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Ebert Fellows at Ebertfest 2017

I AM PLEASED TO INTRODUCE YOU TO THE EBERT FELLOWS. They are students who are emerging writers, film and art critics, filmmakers and/or technologists who have been mentored in one of the Ebert programs at Sundance, Telluride, Hawaii, Columbia College Journalism Links, the Chicago Urban League or the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. While the programs differed in their lengths of time and experiences, what they all have in common is a call to observe empathy either on the screen or around them during the course of their internships. Over the course of the four years since Roger passed away, I have been able to interact, either personally or by Skype, with all of the scholars. But this is the first time that we will bring them together to meet each other and continue our discussions on empathy and compassion in the arts. We will meet at Ebertfest in Champaign. Not all of them were able to accept our invitation to attend, but the 24 below were. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled.Chaz Ebert

Carlos Aguilar, Sundance 2014

Originally from Mexico City, Carlos Aguilar was chosen as one of 6 young film critics to partake in the first Roger Ebert Fellowship organized by,  the Sundance Institute and Indiewire in 2014. Aguilar’s work has appeared in prestigious publications such as Indiewire,, MovieMaker Magazine, Filmmaker Magazine, Variety Latino, Americas Quarterly, Remezcla, among others. 

Besides his work in journalism, Aguilar regularly works as a screener for the Sundance Film Festival and a screenplay reader for Sundance’s Screenwriters Lab. In January 2017 he was invited to be a member of the jury at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in the Cine Latino section. He attributes his all-consuming passion for storytelling to his mother’s love for European films. Aguilar currently co-hosts, One Week Only, a weekly podcast highlighting independent and international cinema. 

Michael Andrews, Hawaii 2015

Mike Andrews was born and raised on the island of O’ahu and is attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa as an astronomy major. Mike spends most of his time on campus, either while working as a writing tutor and peer mentor on campus, hosting a radio show for UH’s college radio station, acting as a founding member of a campus club and putting on club events, or just studying as a full-time student. 

He has always had a love of the arts, especially film and music, and developed a real taste for writing in his senior year of high school. In his spare time, he enjoys feasting and drinking hedonistically, preferably while watching or discussing movies.

An Banh, Sundance 2014

An Banh is an Ebert fellow from 2015. After a stint working for the Austin Film Festival, she now lives in New York and enjoys everything bagels, black coffee, and Jim Jarmusch.

Brennan Brown, Hawaii 2015

I'm a high school senior at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. More than anything else in my free time, I like to perform and create, especially through singing or writing. Toward the end of my sophomore year, I began developing a huge interest in film—the history of the industry's innumerable technical innovations and cultural impacts—and by my junior year I was so invested in watching and talking about films I applied to the Hawaii International Film Festival Ebert Young Writer's Program. 

For the first time, I was given the opportunity to analyze these artworks from my local community with an audience for my reviews, providing me with the responsibility that comes with journalistic accountability. Next year, I plan to study Classical Vocal Performance in my first year of college. Thanks to the incredible time I had with the Ebert Young Writer's Program, I know film will always be a part of my life.

Kyle Burton, Sundance 2014

Kyle has written for Paste,, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and other outlets. An inaugural recipient of the Roger Ebert Fellowship at Sundance 2014, he lives in Los Angeles.

Sue-Ellen Chitunya, Film Independent's Project Involve 2016

Lydia “Sue-Ellen” Chitunya hails from Zimbabwe. She is the 2016 Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship recipient. Chitunya is a proud graduate of Georgia State University and the UCLA Producing Certification Program. She’s a 2016 ZIWA (Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards) Media Professional of the year Recipient. She is constantly seeking ways to hone her skills and enhance her knowledge about the filmmaking industry. Her passion and hunger for learning has afforded her the opportunity to participate in the following programs: 2016 Women in Film Mentoring Circle, 2016 Film Independent’s Project Involve, 2015 Berlinale Talents, 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s Marche Du Film Producers Workshop, 2012 CaribbeanTales Incubator, 2011 Durban Talent Campus, and 2011 Kyoto Filmmakers Lab. 

Chitunya has produced several shorts that have screened at BFI London, NewFest LGBT, Action on Film, Havana, New Orleans and Atlanta film festivals. Her varied work experience includes; producing the Big PictureCon, marketing for Disney College Program, consulting for Los Angeles Film Festival and Zimbabwe International Film Festival, and programming for Atlanta and Slamdance Film Festival. She recently worked on Marvel's "Ant-Man" (2015), "Captain America: Civil War" (2016), and "Doctor Strange" (2016).

Jordan Csigi, Hawaii 2015

Jordan Csigi graduated from Kailua High School in 2010 and got his associates degree in Television Production at Leeward Community College. After graduating from college, he started freelancing as a boom and sound mixer on projects ranging from short films to web series. 

In his free time he is usually reading about movies and television or watching them. His passion for movies started at a very young age because of his father bringing him to the movie theater almost every weekend. His addiction to movies at a young age made him the film buff he is today. 

Robert Fowler, Sundance 2014

Robert is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, California. Accepted into the Roger Ebert Fellowship for Film Criticism in 2014, he currently writes for Opposing Views. His work has also appeared in America Now, IndieWire and Southern Glossary. He graduated from Old Dominion University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing.

Laura Garber, Hawaii 2016

Hailing from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Snack Capital of the World)

Laura spends the majority of her time studying Cinematic Production at Hawaii Pacific University.

She loves to critique and analyze films with her fellow peers…whether they ask her to or not. Her guilty pleasure movies include "Head of State," "Bridget Jones’ Diary," and the 1995 live action version of "George of the Jungle." When trying to impress, the films include "Sunset Boulevard," "City of God," "Oldboy," and basically anything watched in her film classes. 

After participating in the Creative Lab: Ebert Young Writer Program for the Arts, she realized one could be paid for their opinion. Hoping to work with a small film festival after school, Laura believes in the spirit of film and wants to share that excitement with others. In the future, she plans on expanding her writing skills to write for film…or continue to rant about those already made.

Veronique Hester, Columbia Links 2015

My name is Veronique Hester. I'm 18 years old and I'm a freshman at Chicago State University. I'm currently in my second semester. In my free time, I enjoy making crafts, volunteering at my church, and going out with friends. I also go to the movies often.

Katie Kilkenny, Sundance 2014

I participated in the first-ever Roger Ebert fellowship at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, when I was a college senior still figuring out what to do with my post-graduation life. The fellowship came at the perfect time: After penning film reviews and profiles for Indiewire and in between screenings, parties, and breathless conversations with equally movie-crazy folks, I realized that reporting on the entertainment industry would be an incredible way to spend for the rest of my time on Earth. (I've always been obsessed with movies and Hollywood history; I also function adequately on little to no sleep.) 

Post-graduation, I worked for a year as an editorial fellow at The Atlantic's Culture vertical in Washington D.C., where I wrote film reviews and essays and edited the arts columnist. Today, I'm a culture writer and editor at Pacific Standard, working on stories for the print magazine and online—and still meeting up with Ebert fellows in the LA area, as well as occasionally editing them. 

Walker King, Sundance 2017

Walker King was a 2017 Roger Ebert Fellow for Film Criticism and attended the 2017 Sundance Film Festival with Born in Portland, Oregon, Walker graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in cinema and media studies in 2016 and now lives in Los Angeles. In addition to jobs that could be described as “movie industry-adjacent,” he is a headline contributor to The Onion. 

Sasha Kohan—Sundance 2017

Sasha Kohan earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Screen Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She won the Virginia Vaughn Prize for Most Outstanding Honors Thesis for her piece, "Betty, Sally, and Existential Womanhood in 'Mad Men,'" which she presented at Mad Men: The Conference at MTSU. 

Kohan was previously a contributing editor at The Worcester Journal and she currently works as a content writer for while developing Germinal, her new online magazine for politically-inclined youth. In the fall, she will begin the Master's program for Cinema and Media Studies at USC.  

Joshua Lee, Hawaii 2016

Aloha, my name Joshua Lee, I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, but now I call Honolulu, Hawaii home. I am currently a senior studying Creative Media at University of Hawaii at Manoa. I am a passionate film maker who is rather ambitious and likes to tell stories that are unique and have a different take on the world through cultural and sympathetic nature. I had the pleasure of working at Hawaii International Film Festival at the Roger Ebert Young Writers Program that has propelled me into my professional field of producing. 

Currently, I am working on producing my second feature film, "Firebrand," as well as producing a senior thesis called, Race Relations in America. In May, I have been given the opportunity to attend Cannes International Film Festival through American Pavilion, and will also be working on attending International Film Academy, in Bologna, Italy. My time is spent developing films from a producing side by working to create meaningful and impactful films that emphasize on diversity, culture development, and creative narratives.

Joseph Longo, Ebert Fellow 2016-17 in Champaign

Joseph Longo is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently one of three College of Media Roger Ebert Fellows for the 2016-2017 school year. 

Longo also serves as the managing editor for reporting at The Daily Illini, the University's independent student newspaper. He specializes in reporting on the intersection of social justice, politics and pop culture.

Sara Pelaez, Sundance 2016

Sara A. Pelaez is currently working towards her Bachelors in Fine Arts in New Media at the University of Illinois. Her background is in filmmaking and film criticism. Her criticism revolves around documentary filmmaking, new media formats such as virtual reality, science and technology in film, as well as women and diversity in the industry. 

She attended the Sundance Film Festival as a Roger Ebert Fellow in 2016. An ever-interdisciplinary student, she looks forward to applying her knowledge to the art and science of filmmaking.

Emma Piper-Burket, Sundance 2017

Emma Piper-Burket is a visual artist, flmmaker and writer working in fction, non-fction, and collected media. Her work is process-based and research driven, incorporating societal trends, ancient history, science, politics, ephemera, and the natural world into her creative practice. 

She holds an MFA in Cinema and Digital Media from FAMU in Prague, and a BA in Arabic and Classical Studies from Georgetown University.

Shalayne Pulia, Ebert Fellow 2015-16 in Champaign

I’m a Chicago-born University of Illinois College of Media alumnus. Before graduating in May of last year, I studied News/Editorial Journalism and minored in Italian. While in Champaign, I wrote for a slew of school publications like Buzz, the Daily Illini, and Impulse Magazine. I’ve also written for Spoon University and interned at InStyle Magazine in New York City during the summer of 2015 after I was awarded the Charla Krupp Honorary Internship/Scholarship. I was one of the three inaugural UIUC Roger Ebert Fellows while I was a senior, meaning I was able to work with Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune to hone my critical entertainment writing skills. 

I jetted off to New York City straight from graduation to work as the assistant to InStyle Magazine's former Editor-in-Chief. In September, I was offered my current position as Editorial Assistant on the features team—huge thanks to what I learned as an Ebert Fellow. I now post regularly to our website on topics related to entertainment, culture, and lifestyle. In the print magazine, I report and edit our American Voices page that spotlights talented women who are working as or speaking out for underrepresented voices in America and our Doing Good page that features celebrities who actively support various charities. 

Kristin Rivera, Hawaii 2016

Kristin Rivera is from Ewa Beach, HI where she was raised as a kid. She graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies where she focused on Management for Performing Arts. She currently does PR for Mori by Art + Flea, a unique, artistically curated shop in Honolulu that features the work of local artists, designers, and makers. 

Taking a strong interest to graphic design, she interns for locally owned small business, Formidably Impressed, a greeting card line that produces original hand lettered designs with the use of letterpress printing. Her goal is to continue improving her writing and drawing to keep her creative juices flowing.

Mariah Schaefer, Ebert Fellow 2016-17 in Champaign

Mariah Schaefer is a junior studying journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Originally from Brazil, she has been living in the United States for a decade. Entertainment has always been a big part of her life. Mariah acquired a love of reading books at an early age, and her fascination with watching films and television shows soon followed. She believes in the power of entertainment, for it not only entertains but also addresses human expression and provides social commentary. 

Mary Sollosi, Sundance 2014

A native of Fairfax, Virginia and alumna of the College of William and Mary, Mary Sollosi was a Roger Ebert Fellow at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. After taking part in the Fellowship, she moved to Los Angeles to continue writing about film, and wrote for Film Independent for a year before joining Entertainment Weekly in 2015, where she is currently Assistant Digital Features Editor. 

Brandon Towns, Columbia Links 2015

Brandon Towns is an alum of the Columbia Links program. Through this program Towns published a story about the miseducation of CPS students in 2014. He is currently studying advertising at Bradley University after discovering a passion for communication within the Links program. 

Ariel Ushijima, Hawaii 2016

Ariel Ushijima was born and raised on the sunny island of Oahu. After making videos for various projects in high school, she discovered that she had a passion for filmmaking. She currently attends the University of Hawaii at Manoa majoring in the Academy for Creative Media program with a focus in Digital Cinema. 

Through participation in the Hawaii International Film Festival's Ebert Young Writers Program she began to look at films from a critical perspective rather than her usual viewpoint as a prospective filmmaker. When she isn't busy practicing her winning Oscar speech, she enjoys spending time with her friends and traveling around the world. 

Jason Yue, Ebert Fellow 2016-17 in Champaign

Jason Yue is a senior at the University of Illinois studying Systems Engineering and Design. His interest is in documentary film. 

Most recently, he's worked on a CNN documentary "Soundtracks" and is currently focused on building a personal project involving bucket lists. With his team, he's also developing a wireless vital sign monitor for operating room use in partnership with Jump Simulation at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and experimenting with augmented reality in museum settings.

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 24th year.

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