Pepe Vargas | Chicago Latino Film Festival
As Founder & Executive Director of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, Pepe Vargas fosters the understanding of Latinos by showing, through the universal language of the arts, that Latinos are defined by more than 20 nationalities and come from all social and racial backgrounds. Under his direction since 1986, the Chicago Latino Film Festival has evolved into the largest Latino film festival in the U.S. which this year, it celebrated its 35th Anniversary.
The audience for the Center’s programs has grown from 500 people in 1985 for the first Chicago Latino Film Festival to nearly 80,000 people, who enjoy the multinational cross-cultural exchanges offered every year. Pepe lives and works with his dream of building, in downtown Chicago, a world-class, state-of-the-art cultural complex to house and share the Latino arts, including music, poetry, films, the culinary arts and many other cultural expressions that reflect the lives of more than 600 million Latinos worldwide.
Pepe has received much recognition, including the Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year, 2003 and an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Lake Forest College. Won the 2006/7 Fellowship from the Chicago Community Trust, which allowed him to travel extensively through Latin America, Spain, France, and the United States visiting other cultural institutions. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune named Pepe Vargas as a Remarkable Person; in 2013 was named of the 100 most prominent Colombians living abroad. Lastly, in May of 2017 he was recognized as one of the 22 most prominent Colombians living the United States.
JC Farris has been involved with several festivals in the Chicago area most notably an Associate Producer for Chicago Improv Festival, Hospitality Manager for the Chicago Podcast Festival, Producer for Chicago Underground Film Festival and Industry Days Coordinator for the Chicago International Film Festival. She was recently the Interim Manager of IFP Chicago.
She is also an independent writer, producer, and overall artistic enthusiast. She received her undergraduate degree in Cinema from Southern Illinois University studying Screenwriting and Film Production. She continues to work a variety of crew positions for independent and studio productions including features, shorts, commercials, TV shows, and reality shows. She is also a board member of Soft Cage Films, a non-profit production company focusing on social justice based films, and enjoys supporting other indie filmmakers.
Jean de St. Aubin | Gene Siskel Film Center
Jean de St. Aubin, Executive Director of the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for the past 15 years. With over 25 years in arts administration, Ms. de St. Aubin has led strategic planning processes, increased revenue through diversifying revenue streams and fundraising, and built audiences through targeted marketing efforts. Under her leadership attendance at the Gene Siskel Film Center has not only grown but has increased to include a more diverse audience. In addition, partnerships with cultural and civic organizations have brought the curated film programming of the Film Center into communities throughout Chicago. Prior to the Gene Siskel Film Center, she was the Cultural Arts Manager for the Chicago Park District, creating cultural centers in twelve neighborhood parks and managing Theater on the Lake. Ms. de St. Aubin is currently on the Board of Free Street Theater and is on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Loop Alliance. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Chicago. Along with being a voracious cultural connoisseur, Ms. de St. Aubin is an avid traveler particularly to third and second world countries.
Michelle Yates | Chicago Feminist Film Festival
Michelle Yates, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Humanities in the Humanities, History, and Social Sciences Department at Columbia College Chicago. She writes and teaches on a number of subjects in ecomedia; feminist ecology; and feminist film theory. Michelle is also the co-founder and co-director of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival.