Jurors are chosen from a wide range of international artists, based on their body of work and respect from their peers. 



Ben-Hur Sepehr, is an experienced filmmaker and stage director, and has studied under 

Ingmar Bergman and Frank Sundstrom in Sweden. His very first project, a short 

film titled, A Journey to Finland, earned him an Award of Excellence. He then co-

wrote and produced plays at the Gamla Stan Theater of Arts in the old section of

Stockholm, before working at the prestigious Stockholm State Theater and 

Stockholm Dramaten Theater in various capacities, including Lighting Assistant, 

Assistant Stage Decorator, Assistant Stage Master, and Assistant Director.

There, he worked with numerous Scandinavian theatrical and cinematic icons, 

including Frank Sundstrom, Ingmar Bergman, Tage Danielson, and Liv Ullman. 

In Sweden, Ben-Hur was honored to meet with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They 

discussed the racial and religious prejudices each had grown up with. Dr. King's 

parting words to young Ben to never forget God in all his endeavors. This had a 

lifelong and profound impact on him, and has been the driving force behind all 

his works, especially The Desperate, The Coin, Return to Destiny, and 

Prophecy. King also inspired him to form a non-profit organization called 

“Tolerance Through Knowledge,” to use the arts and entertainment to instigate 

and promote positive cultural shifts and movements in mindsets such as 

discrimination and prejudice.

In Iran, Ben-Hur became filmmaker for the Shah, for whom he documented 

major ceremonies plus meetings with world leaders. He has traveled through- out 

the Middle East to make documentaries. He also produced and directed a 

variety of stage productions for the Iran-America Society while working on 

numerous Iranian film and TV projects as a writer, director, and producer.

Ben-Hur’s most recent work is a short film, The Desperate, which he 

wrote, produced, and directed. His film is based on a true story about a night

 in a World War II German Concentration Camp.  It has won 67 awards, and

over 100 nominations from top film festivals all over the world, including Cannes,

Hollywood, and Levante International (in Bari, Italy) where they called it a 

“Masterpiece” and titled Ben-Hur a “Maestro."



 Peter Shushtari has taught at UCLA for 10 years, including the classes The Creative Film 

Actor, Acting for the Camera and Acting and Performance in Film, as well as the M.F.A. Film Acting Workshop in the Department of Theater.

His first feature-length film, Shakespeare…In and Out, was invited to lead off the Independent Feature Project West premier series and later received domestic and international distribution in more than 15 countries, including England, France and Germany. Shushtari has made several short films that have received numerous accolades, including the prestigious Nissan Focus Award and the Trimark Visionaries Award. He has optioned screenplays for Buckeye Productions and his work includes writing and directing 20 episodes of educational programs that have appeared on PBS affiliates throughout the U.S. He is the co-creator of the popular TV series Ingles Ya!, which features the critically acclaimed seriocomic novella The Engagement that has been broadcast in Mexico and regions of the US. Shushtari also has extensive commercial experience as a producer and director of promotional ads for companies such as 

Fiat, Ford, and Marcus & Millichap. In recent years, he was brought in by LAUSD as a multimedia 

educational materials developer to help launch four interactive educational programs, which have reached more than 300,000 students.  Currently, he writes and directs TV spots for the We Are DACE ad campaign to promote adult education.

In addition to teaching at UCLA TFT, Shushtari is the co-founder of the Film Development Workshop Project Tambourine Kite. He recently directed the pilot episode of the reality show Psychos in the Kitchen, and is working on two feature-length screenplays, Lake Superior and The Last Housewife, which are part of a Great Lake themed trilogy.

Shushtari earned a B.S. in TV/Film from San Diego State University and an M.F.A. in film directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television


Actor,Writer, Director & Film Professor

Born in Iran, Eilya Saadati started his acting career at the age of 12.  His love for writing and story-telling was inspired by the many children's books and plays he read as a child. This persuaded him to write his first play, which won the first prize in a national competition and was published when he was 16. Eilya’s determination for learning led him to earn his bachelor degree in Literature of Drama from the University of Tehran. In 2000, he received his masters in Directing Film and Theatre from the Art University of Tehran. Eilya Saadati continued his education, and in 2011 he received his PhD in Art History. By then he was teaching in universities and was a judge in many film and theatre festivals. He has managed 4 festivals and has published 48 articles, short stories, plays, film and TV scripts.