Service Agent Bill Kim on the popular FOX show, PRISON BREAK.
Since having starred as Lance Nguyen in Universal’s high-octane blockbuster THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS in 2001, Lee has had memorable roles in film playing Tai Huang, the villainous right-hand man of Chow Yun Fat in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END, starring opposite Jason Sthatham in Lionsgate’s SAFE, Sam Raimi’s Universal thriller DRAG ME TO HELL, and Ben Stiller’s directorial debut TROPIC THIUNDER, opposite Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr..
Coming up, he can be seen in the season of CSI: VEGAS on CBS as Undersheriff Bobby Zhao.  He has also recurred and guest starred in countless TV shows and has performed on Broadway.
David Maquiling made his feature film debut as the writer/director of TOO MUCH SLEEP, for which he won an Independent Spirit Award nomination, was featured in Variety’s annual “Someone to Watch” article, and earned the IFP Project Involve Fellowship.
Maquiling was recently appointed the Academic and Artistic Director of the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) Summer Program at USC, where he oversees more than 30 classes exploring all aspects of the art, craft and business of film and television creation.  He is also a faculty member at SCA, where he is the Lead Faculty for USC’s SCA Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) Filmmaking Workshop for underrepresented high school students and is the Co-Founder and Lead Faculty of the USC Warner Bros. Filmmaking Workshop.
Sumalee Montano holds a breadth of perspectives within the industry, originating her career as an investment banker and now as an actor-producer.  Onscreen, she has worked extensively in film and television, including series regular and leading film roles.  She got her start in ER, recurring as the first Filipina nurse, Duvata Mahal.  She is currently cast in the Shondaland/Netflix series, THE RESIDENCE, a screwball whodunnit set in the White House, where she plays a Chief of Staff Dana Hammond.
Montano stars as Tala Bayani in THE DEAL, a mother-daughter sci-fi story that is based on her own Filipina mom and produced with Dean Devlin, Grace Lay and Lisa Brenner.  A prolific voice actor, Montano has voiced over 200 animated projects to date across film , television, and triple-A video games.
A co-founder of Linlay Productions, Montano has produced or executive produced eight films to date, including Nikyatu Jusu’s NANNY, Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance 2022; BLACK BARBIE: A DOCUMENTARY, recently acquired by Netflix and Shondaland; RIOTSVILLE, U.S.A., Best Documentary nominee at the Indie Spirit Awards; and THE DEAL.