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Programming Team

The 2016 Anchorage International Film Festival would not be possible without the hard work of all of our outstanding programmers!



Gita is a “diamond in the rough”, first volunteering for AIFF as a translator for an Iranian filmmaker when festival staff realized her impeccable eye for cinema. She’s been a part of the Features team ever since. Born in Iran, she came-of-age in Sweden before settling down in the United States. She is an investigator at the AK State Commission for Human Rights, a performer of Persian dances, and answers to the name, “Heinz 57”.

A native of Northern California, Ariel teleported to Anchorage from numerous locations to program Features for AIFF and learn to play the mandolin. She is an active lady, working for Southcentral Foundation, volunteering for STAR and Planned Parenthood and running happily around Alaska. She enjoys dark chocolate and decorative plates, sometimes together. 


Seán Walsh is 28 years young and as childish as he ever was. Whilst he is navigating the logistics of growing up into adulthood, his childlike approach keeps him curious about life and continuously discovering new aspects of its adventures. Sean first got involved with the film festival in 2015, while driving attention to AIFF films through written reviews published at anchoragenightout.com.


I am an actor, director, and stage manager in the local theatre community; and I am a writer and proficient editor of articles and other creative works. I was introduced to the festival by fellow programmer Sean Walsh, and I came back as a programmer because of the fun experience that I had last year. After the festival, I plan on working on the bucket list: an extended road trip or overseas backpacking adventure.



Originally hailing from Switzerland, Denise is a self-described culture and arts junkie and “not an outdoorsy person.” She likes the challenges of being a programmer and loves being a part of a cultural event. She sees the film festival as independent, like her, and through it the movies show her a different angle of the world.


When I’m not currently engrossed with watching AIFF documentary submissions, I’m a local amateur filmmaker who also plays drums for the local rock band Turing Heat, and am the only programmer with a tattoo of a quote from “The Princess Bride”. By day I work as an office manager and travel planner for OSHA/State of Alaska, but I’ve been involved with film festivals since college in my hometown, Minneapolis. I need to be a programmer because that’s what I do for fun at home and my loved ones deserve a break from my “curating” their viewing selections.


Matt Iverson has worked as a backcountry guide, oven-builder, journalist, winemaker, wild plant forager, actor, teacher, musician, and lots of other jobs involving lousy pay and awesome people. His film background ranges from writing/script consulting to acting and sound editing, on projects from experimental shorts to feature-length narratives. He spends his non-film time working at Crush Wine Bistro, gathering mushrooms, and reading a truly embarrassing amount of John Grisham.


James Hornstein joined the AIFF programming team in 2016 and lives in Seward, Alaska. He loves to hike, bike, hunt, fish, and (most of all) watch films!



Rich Curtner has been a public defender for over 35 years. Since college he has been a “film buff,” and made several films the old fashioned way, on film with a hand-crank 16mm camera. He has been the Federal Defender for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Alaska since 1996, and serves AIFF as Board President.


George can regularly be seen at the Shorts programs of many U.S. film festivals with Rich, picking out the best of the best for Alaska. He joined the AIFF Board of Directors in 2015, which was a natural progression, given his love of film festivals. He balances watching dozens of submissions by biking the numerous trails around Anchorage.



My wife Karen and I moved to Alaska in 2007. Karen has been involved with the film festival for many years and is currently a festival board member.  This year, I decided to volunteer for the AIFF as well.  I have been an attorney and public servant for 14 years by profession, but when I am not working, I enjoy travelling, fishing, hiking and, of course, watching films.  Over the years, I have been particularly impressed by the locally made Alaska films. I find the local films, especially those concerning the native communities and rural areas, to be compelling, entertaining, and incredibly educational.  I was honored to be a programmer for the Made in Alaska films this year.  


Heather Beaty grew up on a rainy island in Southeast Alaska and has made her home in Anchorage for the past fifteen years. She works in public policy and communications, and spends her free time fishing, traveling, and playing banjo. She joined AIFF Programming Team this year.



Cedar finds creative solutions to intricate problems, hides in dark theaters, and helps events happen–well, on the path to becoming a filmmaker she fell into theatre management and is currently designing lights for the Anchorage Opera’s production of Rigoletto. She’s been compared to Bob Villa for my ability to fix almost anything and the janitor from Scrubs for her ability to appear unexpectedly and know many things.


Gretchen Weiss was hijacked into media after applying for a photography position on a whim. Since then, she has gone on to develop a diverse media background that includes working in print, video , television, and multiple fine art forms including creative placemaking endeavor “FROST” that was a part of AIFF 2014.  Weiss is currently pursuing a lifelong passion for ensuring that education and training is available for all who desire to learn by attempting to be a creative powerhouse for the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.


I decided to be an animation programmer with AIFF after having the privilege of helping to judge last year’s entries. I have had a strong interest in animation as both art and entertainment since high school and even wrote my Master’s thesis on the use of violence in the narrative of animated movies. I’ve been trying to keep up with the latest animated films and TV series in my free time and can honestly say that the medium is alive and well. After the festival is over, I plan to get my hands on a virtual reality system and spend the winter exploring strange new environments.  


DOUGLASS BOURNE | Screenplay Coordinator

Douglass has written two award-winning screenplays. He teaches writing classes at UAA and is happy that AIFF added the screenplay competition this year. When he’s not working on writing projects, he enjoys being outdoors with his amazing girlfriend and four-legged family members.