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2013 AbelCine Documentary Grant Guest Judges

AbelCine is proud to announce the three special guest judges who will be helping us choose the final recipients of the 2013 AbelCine Documentary Grant. All three judges are award-winning filmmakers, with varied careers spanning everything from documentaries to feature films and television.


Mark Benjamin  

Mark Benjamin has spent the last 30 years building his reputation as a director and cinematographer through his work in film and television. He has created numerous independent films for National Geographic, HBO, ABC, CBS, NBC, TBS, CNN, and the Discovery Channel. His credits range from directing and shooting the Robert Downey Jr. feature documentary “The Last Party” to “Thug Life in DC” for HBO, which picked up a National Emmy for Best Documentary Film. In 1998, “Slam” a feature that he DP’d, was awarded the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Camera d’Or at Cannes. Along with filmmaker Marc Levin, he created and directed the Sundance original series “Brick City,” which captured the daily drama of the Newark community and won the 2010 Peabody Award.

For his most recent project, “Chicagoland”, he has reteamed with Marc Levin, along with producer Robert Redford, to create an eight-part series exploring the politics and policy in a city undergoing profound change. 

Ellen Kuras, ASC  

Ellen Kuras, ASC is one of the most acclaimed cinematographers in the film industry. She got her start in the industry as a production assistant, and eventually landed her first DP job on Tom Kalin’s “Swoon” – which won five major awards at Sundance. She soon became Spike Lee’s go-to cinematographer, and went on to work with directors such as Martin Scorcese, Sam Mendes, and more recently Michel Gondry on films such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind”.

Rising to the top of her field in a male-dominated arena, Kuras has paved the way for other female cinematographers. She has received the Kodak Vision Award from Women in Film and has been nominated twice for an Emmy and three times for the Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography, as well as for a Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Documentary. In 2009, “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)” – in which Kuras captures the struggles of Laotian immigrant Thavisouk Phrasavath and his family over the course of 23 years – received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Peter Schnall  

Peter Schnall is a seven-time Emmy Award and Peabody Award winner who has been making distinctive films and documentaries for more than twenty-five years. 

After ten years as an independent, Peter began a stint as a Senior Producer of the long-running National Geographic TV series, Explorer. During this time, the show garnered six Emmys – four for best historical programming and two for cinematography. In 1996, he left National Geographic to form Partisan Pictures, where he continues to develop and produce films for PBS, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, History Channel, A&E, as well as Partisan’s own independent feature documentaries. Their first feature project “this is a game ladies” won awards at AFI’s first annual Silverdocs Festival (among others). Some of Peter’s more recent projects have included journeying to South Africa for a month with Oprah Winfrey to chronicle the plight of children living with AIDS, and getting unprecedented access to, not only Air Force One and its crew, but three presidents as well.


» 2013 AbelCine Documentary Grant Overview
» Official Rules & Conditions
» Submission Form





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