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Working Above the Line - Panel Biographies

Haifaa al-Mansour is the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia. The success of her 2006 documentary Women without Shadows influenced a new wave of Saudi filmmakers. At home, her work is both praised and vilified for encouraging discussion on taboo issues surrounding the sequestered lives of Saudi women. Wadjda, al-Mansour’s narrative feature debut, is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. She recently published a novelization of the film titled The Green Bicycle. Her latest film, Mary Shelley, debuted at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and she is currently in post-production on a feature for Netflix based on Trisha Thomas’s bestselling novel, Nappily Ever After.

Eva Longoria is an ALMA Award-winning actress, producer, director, entrepreneur, philanthropist and “Desperate Housewives” alum. Most recently she starred opposite Demián Bichir in Lowriders and guest-starred on “Empire.” She will next be seen in the 2018 remake of Overboard, with Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez, and as Jaime Foxx’s co-star in All-Star Weekend. Longoria’s directing credits include a 2016 episode of “Jane the Virgin” and a 2017 episode of “Black-ish.” Longoria established the Eva Longoria Foundation in 2012 to help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship.

Wendi McLendon-Covey stars as family matriarch Beverly Goldberg on the ABC series “The Goldbergs.” McLendon-Covey is best known on the big screen for her co-starring role in the hit comedy Bridesmaids. She was recently seen in Hello, My Name Is Doris and Army of One and will soon be seen in Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House and Status Update. Her other film credits include Think Like a Man Too and Blended. Comedy fans will recognize her from the television shows “Lovespring International,” “Reno 911!” and “Rules of Engagement.”

Matt Reeves first gained the attention of the industry with the award-winning student short Mr. Petrified Forest, which he made at USC. He made his feature directorial debut with The Pallbearer (1996) before venturing into television as the co-creator of “Felicity” with partner J.J. Abrams. Reeves’s other film credits as a director include the science fiction hit Cloverfield (2008), Let Me In (2010) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). He returned to the Apes franchise with this year’s War for the Planet of the Apes, and is currently in pre-production on The Batman. 

John Ridley got his start in show business as a writer for such television shows as “Martin” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Transitioning to film, he wrote and directed Cold Heart (1997) and wrote Red Tails (2012). He won an Oscar® for Adapted Screenplay for the 2013 film 12 Years a Slave and then wrote and directed the biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side. Ridley’s most recent work includes writing and directing the documentary Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots, as well as creating the television shows “American Crime” and “Guerrilla.”  

Patricia Riggen is one of the few female Latin-American directors working in Hollywood. Originally from Mexico, she studied at Columbia University, where she made her thesis film, La Milpa (The Cornfield), which received a Student Academy Award in 2003. Her next film, the documentary Family Portrait, won the Jury Award Short Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. Riggen then directed and produced her first feature film, Under the Same Moon (2008). She next directed two films for young audiences, Girl in Progress and the Disney Channel musical Lemonade Mouth. Riggen most recently directed the English-language Chilean mining drama The 33 and the 2016 drama Miracles from Heaven.

Nina Yang Bongiovi is a leader in independent cinema and a champion of diverse voices with her producing partner, Forest Whitaker, under their banner Significant Productions. Their first feature, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, set the tone for all of their statement films to come after winning the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance in 2013. The producing duo next took on Repentance, Dope and Songs My Brothers Taught Me. They also produced Roxanne Roxanne, which was written and produced by Michael Larnell. Currently, Yang Bongiovi is in post-production on Sorry to Bother You and is in active development on an authorized feature biopic of Angela Davis, which will be executive-produced by Davis.

Mike Muse (Moderator) is the co-founder of Muse Recordings, a music executive, political expert and change agent. By intersecting politics and pop culture, Muse uses his platform to create social change. He is a commentator on pop culture for Sirius XM Satellite Radio with his featured segment “Political News with Mike Muse.” He can be seen in front of the camera on national television for VH1, BET, NBC and ARISE as a political and pop culture expert. Muse served as a member of President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee and most recently was appointed by the United States Small Business Administration to serve as the My Brother’s Keeper Millennial Entrepreneurial Champion in support of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.