Sadyk Sher-Niyaz is a successful public figure, producer and director who followed his dream to attend film school in Moscow at the age of 38. He is the Chairman of the Union of Filmmakers of Kyrgyzstan, the founder of the Aitysh Public Fund, which includes Aitysh Film and the Kalemger Literary Club, and one of the founders of the Ak Ilbers Film Awards. In 2011 he established the International Film Festival 'Kyrgyzstan - Land of Short Films' which is held every December in the capital of Bishkek. In 2015, his directorial debut film 'Kurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains', was Kyrgyzstan's official Oscar submission and gained critical acclaim and wide audience appreciation. The awards season campaign launched a sold-out red carpet awards screening introduced by Sharon Stone, garnering awards buzz and reaching the rank of #12 out of 83 foreign films. The film was also featured at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Georges N. Chamchoum, Executive & Program Director
Georges Chamchoum is an Emmy and multiple award-winning Film Director and Producer, born in Niger West Africa of Lebanese origin. He was educated in France, Germany and Wales and entered the film industry in 1968 after graduating from the Conservatoire du Cinema Francais in Paris. Georges has directed and produced over 35 features in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Canada and the USA, with many screened at various International Film Festivals and Universities. He has also organized numerous film festivals since 1982, most notably as Jury Delegate for the Festival du Film Fantastique et de Science Fiction de Paris (France) and as the Executive and Program Director of the Monaco Charity Film Festival. Georges is currently the International Director of the Yakutsk International Film Festival (Yakutia, Sakha Republic) and International Relations Executive for Notre Dame University International Film Festival (Lebanon). In addition, he is Co-founder of Film Festivals Cinergy, a union of film festivals around the world to promote and champion talent in filmmaking. Georges has lived in Los Angeles for the past 28 years. Most recently, in 2017, he was named one of the 100 most influential Lebanese in the world and has been honored in a special commemorative publication to mark the occasion.
Lani Netter, Director of Development & Philanthropy
Lani Netter, born and raised in Malibu, California, is a documentary filmmaker-- her most recent project, a documentary on the Holocaust. An active philanthropist, Netter sits on several nonprofit boards including Red Cross Tiffany Circle, Arrow Child and Family Foundation, Alpha Youth, Alpha Southern California and the Film Advisory Board at Pepperdine University's Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture. In addition to her film projects, Netter is working in partnership with the Pepperdine's Graduate School of Education and Psychology to develop a comprehensive ethics curriculum. Netter has collaborated with Georges Chamchoum on two film festivals. She is married to Producer, Gil Netter, most well-known for his Academy Award-winning work on Life of Pi and The Blind Side, among others. Gil and Lani are working together on the movie, The Shack, which just wrapped physical production and is expecting to be released in 2016.
Asel Sherniyazova, Co-Founder & Managing Director
Asel Sherniyazova has an economic and business educational background and for two years studied in China, representing Kyrgyzstan on the Cross-Cultural Exchange Program. Fluent in Chinese, Russian, English and Kyrgyz, she is a Co-Founder of both a Business Consultancy Company in China and a non-profit organization on Public Speaking in Kyrgyzstan. She was Assistant Producer on the multi-award winning film 'Kurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains' and worked on the Oscar and Golden Globe campaigns for the film which was submitted for Best Foreign Language Film. She is an integral part of the Festival, liaising with and assisting attending filmmakers in addition to overseeing the programming of all submitted films.
Brett Syson, Director of Operations
Brett Syson has had links with Asia for the past 20 years. From 1995-1998 he worked as the Team Leader for a World Bank/British Council Project in Kyrgyzstan. He was also the British Honorary Consul in Kyrgyzstan and was instrumental in organizing the visit of HRH The Prince of Wales to Bishkek in 1996. During 2001 Brett attended the New York Film Academy and since then has worked on the Management and Marketing Team for Odeon Cinemas in London and later became involved with the Kyrgyz Film Industry. He has been a Producer and Consultant on several award-winning Kyrgyz films, including two Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Language Film.
Robert Smith, Commercial Director
Robert Smith is an honors graduate of both the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Hawai’i where he was an East-West Center degree-fellow, earning an MA in Asian Studies. He spent a semester at Xinjiang University in Urumqi; Hainan University in Haikou; as well as a summer of researching in Tibet. Rob has worked as an economics and energy consultant based in Honolulu and Singapore on projects spanning the Asia-Pacific region since 2000. In 2011, Rob relocated to Dubai, UAE in partnership with energy consultancy FGE, opening their office to serve Middle Eastern markets. Rob’s extensive travel and academic focus on ethnic minorities drew him to the Asian World Film Festival and he is proud to help champion underrepresented voices and stories.
Gia Noortas, Consular Liaison
Gaukhar Noortas has 15 years of corporate management experience in her native Kazakhstan and in the United States. In 2008, Gia founded the Los Angeles based film production company, Mount Helix Films developing and producing international film projects. She is currently pioneering film production projects shot in Kazakhstan for commercialization in local, as well as international markets. She also produced, The Housewife, a film which was sold to HBO Latina and US Cable Time Warner (formerly Comcast). Gia manages the Honorary Consulate of Kazakhstan in Los Angeles, bridging both cultural and business relations. This included the launch of Kazakhstan: Montage of Cinemas Film and Cultural Festival in Hollywood as well as Tengri: Montage of Cultures. In 2013, Gia launched Hollywood Film Academy, a Los Angeles based company specializing in the instruction of film production. Gia holds a Masters from the Kazakhstan National Conservatory.
Sarah Mason, Managing Producer
Sarah has worked for film festivals in Russia, the UAE and Qatar. In the UAE, she has produced campaigns for governmental, tourism and arts authorities including Abu Dhabi Art, The Guggenheim, Le Louvre and the Saadiyat al Manarat cultural district. Sarah was instrumental in the launch of Abu Dhabi’s media zone and supervised production at the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix, covering citywide activities for three years that contributed to the campaign’s consecutive EMEA Sabre Gold Awards. Sarah’s documentary Arabic Fusion  was nominated at the UK’s International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinemaand won the UAE Patron of Arts Award. She was Production Manager on From A to B , regarded as the 'first true Arab blockbuster'. Sarah is a graduate of Bristol University.
Rick Ambros, Director of Industry Relations
Rick Ambros brings a deep background in international film and television production, co-production, business development and financing across Asia, Europe and North America. For the last ten years he has focused his attention on the rapidly growing media and entertainment industries in India, China and Vietnam. He is a Partner in Benchmark Studios, a media production and advisory firm based in Mumbai, and Lightsource Asia Media Group, an entertainment consulting group bridging China with Hollywood. He served as COO of Justin Lin's Perfect Storm Entertainment and Chinese media company Seven Stars. Previously, he spent considerable time in India on behalf of Fox, Sony, Constantin Entertainment and Star TV.
Director of Business Liaison, UK & EU
Richard started his career in offshore oil exploration in the Norwegian Arctic, and after gaining his MBA directed product development teams in both Germany and Florida. He later became Business Development Director for Tyco’s $600m Electronic Security Division, working extensively with Asian strategic partners.Following a Masters at Harvard Richard consulted in the commercial real estate and renewable energy sectors, as well as undertaking fundraising work for California non-profits. Richard later founded the United World Colleges Alumni Network in Southern California with over 300 members, along with its FilmMakers Group.Richard served as Commercial Director for AWFF in 2015 & 2016, bringing major international sponsors to the festival. Richard is now our Director of Business Liaison for the UK & EU based in London.
Takhee Han, Director of Development
Takhee Han is a twenty-year veteran in film production and distribution in US and Korea. He produced the feature films: "89 Human Market","Mayumi","Vanished ","3 Ninjas Part 1~3", and "Galgamesh". He also distributed both the critically and commercially acclaimed films, "Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf", "Chunking Express","Swordsman ", and "The Tai-Chi Master", in Korea. He graduated from The Graduate School of Arts: Chung-Ang University with a degree in arts management, and is currently a member of The Korean Society of Producers and Filmmakers of Korea.
Jaeson Ma, Director of International Relations
Co-Founder of East West Artists (EWA) an international talent management and production company that focuses on developing & overseeing global Asian talent. EWA manages top tier clients in partnership with Untitled Entertainment between Asia and Hollywood. Prior to this, Jaeson was a partner with Adventures Corp & Plan C Management Group working with top east west talent in the US, Europe, Greater China, Japan, South Korea & Southeast Asia. His relationships with east west creative talent and content creators are extensive and deep as a sought after strategic consultant for media industry related businesses. Jaeson is also a sought after motivational speaker, author, and multi-talented artist.
CHRIS KRIESA, INDUSTRY RELATIONS
Raised in the Midwest and after finishing a MA in Parapsychology, Chris worked in sales training a few years, then went into entertainment. For 35 years he has been acting, teaching and writing. With well over 150 credits, he has performed with some of the greats like - Alec Baldwin, Kathy Baker, James Garner, Tom Hanks, Jack Lemon, Elisabeth Shue and Billy Bob Thornton, under the hand of such artful directors as John Avildsen, Jon Avnet, Doug Campbell, Bruce Caulk, Georges Chamchoum, Don Chaffey, the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, Jan Eliasberg, Russ Friedenberg, Philip Kaufman, Carl Reiner, Lewis Teague, Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Zemeckis. His other interests include travel, filmmaking and Eastern philosophy. He has made several short comedic/travel films, having taken him to more than 55 countries.
Marilyn Farah, Program Co-Director
Marilyn Farah was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She graduated from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in 2006, followed by a master’s degree in animation with emphasis on stop motion in 2008. She started her career as a freelance animator and graphic design artist then worked on a feature film and produced several TV shows. Marilyn Farah graduated with a certificate in business and management of entertainment from UCLA extension in 2014 and is currently living in Los Angeles.
VIP Guests Relations
Sarah Ahn was born in South Korea, moving at a very early age to Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Biola University in 2014 with a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Ministries. She is currently working as a translator, creating Korean subtitles for American films and has now been with the Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) for 2 years, where she is an integral link between the Korean Entertainment Community and the Festival. She has 2 passions, K Pop and AWFF, to which she dedicates most of her time.