By Diane Kelly – Correspondent AD Avenue Group
The Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) celebrated its 5th iteration in ‘one’ of the world’s entertainment epicenters between November 6th to the 14th in the iconic ArcLight Cinemas in Los Angeles, California. With representation from 50 countries, AWFF played to a full house with a roster of over 70 critically acclaimed movie premieres, award-winning filmmakers, industry decision-makers and a contingency of Hollywood celebrities.
A watershed year, an AWFF spokesperson announced the establishment of a complement, Asian World Film Festival – China / AWFF CHINA. Industry powerhouse Ms. Sharon Zhou was elected as Chief Executive Officer to head up the division. As CEO of AWFF CHINA, Mrs. Zhou confirmed, “The Chinese Film Industry is at the pinnacle of becoming a world-class entertainment hub”.
“This is a trajectory in the making for over a decade,” according to Holmes Stoner, Founder of the Pacific Rim Business Council an association that boasts 28 member nations, “Who among the Hollywood savvy does not recall the alarm bells going off by U.S. protectionists as Dalian Wanda acquired Legendary Entertainment Group, the makers of Jurassic Park, Godzilla, and Pacific Rim? The strategic alliance was strengthened by Dalian Wanda purchasing AMC Entertainment Holdings soon after, the U.S.’s second-largest movie chain in 2008 and now holds the vaulted position of #1.”
Stoner was returning from Beijing when the deal between AMC and Dalian was inked. He called this reporter on the tarmac in Bangkok breaking the story even before Reuters got it. After learning from Hollywood’s best including inimitable production values, distribution protocols, and advanced technology, Asia’s film and television output resonate with audiences around the world. Here are films that run the gamut from epic historical themes, heavy on CGI and short on dialogue, to smaller indie films with universal stories and appeal. No longer constrained by national boundaries, “Asia and the entertainment business as a whole has entered a Golden Age where the richness of cinema has met the broad base capability of global distribution at the nexus of creativity and business. ” says Nan Yings, Expert Analyst and Industry Liaison.
Production output has more than doubled in China in the last decade with an estimated 1.3 billion USD (9 billion Yuan) invested in making 902 feature films in 2018 up from 798 the previous year. Generating significant box office revenue domestically, international earning’s and audience share “is off the charts”, confirms Producer and Audio Director, Benjamin Chen.
The respected, multinational auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) projects China will become the largest box office market in the world by 2020.
The Asian World Film Festival serves to showcase and to extend the reach of Asian content abroad while fomenting cultural exchange and mutual admiration between nations.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and the Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) announced the formation of the ‘Snow Leopard Scholarship Program‘. The endeavor is meant to underwrite and support emerging filmmakers and to assure a continuing flow of new releases in the distribution pipeline. A special jury of HFPA members elected the recipient of the annual scholarship with a bronze Snow Leopard Trophy that was presented at an exclusive gala of festival peers.
Executive Program Director of the Asian World Film Festival, Georges N. Chamchoum said, “The AWFF is grateful to the HFPA for their gracious support of the first-ever HFPA Snow Leopard Scholarship. The competition and scholarship brought critical awareness to the Asian and Asian-American entertainment communities in Hollywood and encourages promising young Asian filmmakers to develop creative storytelling that speaks to audiences everywhere. We trust that this valued partnership will continue to ignite and inspire events like this for years to come.” AWFF is working with the Snow Leopard Trust to raise awareness of the endangered mountain Snow Leopard and its ecosystem in Asia.
Championing films origination from over 50 Asian countries, including collaborations between’ Asian and U.S. producers, entries spanned the globe from Turkey to Japan and from Russia to India and the Middle East.
The festival featured over 25 films that have qualified for consideration in the Best International Feature Film competition at one or both of Hollywood’s major award events, the Academy Awards, and the Golden Globes. On the program was the closing-night film “Weathering With You,” Japan’s official submission of breathtaking anime and South Korea’s dark suspensor ‘Parasite‘ where nothing is as it seems.
All films that participated in the Festival have a unique chance to be guided through the challenging awards season. All entries were showcased for members of the Motion Picture Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and voting Guilds in theaters as they were intended. The enhanced exposure, media attention, and awards consideration makes AWFF an indispensable, must-attend event on the Festival circuit. AWFF is a non-profit organization under Aitysh USA: www.asianworldfilmfest.org
Nancy Kwan (Flower Drum Song/The World of Suzie Wong) was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award who opined, “Cultural immersion, ease of travel and the internet is advancing a world where communication and open dialogue between different ethnicities is redefining the global landscape.” She believes that there is still a lot of room for Asian actors to fulfill roles that eschew stereotypes and can seamlessly enter the mainstream.
The AWFF American Red Cross/Tiffany Circle Courage to Dream Award was awarded to film director, Lena Kahn. Additional honors were bestowed upon actor Hiroyuki Sanda with the Snow Leopard Outstanding Cinematic Achievement Award and Tiffany Chu for 2019 SNOW LEOPARD RISING STAR Award. Hollywood producer, Paula Wagner (Marshall, Jack Reacher, Mission Impossible, The Last Samurai) joined an industry panel composed of top producers and directors to discuss the trends in filmmaking and content creation for an expanding global market.
Georges N. Chamchoum, and Rick Ambros, AWFF Executive Board Members, moderated a series of industry forums representing experts from all areas of film. Financing, streaming, development & production, legal and international co-production were hot button topics. Headlined by James Farrell, Head of International Originals at Amazon Studios, the global streaming panel examined how the voracious appetite for online content is changing the dynamic of the entertainment business.
The future of film finance, the success of Asians in Hollywood, the explosion of Asian content and what that means for the future of film we all on the agenda. Panels explored the challenges filmmakers face on a global scale shedding light on the growing role digital players such as Amazon and Netflix have on redefining how content is financed and released.
Another first, Aitysh China Charitable Foundation was formally established with Vision Cai as the first Chairman will offer scholarships to young directors, producers, and actors in films about environmental protection in China.
The 6th annual Asian World Film Festival is slated to unspool in Shanghai in June 2020. In addition to a red carpet opening ceremony, panels and the Asia Film Week finalist film exhibition and closing award gala there will be a coinciding Greater China Film and Television Cultural Exposition. With goals to further cultural interchange, co-production and distribution agreements complemented by the Film and Television Industry Development Summit Forum. Industry leaders from throughout the region and from across the globe are invited to embrace the adage, “seeing is believing’ especially in the case of future AWFF.
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Recipients of the 2019 ASIAN WORLD FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS ARE:
Snow Leopard Audience Award: 1982 (Lebanon), presented by Actress Tiffany Chu and accepted by Director Oualid Mouaness.
Snow Leopard Best Actress Award: Arezoo Ariapoor, Fereshta Afshar, Hasiba Ebrahimi HAVA, MARYAM, AESHA (Afghanistan, Iran), presented by “Ting Ting” Xu, who also accepted on behalf of the actresses.
Snow Leopard Best Actor Award: Stepan Petrov in The Sun Above Me Never Sets (Yakutia, Russia), presented by actor Kieu Chin and accepted by Irina Engelis, Executive Director of the Yakutsk International Film Festival.
Snow Leopard Jury Award – Best Director: Dito Tsintsadze for Shindisi (Georgia), and accepted by Mr. Tsintsadze
Snow Leopard Special Jury Award: Aurora (Kyrgyzstan), presented by Sarah Finn and accepted by Director Bekzat Pirmatov.
Snow Leopard Best Film Award: The Sun Above Me Never Sets (Yakutia, Russian Federation), presented by Jury President Meryem Uzerli and accepted by Irina Engelis, Executive Director of the Yakutsk International Film Festival.
The Murray Weissman Poster Art Award was given to the film Meiduo (China), presented by Peter Kwon and was accepted by Li Zhu.
The Asian World Film Festival is proudly sponsored by Aitysh USA, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Arclight Cinemas, Culver Hotel, City Of Culver City, Communication University of Zhejiang (China), Snow Leopard Trust, AKIpress, CJ Entertainment, Chosun Daily LA, Moredii, MDSUN, Novartizan, WECTAC, Korean Cultural Center LA, Beijing Genki Forest Beverage, Sakura Production USA, Cape, procolo.co, Gaby’s, Emporium Thai.
ABOUT THE ASIAN WORLD FILM FESTIVAL, NOVEMBER 6 –
All films that participate in the Festival will have a unique chance to be guided through the challenging awards season, and showcased for 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