4th Annual Asian World Film Festival Announces Winners

The 4th ANNUAL ASIAN WORLD FILM FESTIVAL (AWFF) announced Festival award winners during the closing night ceremony at the ArcLight in Culver City. Almost 40 feature films from 25 participating countries were presented during the nine-day festival that included 17 Oscar® Foreign Language submissions and a dozen Golden Globe® submitted films.  Read full story


Asian World Film Festival Casts Spotlight on World Cinema’s Most Dynamic Region

With Asia representing a whopping 65% of the earth’s population, it’s small wonder that the continent’s film industries are becoming more influential on the world stage. By some measures, China’s rising box office numbers have already surpassed those of the U.S., and India’s film business is the world’s largest by number of films produced. Read full story


The AWFF brings a broad selection of Asian cinema

The festival invites all films chosen by their countries as Oscar or Golden Globe Foreign Film submissions to be part of the selection. One of the festival’s sponsors, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), recognizes selected showings as the required official screenings for their members who vote on the Golden Globes.Read full story


Asian World Film Festival Broadens Already-Wide Embrace

Georges Chamchoum has a simple mission: He wants to share the rich and varied offerings from Asian filmmakers with Hollywood players and beyond. A cultural counter force to Washington isolationism, he has lined up a wide array of screenings, panels and tributes for the third annual Asian World Film Festival. The eight-day event kicks off Oct. 25 in Culver City and concludes Nov. 2, sponsored in part by Variety. Read full story


2016 Golden Globe Foreign Film Submission from Yakutiya, Russia

 A young detective in the Northern Russian region of Yakutia is dealing with a seemingly simple murder case. The investigation becomes a dangerous journey into the world of illegal mining and gold trafficking in which life has no value. Will the case remain as simple as it seemed at first sight? Will the detective’s experience be enough to reveal the truth? Will his friends stay faithful or betray him? There are no simple answers in this film. Read full story



LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1, 2016 – Tonight the 2nd Annual Asian World Film Festival (Oct. 24 - Nov. 1, 2016) announced Festival award winners during the closing night ceremony at the ArcLight in Culver City. The evening was hosted by Korean-American actor Ricky Kim and included remarks from Culver City mayor Jim B. Clarke. The Festival concluded with a screening of Operation Chromite, one of the five Korean films featured throughout the week as part of the newly designed Korean Film Days program in association with CJ Entertainment. The screening was followed by a Q&A with director John H. Lee. 

Almost 40 feature films were presented during the eight day festival that included 20 foreign language Oscar® contenders and a dozen Golden Globe® submitted films. The festival also held five industry panels as part of its Asian World Industry Forum, which featured entertainment industry leaders as moderators and panelists. The 3rd Annual Asian World Film Festival is slated for October 30 - November 7, 2017.

Said Georges Chamchoum, Executive and Program Director of the AWFF: "The Asian World Film Festival unfolded it's second year wth a big bang and is a tower of strength and opportunity for Asian filmmakers. We have presented 38 movies from 26 countries with 56 screenings. Tonight's awards represent the very best of the Asian World Film Festival. We look forward to continuing to present films which are exciting, original, exceptional and inspiring."

The awards were presented by members of the AWFF jury that include jury president and producer Heather Rae (Tallulah), director Amin Matalqa (The Rendezvous), Golden Globe®-nominated composer Carlo Siliotto (Miracles from Heaven), Oscar®-winning screenwriter David Seidler (The King’s Speech), musician DCAT, actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Black Sails), producer/director Iram Parveen Bilal, model/actress Maria Shantanova, Emmy®-nominated director Uli Edel (Last Exit to Brooklyn) and ArcLight Films executive Ying Ye. 

The Cinematic Legacy Award was presented to visionary Korean producer Keon-seop Park by Angela Killoren from CJ Entertainment. This award honors Keon-seop Park for the scope of his efforts to nurture, cultivate and build the Korean cinema into a successful industry in the 1990s and expand its' horizons outside the Korean borders. 

The “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me” Humanitarian Award was presented to El Clásico, directed by Halkawt Mustafa (Iraq). The film was chosen by a special jury of 17 designated by Dr. Tae Yun Kim, president of the AWFF Advisory Board and CEO of Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions. The film was selected because it delivers a powerful message of courage, hope, healing and determination. Dr. Kim presented the award along with a $10,000 cash prize.

The Murray Weissman Award for Movie Poster Art, named after the late legendary entertainment publicist, was presented to Earthquake (Armenia) by Weissman’s daughter, Julie Weissman Markovitz.

The 2nd Annual Asian World Film Festival winners include:

Best Picture
• El Clásico, directed by Halkawt Mustafa (Iraq)

Special Jury Prize
• Cold of Kalandar, directed by Mustafa Kara (Turkey)
• Honorable Mention: The Student, directed by Kirill Serebrennikov (Russia)

Best Male Lead
 Haydar SismanCold of Kalandar (Turkey)

Best Female Lead - TIE
• Ji-min HanAge of Shadows (South Korea)
• Victoria IsakovaThe Student (Russia)

Best Musical Score
• The Black Hen, composed by Jason Kunwar (Nepal)
• Honorable Mention: Amanat, composed by Aktoti Ralmkulova (Kazakhstan) 

Discretionary Jury Award for Courage in Storytelling
• Redha, directed by Tunku Mona Riza (Malaysia)

Special Mention for Best Ensemble Cast
• Very Big Shot (Lebanon)

Audience Award
• The Faith directed by Garamkhand B. (Mongolia)

Opening Night - Images are available here
Closing Night - Images are available here http://bit.ly/2faLR0q 

The AWFF is generously sponsored by Aitysh Film, Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, Etihad Airways, Variety, Sony Entertainment Television - Asia, The Los Angeles Film School, Consulate General of Lebanon in Los Angeles, CD Video Manufacturing, Inc., Chicago Music Library, Manatt Phelps & Phillips, LLP, BDO USA, Samsson, Casa Mexico Tequila, Final Draft, QuickFilmBudget, Arclight Cinemas, The Culver Hotel, Beverly Hills Luxury Interiors, City of Culver City, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, World Nomad Games 2016, Korean Film Council, Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles, Los Angeles World Affairs Council, 5 Star Moving, Los Angeles American Heritage Month, Lebanese Minister of Culture, Berri’s Kitchen, United World Colleges and the Art Directors Guild (IATSE Local 800). 


‘Bambi’ Pioneer Tyrus Wong Gets Two Tributes for 106th Birthday

First published at variety.com on OCTOBER 21, 2016 | 10:00AM PT - by Diane Garrett

Tyrus “Ty” Wong doesn’t get what the fuss is all about. Sure, he created “Bambi’s” distinctive look and exhibited artwork with Picasso. And yes, he illustrated scenes from “Rebel Without a Cause” and “The Wild Bunch” while designing popular Hallmark holiday cards on the side.

This story first appeared in the October 18, 2016 issue of Variety. Subscribe today.

All those accomplishments don’t overly impress Wong, however.

“I’m just a lucky artist,” the centenarian likes to insist to his daughter Kim.

Hollywood and the Asian-American community know better. They have been showering Wong with recognition and accolades the past 15 years while he shakes his head in bemusement.

Next week the pioneering artist will be twice honored at the Asian World Film Festival. On Oct. 24, he will receive a lifetime achievement award on the opening day of the fest, sponsored by Variety. And the next day the festival will screen Pam Tom’s documentary about him on his 106th birthday.

“My dad is tickled,” Kim says on his behalf. “But he doesn’t understand the hullabaloo.”




‘Doctor Strange’ Cast Addresses Whitewashing Controversy at Film’s World Premiere


Tom sure does. The Asian-American filmmaker spent 17 years researching and shaping her documentary about Wong, who has packed a lot of artistry into his long life. Born in China, he immigrated to the Bay Area at age 9, went to art school on scholarship, and painted murals before taking a low-level animation job in 1938.

By then, he was married with a child and needed a steady paycheck. But he yearned to do more. When he heard about Walt Disney’s “Bambi” project, he created a series of lush landscape paintings with deer in the forest.

They impressed Disney, who used Wong’s paintings as the visual inspiration for the seminal film.

Tom learned of Wong’s pivotal role while watching a “Bambi” featurette with her daughter Isabella, now 23, but 6 at the time. It seemed so implausible to her then, given what she knew of the racial climate in Hollywood and the U.S. during that period.

And why didn’t she, as a Chinese-American raised in Southern California, know more about Wong?
When she first tried to raise money for “Tyrus,” all she got were blank stares. So she did her research and conducted interviews when she could. In between, Tom had another daughter, now 15, and worked other jobs. She eventually conducted a Kickstarter campaign and landed a grant from PBS. “It’s been my life for decades,” she admits.

Tom’s research led her to Joe Musso, a legendary illustrator in his own right who learned the tricks of the trade from Wong at Warner Bros. in the early 1960s. Wong moved to that studio in 1942 after Disney’s animation strike, and served as a mentor to such newcomers as Musso during his 16 years at the studio.

“A lot of the reason I’m still sitting here is because of Ty,” says Musso, former longtime president of the IATSE local for illustrators and matte artists, who was initially recommended for union membership by Wong and two others.

He and Wong used to go to lunch frequently when they were fellow studio illustrators, but fell out of touch after Wong left showbiz during yet another slowdown in 1968.

His last two studio projects: “The Green Berets” and “The Wild Bunch.”

“Ty went out on two of the biggest,” Musso says.

By that time the studios had begun to change their approach to illustration departments, Musso says.

And while Musso continues to work at 75, recently providing illustrations for Quentin Tarantino’s “Hateful Eight,” Wong devoted his creative energies elsewhere.

He continued designing the popular Hallmark holiday cards from his Sunland studio, and he designed elaborate bamboo kites the way his father taught him.

Through Wong Tom learned more about the racial climate and restrictions Asian-Americans faced in the past century. Wong couldn’t buy property when he was creating “Bambi’s” distinctive look, for example, and never saw his mother after immigrating to America with his father in 1919, when immigration was sharply restricted under the Chinese Exclusion Act.

“It was a huge history lesson to me,” Tom says.

And while Musso knew Hollywood wasn’t always welcoming to Asians in the 1960s, he never realized the scope of Wong’s racial struggles until he saw Tom’s film.

“When I met him you would never see it. He did not mention it.”

Indeed, he describes the illustrator as revered at Warner Bros. during their shared time at the studio.

As Wong has gotten older, tributes to his work have proliferated. He was named a Disney Legend in 2001, and the Walt Disney Family Museum exhibited his artwork in 2013. Asian-American museums have also paid tribute to the artist.

But all this material about the artist that Tom unearthed posed its own creative challenge: How to shape his story into a digestible form.

“He worked so many media,” Tom says. “He took whatever work he could and elevated it.”

Tom’s first cut was four hours. Eventually she got the right mix, by using Wong’s voice to tell the story. That meant doing pick-up shots when Wong was 104, however.

“No way was I not going to finish it. It’s almost as if the story found me.”

Asian World Film Festival Fights Euro Odds in Oscar’s Backyard

First published at variety.com on OCTOBER 20, 2016 | 11:55AM PT - by Diane Garrett

Fed up with Euro dominance of the Oscar foreign-language category, Sadyk Sher-Niyaz and Georges Chamchoum decided to do something about it: They created the Asian World Film Festivaland launched it in the industry’s backyard last year.

This story first appeared in the October 18, 2016 issue of Variety. Subscribe today.

Now the fest is returning for its second outing in Culver City: It kicks off Oct. 24 with a screening of Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia’s “Ali and Nino,” and concludes Nov. 1 with John H. Lee’s Korean hit “Operation Chromite,” starring Liam Neeson as Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

The festival, sponsored by Variety, will honor pioneering “Bambi” illustrator Tyrus “Ty” Wong with a lifetime achievement award Oct. 24; Pam Tom’s documentary about him will screen on his 106th birthday the following day. Korean-American actor-director Justin Chon, best known for his work in the “Twilight Saga,” will receive the fest’s Rising Star Award. Panels on topics ranging from marketing to women in Hollywood are also on the agenda.

But the primary goal remains: To cast a greater spotlight on films from the region. To qualify for competition, films must be submitted for Oscars, or up for similar honors at the Golden Globes. A jury led by “Frozen River” producer Heather Rae will determine award winners over the course of the eight-day festival.

This year’s lineup includes “3000 Nights” (Jordan), “The Age of Shadows” (South Korea), “Interrogation” (India), “A Father’s Will” (Kyrgyzstan), “Cold of Kalandar” (Turkey), and “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass” (Vietnam).

The festival is positioned after foreign-language Oscar entries were submitted to help Asian filmmakers gain traction during awards season. Chamchoum, executive director of the festival, considers the region’s paltry Oscar showing unjust considering the number of masterpieces made there over the years.

Since 1947, Asian movies have received seven foreign-language Oscars, and three honorary Oscars before the designation of the foreign-language category in 1956. All told, Japan and Russia/USSR are both tied for four each; Iran and Taiwan have each nabbed one Oscar each for their films.

Russia extends into the European continent but the bulk of the country is in Asia, and the festival counts past Russian- and Soviet-winners as Asian.

The Academy itself says it does not classify non-U.S. films by region.

“When you think of the wealth of talent it should be higher,” Chamchoum says. “If there was any justice as least a dozen would have won.”

By contrast, consider the European bounty: Italy and France have each won more foreign-language Oscars than the whole Asian continent, with 14 and a dozen, respectively. Spain has also picked up four Oscars, with Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands at three each.

Sher-Niyaz and Chamchoum both feel the disparity keenly as filmmakers themselves. Fest founder Sher-Niyaz, a native of Kyrgyzstan, directed “Kurmanjan Datka” (Queen of the Mountains) in 2014 and produced “Nomaden des himmels” (Heavenly Nomadic) last year. Chamchoum, born in Niger to a Lebanese family, was educated at a boarding school in France before becoming a filmmaker.

Now 70, he has been working in America for 25 years. He says his biggest frustration is an Euro Oscar tilt.

Once he and Sher-Niyaz hatched the festival plan, Chamchoun quickly worked his contacts to pull it together last year.

“It wasn’t even an idea of a festival when Sadyk approached me,” Chamchoum explains, praising him as a man of vision. “We have the same frustration about Asian cinema in Hollywood.”

He says he quickly rallied a team of organizers to the cause. “Didn’t even take 48 hours to set it up,” Chamchoum says.

There were frustrations along the way, but both Sher-Niyaz and Chamchoum are pleased with their first showing. Last year, 14 Oscar-submitted movies screened at the festival — proof, according to Sher-Niyaz, “that the idea of the festival was right and necessary.”

“Last year it went very well,” Chamchoum concurs, citing mostly full houses during screenings. “For a first year we really pulled a miracle because Hollywood is not easy.”

He considers “Ali and Nino” a particularly good fit for this year’s opening-night slot. The movie is an adaptation of a 1947 novel about a Muslim and Christian who fall in love despite their differences. Kapadia, a British filmmaker of Indian-Muslim heritage who just won an Oscar winner for his Amy Winehouse documentary, directed it.

“For me it has everything that we want,” Chamchoum says, before detailing its cross-cultural appeal. “It is the perfect example of what we’re trying to do with festival.”

“We were approached by the festival and delighted to be asked,” producer Kris Thykier says. He believes the movie has contemporary resonance despite its setting in World War I-era Azerbaijan, and wants as many moviegoers as possible to see it.

Thykier applauds the festival for showcasing diverse voices at a time when tribalism and xenophobia is on the rise around the globe.

“Anything that can bring diverse cultures and perspectives to a larger audience should be supported and applauded, particularly in a world riven by xenophobia and fear of ‘difference,’” he says.

Convincing some filmmakers to screen their movies at the festival has been more of a challenge than Chamchoum expected, however. He and his all-volunteer team try to get filmmakers to screen their movies for free in exchange for the exposure.

Each Oscar-submitted film will screen twice at the festival and 80% of all the Globes contenders will play twice, the remainder getting a solo screening. The festival draws from 51 countries, spanning from Cyprus to Japan and including movie-loving India.

But some consultants and publicists treat festivals as a business proposition, Chamchoum rails, admitting he has an old-school approach to the gatherings.

Another obstacle this year: Increased competition with other U.S. film festivals interested in booking Asian films, Sher-Niyaz says. “But we are thrilled at the same time that is happening,” he says in a translated email exchange. “That is what we have aimed for.”

The main goal, he adds, is that more Americans see important film projects from the region. Chamchoum expects to triple last year’s attendance, which he pegs above 7,000.

“I hope we have 25,000,” he says.

“There’s always frustration and anger,” putting a festival together, he says, “but passion and commitment takes over.”

As for Sher-Niyaz, he believes the festival he founded can help further highlight the need for diverse views and perspectives everywhere, Hollywood included.

“The world is different and thus interesting,” he says. “Politicians create walls and borders; people of culture and art try to create bridges to connect people.”

The second annual Asian World Film Festival runs Oct. 24 to Nov. 1 at ArcLight Culver City. Visit asianworldfilmfest.org for more information.



Asian World Film Festival Announces 2016 Honorees

 2nd annual Asian World Film Festival to Honor Legendary Artist Tyrus Wong
and Rising Star Justin Chon



Wong, lead artist on Bambi, will celebrate 106th birthday


LOS ANGELES, Oct 6, 2016 — The 2nd annual Asian World Film Festival, set to run in Culver City from October 24 to November 1, will be honoring a 105-year-old legendary Chinese-born American, Tyrus Wong, who was the lead artist on Disney’s Bambi. He will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award on opening night. In addition, Justin Chon, actor, writer, producer, director, will be recognized with the Rising Star Award.

Wong is the subject of Pamela Tom’s 2015 documentary Tyrus, which will screen at the ArcLight, Culver City as part of the festival at 6:30 p.m. on October 25 – his 106th birthday.

Wong’s art covers more than film. He is a renowned painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer and kite maker. He worked at Disney from 1938 to 1941 where his lush panels formed the inspiration for Bambi. Later he worked as a production illustrator for Warner Bros. and was a Hallmark greeting card designer, where some of his cards sold more than a million copies.

Justin Chon is the star of the current independent films Man-Up, which he also produced and wrote, and Seoul Searching.  He is also one of the stars of the Yahoo basketball series Sin City Saints.  This busy actor also just completed a starring role in the feature horror film Satanic. He can be currently seen in DramaWorld  for Viki.

Last year, he starred with Ray Liotta in the Martin Scorsese executive-produced feature Revenge of the Green Dragons and comedy fans will recognize him from his starring role in the comedy feature 21 and Over (from the creators of The Hangover). He was born and raised in Southern California, the son of South Korean parents.

About the Asian World Film Festival

The Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) brings the best of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles in order to draw greater recognition to the region's wealth of filmmakers, strengthening ties between the Asian and Hollywood film industries. Uniting through cross-cultural collaboration, our festival champions films from 51 countries across Asia spanning from Turkey to Japan and Russia to India and the Middle East. All films that participate in the Festival will have a unique chance to be guided through the challenging awards season, showcasing their foreign films to the Motion Picture Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and all Guilds for enhanced exposure, media attention and awards consideration. AWFF is a non-profit organization under Aitysh USA. www.AsianWorldFilmFest.org

Media Contacts at Weissman/Markovitz Communications

Cheri Warner, cheri@publicity4all                                  Leonard Morpurgo, leonard@publicity4all

o: 818-760-8995        




Thank You for Joining Us at the 2016 Kickoff!

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to support the 2016 Asian World Film Festival! We are so proud to have the support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and grateful they hosted our event at their beautiful office in West Hollywood last Friday.

Advisory Board Members Gia Noortas and Medha Jaishankar

Advisory Board Members Gia Noortas and Medha Jaishankar

Check out more photos from the event here.

Attending last night were members of our Advisory and Honorary Board, as well as the 2016 Festival Jury and team. We are so thankful to our partners who joined us from Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions, CJ Entertainment, BDO, CD Video Manufacturing and Variety. We hope all our guests enjoyed the swag from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, ArcLight, LA Film School, CJ Entertainment, and Lighthouse. We also want to extend a big thank you to Berri's Cafe for their delicious treats and look forward to having them back at the Filmmakers Lounge during Festival Week.

It's hard to believe that just two years ago founders Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, Asel Sherniyazova, Executive Director, Georges Chamchoum, Director of Operations Brett Syson and I first started to conceptualize the Festival. We are so humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to our efforts and proud of how far we have come in such a short time. All of which wouldn't be possible without the hard work of our volunteers and team that dedicate their time to the Festival mission. We still have a long way to go, but we look forward to having you with us as we continue to grow.

And of course all of this wouldn't be possible without the support of YOU-- our audience. Be on the lookout for Festival Passes going on sale in the next week and tickets sales for select films on September 26th.

Stay tuned for news coming soon on our lineup and an announcement on our 2016 Festival Honorees. See you on Opening Night October 24th, 2016 at ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City!

- Rachel Sine, Artistic Director




The Festival Champions 51 Countries Across Asia and Opens in Culver City Oct. 24 – Nov. 1 Heather Rae

LOS ANGELES, September 7, 2016 — The 2nd Annual Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) has named Heather Rae, producer of award-winning Frozen River and Netflix Original Tallulah as its jury president. She has produced more than 30 features and documentaries. The festival runs from October 24 to November 1 at the ArcLight Cinema in Downtown Culver City.

Rae joins other international jury members, including director Uli Edel (Germany/USA); musician DCat (USA); actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim (UK/Nigeria); director Amin Matalqa (Jordan); Oscar-winning screenwriter David Seidler (New Zealand); model and actress Maria Shantanova (Russia) and Golden Globe nominated Italian composer Carlo Siliotto, with more to be announced.

Considered the window to Asian world cinema, the festival champions films from 51 countries across Asia, from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean to Japan, Russia, to China and India, strengthening ties between the growing Asian and Hollywood film industries. A number of special awards will be handed out during the festival, including the Cinematic Achievement Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award and a Rising Star Award, in addition to a selection of jury awards and a Lighthouse Humanitarian Award and Music Award sponsored by Chicago Music Library.

The first films to be announced for the festival are South Korea’s Oscar® submission, The Age of Shadows; A Father’s Will (Kyrgyzstan), The Faith (Mongolia), My Murderer (Yakutia) and 3000 Nights (Palestine/Jordan). A total of 27 films will be screened over the course of the festival. Sponsors include the above-mentioned ArcLight Cinema and the landmark Culver Hotel, as well as the city of Culver City, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions and Sony Home Entertainment. CJ Entertainment is sponsoring the closing night reception and KOFIC/Korean Cultural Center is sponsoring a reception after the screening of The Age of Shadows on Friday, October 28.

For information and sponsorship packages, please visit: www.asianworldfilmfest.org/ For tickets, please visit: asianworldfilmfest.org/festivalpasses/ ABOUT THE ASIAN WORLD FILM FESTIVAL

The Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) brings the best of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles in order to draw greater recognition to the region's wealth of filmmakers, strengthening ties between the Asian and Hollywood film industries. Uniting through cross-cultural collaboration, our festival champions films from 51 countries across Asia spanning from Turkey to Japan and Russia to India and the Middle East. All films that participate in the Festival will have a unique chance to be guided through the challenging awards season, showcasing their foreign films to the Motion Picture Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and all Guilds for enhanced exposure, media attention and awards consideration. AWFF is a non-profit organization under Aitysh USA.

Weissman/Markovitz Communications
Cheri Warner cheri@publicity4all.com
Leonard Morpurgo leonard@publicity4all.com
w: 818-760-8995

Golden Globes Submission Form Now Open!

The Golden Globe Awards submission form is now open! The Asian World Film Festival in partnership with Hollywood Foreign Press Association encourages filmmakers to submit their work for consideration for the 2017 Golden Globes Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The submission form is now open through and can be accessed here.

The deadline for submission is Monday October 31st, 2016. For the full list of HFPA rules and regulations, please refer to their website.