SPECIAL GUESTS

ALEJANDRA AMARILLA

Born in Asuncion, Paraguay, Alejandra Amarilla is the founder and executive producer of Landfill Harmonic, and was also responsible for the film’s story concept. Integrating philanthropy and a commitment to community service into her daily life and vision, Amarilla has aided a variety of social causes. She travelled to Africa in 2008 with Athletes for Africa to support programs in Northern Uganda that provide education and therapy to former child soldiers and their families, as well as basic necessities for families in displacement camps. Amarilla has also been involved with Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, whose mission is to reach underserved women through economic, social and political programs, creating opportunities for them. She also co-directed the short film Unleashing Creativity for Free Arts of Arizona. The film documents the healing ability of creativity and the arts. Her idea of making a documentary about her native country became the first step for her in creating awareness regarding children’s causes in Paraguay. Landfill Harmonic, her latest endeavor, hits close to home and has become her love project.

 

FAVIO CHÁVEZ 

Favio Chavez completed his higher education studies in engineering of human ecology and philosophy. He studied music at the Municipal Arts Institute of Asuncion and orchestral direction with Miguel Angel Gilardi and Leon Burke, among others. From 2006 to 2007, he worked for the IDB in the project called “Proyecto Procicla,” in the landfill of Cateura in Asuncion as a technician and manager of education programs, interacting with the different associations of garbage collectors from this landfill. In 2006, he began to teach music to the children of the garbage collectors, becoming the first music teacher in this landfill community. That same year, he created the Recycled Instruments Orchestra, which he has directed ever since. In 2010, Favio and the Orchestra became the main subject of the documentary Landfill Harmonic, which followed their lives for the next five years. In 2012, the documentary released a promo and Favio’s work became known internationally. He has been invited to give TEDtalks and conferences in Spain, Argentina, the Netherlands, El Salvador, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. He has appeared and collaborated in important publications about social work and music education. In 2013, he received an award from the Prince Claus Foundation in the Netherlands. He has gone on several tours around Europe, South America, Central America, North America, Asia and the Middle East, directing the Recycled Instruments Orchestra at prestigious venues around the world. Landfill Harmonic, the acclaimed film about Favio and his recycled orchestra, has been presented in film festivals around the world since March 2015.

JESSICA COX 

Jessica Cox has famously eliminated the words “I can’t” from her vocabulary. Although born without arms as the result of a birth defect, she has never allowed that to be a limiting factor. While she suffered from self-esteem issues early on and physical challenges throughout her life, Cox managed to overcome and achieve, earning a college degree and a Taekwondo black belt, learning to drive a car with her feet, type with her toes and, in 2008, fly an airplane. That feat landed her in the Guinness Book of World Records and led to an audience with the Pope, meetings with heads of state and a great deal of media attention. Recently married, Cox continues her journey. In the present, she has turned the tables on her so-called “disability,” allowing it to enable her as a motivational speaker and advocate in the United States and beyond. In the future, there is no telling where her feet will take her. Her website is Rightfooted.com.

 

 

KATE GEIS 

Kate Geis is an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer. She began her career at Saturday Night Live and went on to produce documentary programming for WNET, Channel 13, History Channel, A&E and Metro TV. Her subject matter has been a diverse exploration of people’s lives: Saturday Night Live’s set design team, the last checker cab driver, whitewater river runners, public school principals, Eric Carle and Paul Taylor. Previous dance projects include profiles of Miranda Weese, Albert Evans, Patrick Corbin and Terry Dean Bartlett. Since 2006, Geis has been the primary documentarian of the world-renowned children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle. In 2010, she was commissioned to produce a film about Mr. Carle called Eric Carle: Picture Writer, The Art of the Picture Book, which was honored by the American Library Association as a notable children’s video of 2012, and exhibited in Leonard Marcus’ groundbreaking exhibition at the New York Public Library, The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter. Geis was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and was introduced to ballet as a child going to the Kirov in St. Petersburg, Russia, with her foreign-service parents. She studied ballet and retired at 13 when she saw the film Chariots of Fire. Running, as it turns out, was not her passion, but filmmaking was. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and is a member of the board of trustees of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

JACK MCGEE

Born and raised in the South Bronx, veteran character actor Jack McGee is the youngest of eight children. Admittedly, this may have been his impetus to strive to get noticed – and successfully so, as he was the president of his senior class and a star football player at Cardinal Hayes High School. Shortly thereafter, he realized he had a knack for performing and joined the 1960s rock band The Young Rascals. Eventually transitioning into acting, he was able to make ends meet as a New York City firefighter in the late 1970s. Appropriately so, McGee got his first big part in the 1985 firefighter film Turk 182, and then moved to Hollywood, where he appeared in a number of feature films, television movies and TV series. His most notable television role has been as Chief Jerry Reilly on FX’s edgy firefighter drama Rescue Me. He also starred as Police Captain Mike Sutton on USA Network’s original series Common Law opposite Michael Ealy, Warren Kole and Sonya Walger. McGee has recurred on NBC’s Up All Night and in the Spike TV series Players. He also guest-starred on such TV series as Hawaii 5-0Drop Dead DivaRizzoli & IslesCSI: MiamiCriminal MindsCSI: NY and Castle. Additionally, McGee appeared in the Tom Tykwer action-thriller The International alongside Clive Owen and Naomi Watts and Father of Invention with Kevin Spacey. He starred in the critically acclaimed film The Fighter opposite Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, in Moneyball with Brad Pitt and New Year’s Eve directed by Garry Marshall. He was most recently seen in Gangster Squad with Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone. McGee will soon be seen in CBS’ new comedy series The McCarthys as Arthur McCarthy, the patriarch of a sports-crazed Boston family.

 

JULIANA PENARANDA-LOFTUS 

Juliana Penaranda-Loftus began her career working in production for numerous primetime television shows in Colombia. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she moved to the United States. She then completed her master’s in film and video at American University in Washington, D.C. After 9/11, she directed and produced a documentary about Aid Afghanistan, an organization fighting for the right to educate women. She has also produced three feature films and established her own production company, Hidden Village Films, with the purpose of producing films of social relevance. In 2012, she was one of eight women selected by the American Film Institute for their Directing Workshop for Women. Juliana plans to pursue the production of the political thriller film she has under development, after completing the Landfill Harmonic documentary film.

 

 

NESTOR RODRIGUEZ 

Along with Fred Roos and Arthur Sarkissian, Nestor Rodriguez executive-produced the new feature Silver Skies, starring George Hamilton, Valerie Perrine and Jack McGee. Rodriguez also produced Acts of Worship, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive three Independent Spirit Award nominations, including the John Cassavettes Award for “Best Feature.” Winner of KTLA’s Find Me a Comic! competition, Rodriguez is also a comedian, who has opened for Jon Lovitz and performed at The Ice House, Laugh Factory, The Comic Strip and The Improv. Some of his TV credits include hosting gigs on HGTV’s The Fix and TV Guide Television. He has performed comedy on Showtime’s Look, SiTv’s Latino 101 series and Starz in Black’s Staan-Dup comedy series. He has also appeared in Law and Order: SVUThe Good Wife and ER.

 

 

ROSEMARY RODRIGUEZ 

Rosemary Rodriguez wrote and directed the feature film Acts of Worship. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including the John Cassavetes Award for “Best Feature,” and received a glowing review from The New York Times. After that, Rodriguez was accepted into the John Wells Fellowship, where she began television directing. Her episodic TV work includes The Good Wife, where she is a regular director (15 episodes, including the 100th), Denis Leary’s and Peter Tolan’s Rescue Me (where she was first woman director in five seasons), Empire, Manhattan, Elementary, Vegas, Rake, AMC’s Low Winter Sun and Hell on Wheels. Most recent episodes include: Marvel’s AKA Jessica Jones for Netflix and Outsiders. Her episode of The Good Wife (“Cleaning House”) was named by Entertainment Weekly one of the 10 best episodes of TV in 2010. Rodriguez also directed The Pregnancy Pact for the Lifetime Network, which was the network’s fourth-highest-rated movie with 24 million viewers. Rodriguez wrote and directed her second feature, Silver Skies, with George Hamilton, Valerie Perrine, Barbara Bain, Alex Rocco, Jack McGee and Mariette Hartley, executive-produced by Fred Roos (The Godfather movies, St. Vincent) and Arthur Sarkissian (Rush Hour movies). Rodriguez’ next feature is Loose Girl, based on the memoir by Kerry Cohen, executive-produced by Fred Roos. She is also developing the Showtime TV series Florent starring Alan Cumming. Rodriguez is the fourth vice president of the Directors Guild of America and lives in New York and Los Angeles with her stand-up comedian husband, Nestor Rodriguez.