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.
Sultankazy Pirzhan uulu, Artistic Director
Originally from the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan, Sultankazy moved to Los Angeles in 2013 to pursue a career in film. Focusing on directing, script writing, and producing, he enjoys all aspects of the film industry and since 2015 has been an integral part of the Asian World Film Festival team. During 2017 Sultankazy worked at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival as a Production Coordinator. In addition, he has spent the past 6 years as a volunteer for various non-profit organizations in Kyrgyzstan and the United States.
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.
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.
Charles Choe, Director Marketing & Sponsorship
Mr. Charles Choe is a Principal at Elite EB5 Solutions (EES), an immigration investment consulting company, and CEO for Each Home Property Insiders, LLC a real estate investment company. Mr. Choe brings his wealth of connections and knowledge in international distribution and marketing to both the Asian World Film Festival and his companies to help process manage, consult, and connect clients to the right partners for their projects. Additionally, Mr. Choe has over 10 years of experience in an executive role with Overseas Korean Trades Association (OKTA) that has over 20,000 people in membership and has worked at one of the largest financial institutions in South Korea.
Kathleen I-Ying Lee, Digital Marketing Director
Kathleen started out as a Research Assistant for the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan as well as working for Taiwan's leading television station, Sanlih Television. With a Masters degree in New Media Management from Syracuse University, she has run various digital marketing campaigns for a number of different companies and has spent her entertainment career in film marketing and acquisitions while serving as a coordinator at a leading film sales company, VMI Worldwide. Kathleen has also functioned as a communication liaison point with producers from China and has been instrumental in bridging China and the US in various aspects of cultural and business relations.
Kathleen Peiris, Managing Producer
Before moving to California, Kathleen worked in Philadelphia for several years. She managed student outreach for two Philadelphia Film Festivals, and later spent nearly two years as the Communications Director for the Global Philadelphia Association, a non-profit promoting Philadelphia as an internationally competitive city. Always passionate about international film, Kathleen worked at the Royal Film Commission – Jordan while still in college, and is the RFC’s former U.S. Liaison Officer in Los Angeles. Currently, Kathleen is producing a soon-to-be-released feature-length documentary, as well as using her international experience to develop a number of other projects. She is married to a wonderful physician from Sri Lanka and they have two Pomeranians.
RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, 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.
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.
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.
Sarah Ahn, 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.
Grace Elizabeth Hwang, Executive Advisor to Industry Relations
Grace Elizabeth Hwang has been an avid supporter and advocate for the arts, film and theatre throughout her lifetime. In LA, she worked with the Center Theatre Group and the Los Angeles Theatre Center. She was also involved with the Asian American community working in business development and banking. After living in NYC for fifteen years, her love for theatre and film grew. She is currently working on a TV pilot and two screenplays to develop and produce. Grace is thrilled to be involved with AWFF because there is no time like the present to promote diversity and inclusion in our world today.
Una Wang is the Chairman/Founder of MoRedii and Director of Development (Relations with China) for AWFF. She is an expert in combining markets in both China and the US, as well as helping US brands to enter the Chinese market, connecting Chinese organizations with US resources. By majoring in cross-culture e-commerce, Una built up numerous connections with investors from China and helps businesses with a wide variety of communications needs. At the beginning of her career, she worked as a journalist for several professional media economy companies in China. She received her degree in International Marketing Management in Singapore, after which she worked at SSMC, the largest local semiconductor fabrication company in Singapore, for four years. This experience provided Una with the ability to offer insightful opinions and recommendations regarding the development of AWFF. Her vast experience has enabled her to become conversant in businesses targeting both Chinese and English speakers and her targeted marketing strategies and unparalleled promoting skills have helped AWFF to conquer the Chinese market and build healthy relationships with important Chinese stakeholders. In addition, as a result of Una's considerable efforts, AWFF has attracted extensive Chinese media online impressions over the past few months.
Paul Zhao is the Manager of MoRedii's Business Planning Department and the Assistant Director of Development (Relations with China) for AWFF. He has obtained extensive experience in the Public Relations industry by working for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and Short Enterprises. Before he moved to the USA, he specialized in journalism within China, working for Shenzhen Special Zone Daily and Xi'an Television Station. Paul now primarily acts as a Communication Liaison spokesperson for the Festival and handles all correspondence within China.
Tong (Tony) Pu was born in Shanghai, China. After graduating from the University of California San Diego with degrees in Communication and Probability & Statistics, he joined MoRedii as Manager of the Visual Communication Department to help connect China’s film industry with resources from Hollywood. Tony is also actively pursuing his greatest passion in photography and filmmaking, including teaching a TV studio production course, acting as Director of Photography on two short documentaries, making commercial videos and shooting portrait photographs for actors and models. With his considerable expertise, as the 2017 AWFF photographer, Tony has been able to capture the very best moments of each AWFF event in order to demonstrate to the world the Festival's huge and ongoing success.
Igor Kokarev, Russia Relations
Scholar and Expert on Soviet and American Film Industry, political and civic activist, he published in Russia 16 books on sociology of cinema and grassroots democracy and social capital in times of Perestroika.
Ph.D., Professor, writer, film critic and sociologist, was one of the participants who started the “Revolution” at the Filmmakers Union if the USSR at the end of the 1980’s. He headed the famous American/Soviet Film Initiative, influenced the Moscow International Film Festival towards being more open, initialed the HBO movie “STALIN”, starring Robert Duvall, hosted the National educational TV talk Show “What is New Hollywood”, launched the first Business School in Russia for Producers followed by his textbook “Film as a Business”.
In 1998 he was asked by Nikita Mikhalkov to set up and edit the weekly trade paper of the Filmmakers Union “SK-News”, where he successfully worked till 2001.
For many years Igor was teaching in VGIK (State Institute of Cinematography) Moscow, at the world known liberal State University High School of Economics, Moscow, and at Chapman University, Orange County, Los Angeles.
Being expelled from Putin’s Russia as a “foreign agent” (since his NGO “Citizen Foundation” was sponsored by the US AID and other West funds), he recently wrote the book “Confession of a “Foreign Agent” which was highly acclaimed by Richard Pipes as a deep insight of the transformation happened in the Soviet Union and Russia for the last half century.
Maxim Yurov, Russia Relations
Maxim Yurov is the Director of 'Hello Ticket!', a Russian ticket service company which sells tickets online for national and international cultural and sporting events.
His responsibilities include the organization and supervision of film and music festivals, concerts and theatrical shows, including celebrity interviews, photo shoots, radio and TV coverage and dissemination of information to the media.
In addition, Maxim has undertaken a number of sociological research studies aimed at analyzing and developing specific strategies and recommendations for event management and promotion.
SAM LAHOUD, LEBANON
Sam Lahoud is a scriptwriter, director, producer and script consultant. He started his career in Film and Theater in 1996, and since then has written, directed and produced numerous plays, films and documentaries, many of which have received national and international recognition and awards. His first feature film, Void, was the official Lebanese submission for the 2016 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Sam is active in cross cultural productions, and is currently working on many different film projects.
Since 2007 he has been the Founding Director of the NDU International Film Festival. He is also the Founding Chair of Beirut Film Society and Berytus Production, Founder and Director of Beirut International Women Film Festival, Founder and Program Director of the Lebanese Film Festival in Canada and Founding member of the Emile Chahine Foundation for Cinema Culture and Film Festivals Cinergy. In addition, Sam is a member of the National Film Committee at the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, a member of the Media Consultants Board of 'Women Empowerment for Leadership', a Board Member at the Silk Road Film Festival in Dublin, Ireland and a former board member for the Monaco Charity Film Festival from 2008 until 2012.
Sam serves as a jury member at various local and international film festivals and competitions and is the Middle East representative of the Asian World Film Festival, Los Angeles, USA.
IRINA ENGELIS, YAKUTIA/RUSSIA
Irina was born in 1980 in Chersky village, Yakut, ASSR. She graduated from the St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Art in 2002 and since 2007 has been working in the Ministry of Culture and Spiritual Development of the Sakha Republic as acting Head of the Development Department of Professional Art and Cinema. Since 2013 she has served as the Executive Director of the Yakutsk International Film Festival and has received many awards for her contribution to the development of culture and cinema. She is the AWFF representative for Yakutia and the Republic of Sakha, Russian Federation.
SERGEY ANASHKIN, RUSSIA
Sergey Anashkin is a film critic and film scholar from Ekaterinburg in the Ural region of Russia. He has written numerous articles which have been published in mainstream Russian film magazines and is the author of the book Films of Distant and Nearby Asia (a collection of selected articles, 2015). Sergey's speciality interest is contemporary Asian cinema and he is an expert on the cinema of Russia's eastern regions, particularly Siberia. He is a member of NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) and a Consultant for a number of Russian film festivals as well as being the AWFF representative for the Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
CHOLPON IDRISOVA, KYRGYZSTAN
Born in the small village of Chaek, in the Naryn region of Kyrgyztan, Cholpon graduated from the Kyrgyz National University, Faculty of Journalism and PR in 2007.
She started work as a reporter on First Informational radio and Kyrgyz Radio and later became the editor of children's TV programs for the Public Service Broadcaster (OTRK). From 2011 until present day she has been the coordinator of the International Film Festival of CIS countries, Baltic States and Georgia: Kyrgyzstan Land of Short Films. She was also the production coordinator and PR manager for the Oscar submitted Kyrgyz filmKurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains.
Since 2010, Cholpon has been press secretary, PR manager and production coordinator for Aitysh Film studio and since 2015, the Central Asian representative of the Asian World Film Festival, Los Angeles.
KHASHAYAR MAHMOODABADI, IRAN
Born in Esfahan, Iran in 1978, Khashayar is a short filmmaker and winner of multiple National and International awards. After graduating from High School, he attended the Esfahan Cinema School and later began working as an assistant director with several famous Iranian directors. In 2008, he moved to the Phillipines where he completed another degree at the International Academy of Film and Television. Khashayar has made more than 20 shorts and documentaries and has worked on TV series, music videos and theatre productions, as well as teaching film. He wrote and directed his first feature documentary Haghighi, about the famous Persian carpet maker Master Haghighi, and one of his most recent projects was the first Irish-Iranian co-production The Secret of Permanency which has been screened in Iranian cinemas and at a number of International Festivals. He is currently working on another co-production, between Iran and China, depicting the ancient history of the Great Silk Road. Khashayar is the AWFF representative for Iran.
SARDAANA SAVVINA, YAKUTIA/RUSSIA
Sardaana was born in Yakutia in 1977 and is a producer, promoter of Sakha cinema and researcher in film studies. She is also a founder and leader of the 'Sakha Cinema Club' - Yakutia's Independent Filmmakers' Community.
For 13 years she worked at the Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts as a lecturer and Head of the International Office. She is also an alternate member of the University of the Arctic and has been a Programmer for four editions of the Yakutsk International Film Festival, from 2013 - 2016.
During 2017 Sardaana was an Advisor for the NATIVe Section of the 67th Berlinale IFF and
Coordinator of the Special Program in Focus: 'Sakha Cinema: World of Magical Nature and Myths' at the Busan International Film Festival. In addition she is Editor of the book Sakha Cinema: World of Magical Nature and Myths and currently leads the International Department of the ‘Olonkho’ Ethnic Theater.
Sardaana is also the producer of the films Bonfire (2016) and River (2018) and delegate producer of Nanuk(2018). She is the AWFF representative for the Far Eastern Russian Republics.
MOHAMMED ROUDA, ARAB PENINSULA AND TURKEY
Mohammed Rouda is a film critic, born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952. He grew up in house where cinema ruled and began to write about film at the young age of 16, whilst he was still at school. Later he turned professional and became Head Editor of the only serious film magazine at that time, FILM, published by Georges Chamchoum. At the outbreak of the civil war, he left the country with $110 in his pocket and a head full of dreams. He traveled around the Arab countries, writing to get paid, in order to move from one country to another. As the war continued, he moved to France and later to the UK where he lived, worked and eventually became a British citizen.
Mohammed continues to work as a film critic and in 2006 wrote and sold the first two feature-length Saudi films, Time of Silence and How are You? He also produces and presents The World is Cinema program for MBC television and has established an annual reference guide: The Book of Cinema: The Annual Guide to Arab and International Cinema.
Mohammed is a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Golden Globes, and is the Asian World Film Festival representative for the Arab Peninsula and Turkey.