This year’s Asian World Film Festival will again showcase the very best of Asian cinema, all in an effort to draw greater recognition to the region’s wealth of filmmakers and talent while strengthening ties between the film industries of Hollywood and the continent.
During the pandemic, the 2020 edition was delayed to spring 2021. The festival will highlight pictures from more than 50 countries across Asia. It is unique in that it predominantly screens works that have been submitted to the Oscars and Golden Globes for international feature film and motion picture — non-English language, respectively.
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“We started AWFF in 2018, and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved,” says executive and program director Georges Chamchoum, who co-founded the event with Sadyk Sher Niyaz, the former minister of culture of Kyrgyzstan, and Asel Sherniyazova and Brett Syson. “It’s a real passion for me, and our goal is to put a spotlight on all of the important work coming from this area of the world. Korean cinema, in particular, has been leading the charge in many ways, and the success of ‘Parasite’ has been huge. But in general, many Asian films are outside of the comfort zones of most viewers, so we decided we wanted to try and change that.”
The festival’s opening night screening on Nov. 9 features the world premiere of In-Ho Hwang’s “Decibel” (South Korea), which will be held at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood. On Nov. 10, there will be a Taiwan Film Day screening of the Oscar-submitted “Goddamned Asura,” from filmmaker Yi’an Lou, at the AMC Marina Marketplace 6. Special screenings during the festival include Lee Jung-jae’s “Hunt” (South Korea) and the U.S. premiere of Belgian/Moroccan “Rebel,” from “Bad Boys for Life” duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.
“Audiences are thirsting to be back in theaters, in a communal setting, and this year we’ll be showing some absolutely fantastic films that are going to take people by surprise,” says Chamchoum.
Also of note is a 30th anniversary celebration screening of Oliver Stone’s bruising Vietnam drama “Heaven and Earth,” which will take place on Nov. 13 at the AMC Marina Marketplace 6. It will feature Stone, writer Le Ly Hayslip and several cast and crew members as special guests. The festival closes with this year’s Oscar entry from South Korea, Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave.”
The festival’s Snow Leopard Awards are spread out over a variety of categories, including best film, actress, actor, special jury, audience, rising star, cinematic achievement, lifetime achievement, Ladies Tiffany Circle/Red Cross Courage to Dream, Winn Slavin Humanitarian, Angel Benefactor and the One Heart trophy. This year, legendary producer Albert S. Ruddy (“The Godfather,” “The Longest Yard”) will be on-hand to receive the Snow Leopard Lifetime Achievement Award, while actor Desmond Chiam (“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”) receives the Snow Leopard Rising Star Award.
The AWFF is the only festival in the world with the Bruce Lee Award, which is in partnership with the Bruce Lee Foundation. Its trophy was created and designed by Vietnamese American artist and master sculptor Daniel Winn, who also created the new Snow Leopard trophies last year.
Winn will premiere his first art film “Creation” during the festival, with a screening taking place on November 17 in conjunction with the AWFF’s Oscar-submitted film at the Directors Guild of America Theater Complex in West Hollywood. The film is directed by Angel E. Vera of veraONEproductions and produced by Emmy-winning producer and Asian World Film Festival president Georges N. Chamchoum. “Creation” is described as an experimental, visually stylized short that will express Winn’s artist philosophy of “Existential Surrealism.”
“‘Creation’ is all about contrast,” states Winn. “In fact, its tagline is Creation begins where destruction ends.’ This is an essential concept in the film. Light and dark, life and death, hot and cold, arid and lush, organic and inorganic, masculine and feminine. The dichotomies of these opposing factors and that fact that one without the other would have no significance is an underlying idea expressed in the film.”
“After an 8-year hiatus, I never thought I would be immersed in one of the most challenging artistic creations of my 54 years in the movie business,” states Chamchoum. “Working with Sir Daniel is like living in his mind and heart—a kaleidoscope, a world of color, emotions and creativity in the purest sense of these attributes. ‘Creation’ is a feast for the eyes and ears. ‘Creation’ is an esoteric trip. ‘Creation’ is a unique experience that digs deep into your soul!”
Returning is the AWFF Industry forum, which is a series of expert panels covering topical subjects relating to today’s film industry.
Recent panels have included financing trends, the relationship between social media and Hollywood, Asian women in film, and global streaming trends and the future of entertainment in Asia.
The festival will also again be working with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association through a $5,000 scholarship fund, which is awarded to a new Asian short narrative filmmaker.
WHAT: Asian World Film Festival
WHEN: Nov. 9-19
WHERE: Marina del Rey, Culver City and Los Angeles