Features Jury

Essayist and critic Bilal Qureshi is a Senior Editor for Culture at NPR and a frequent panelist on the network’s flagship arts podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Qureshi’s writing, reporting and criticism have also been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek Middle East and on the BBC. For six years he wrote the column ‘Elsewhere’ about international cinema for Film Quarterly. Qureshi is a Virginian and former resident of Lahore, Berlin, New Delhi, Dubai and currently based in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.

Karan Soni was born and raised in New Delhi, India before emigrating to Los Angeles to pursue an education and career in film and theater at USC. After his debut in Sundance Award winning Safety Not Guaranteed, Soni appeared in Deadpool and has had memorable roles in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, Office Christmas Party, and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. On television, he starred in Blunt Talk, Betas, and has appeared in Silicon Valley, Brooklyn 99, and Will & Grace among others. He co-wrote and starred in 7 Days produced by the Duplass brothers. Soni can currently be seen opposite Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi in the TBS/MAX comedy series Miracle Workers. He has done voice work in Trolls World Tour, Strange World and Spider-Man: across the Spider-Verse. He will next be seen in the indie features Stealing Pulp Fiction, Paper Flowers, and A Nice Indian Boy.

Utkarshini Vashishtha is a National Award winning Indian-origin screenwriter, based out of Los Angeles. Her recent film, the acclaimed Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) swept all major awards in India, revived the national box office, closed the Berlinale, and was on Netflix’s Top 10 for weeks. Vashishtha has won Filmfare, IIFA, the Zee Cine Award and the prestigious National Award for her writing. Utkarshini’s earlier work, Sarbjit (2016) premiered at Cannes. She has been creatively associated with the celebrated director Sanjay Leela Bhansali since 2011, and has also been his Associate Director on Ramleela (2013). Vashishtha has been working in the film and television industry globally since 2005. She started her career with Zee TV in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan region. She has worked across continents, languages, and cultures and considers that her biggest strength as a writer and artist.

Shorts Jury

Geeta Malik is the writer/director of India Sweets and Spices starring Manisha Koirala (Bombay, Dil Se…), Adil Hussain (Life of Pi, Delhi Crime), Sophia Ali (Uncharted), and Rish Shah (Ms. Marvel). The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently streaming on Hulu. Malik was one of seven directors selected for the 2022 Warner Bros. Television Directors’ Workshop, and has won the inaugural Academy Gold Fellowship for Women. She directed an episode of the Emmy-winning show Abbott Elementary. Malik is a Film Independent Project Involve Fellow and an alumna of UCLA’s graduate film program. She wrote and directed the viral narrative short, Aunty Gs. Her other short films include Shameless, Beast, and Apu’s Revenge. Her first feature film, Troublemaker, premiered at the 2011 Cinequest Film Festival, and also played IFFLA that same year.

Katie Walsh is a Los Angeles-based film critic, journalist, podcast host, and moderator. She reviews weekly film releases for the Tribune News Service and the Los Angeles Times, and is the Vice President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. She is also the co-host of the One Heat Minute Productions podcast Miami Nice. Her writing has been published in GQ, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Vulture, The Playlist, and many other publications, and she contributes film reviews to KCRW’s Press Play with Madeleine Brand. Walsh earned her B.A. in Film Studies from Wesleyan University, and her M.A. in Critical Studies from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She started her career in the publicity department at Lionsgate Films. She is a native Virgin Islander, born and raised on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Priya Arora (they/them) has covered South Asian pop culture for more than ten years, with bylines at The New York Times, HuffPost, India.com, Brown Girl Magazine and The Aerogram. Arora is a former South Asian Journalists Association board member and their newsletter, “Priya’s Kitty Party,” regularly reviews South Asian streaming content. They also host “Queering Desi,” an interview-style podcast featuring South Asian LGBTQ+ people.