• Festivals

Asian World Film Festival

In May 2022, in association with many other Asian-American organizations, the Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) will be celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month (AAPIHM) by hosting a special screening of multi-award-winning comedy/drama The Farewell, which will take place at the TCL Chinese Theater, Hollywood Boulevard on May 19. The film, written and directed by AWFF Advisory Board member Lulu Wang, stars Awkwafina (who received the AWFF’s 2018 Rising Star Award), and AWFF Honorary Board member Tzi Ma. AWFF is handling the Red Carpet, guest invitations and promotion, and following the screening will host a Q&A in discussion with Tzi Ma – “Diversity in Hollywood: AAPI Representation, Behind the Scenes.”

The AWFF was founded in 2015 by Kyrgyz film director and public figure, Sadyk Sher-Niyaz. The idea of creating the film festival first materialized after the three-month 2014 Oscar and Golden Globe campaign for Sher-Niyaz’s multi-award-winning debut feature film Kurmanjan Datka (Queen of the Mountains).

Despite a substantial promotional budget and huge support from actress Sharon Stone, who introduced the film at the Los Angeles premiere at the Egyptian Theater, the film, unfortunately, did not make the Oscar shortlist. Having experienced similar difficulties faced by the majority of filmmakers promoting their films in Hollywood, especially those from small, unknown countries, Sher-Niyaz and his team decided to create a festival that would provide an equal opportunity for any Asian film officially submitted for an Oscar and/or Golden Globe for Best International Feature Film and Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language respectively, to be presented to LA audiences and film industry professionals, regardless of the size of the country, its prominence and campaign budget. Thus, the Asian World Film Festival was born. One of the main differences between AWFF and other Asian festivals is that AWFF represents over 50 countries across the Asian Continent.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has fully supported the festival since 2016, through partnership, joint events and festival grants. For the third year in a row, the HFPA has awarded a scholarship grant of $5,000 to support new shorts filmmakers from the Asian continent. Each year, a special committee selects 12 finalists from the most promising new short films recommended by teams of film curators across Asia. These films are then screened at the Festival and a jury of HFPA members and industry professionals choose the winner who is awarded the scholarship grant. In appreciation of the HFPA’s continued, valued support of the Festival, in 2021 the organization was presented with one of AWFF’s newest awards, the Angel Benefactor Award, which was accepted by HFPA President Helen Hoehne.


AWFF has now been held in Culver City for seven consecutive years, with nearly 200 Oscar and Golden Globe submissions from the Asian region screened since 2015. AWFF is a competitive festival with Snow Leopard trophies awarded for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Jury and Audience awards. Snow Leopards are also presented to a number of outstanding Asian film industry professionals who have achieved excellence in their field of expertise.

AWFF is partnered with the Snow Leopard Trust to raise awareness for the endangered snow leopard and its ecosystem in the high mountains of Asia, and the Snow Leopard trophies were newly designed last year by master sculptor and internationally recognized artist Sir Daniel Winn.

In addition to the Snow Leopard Awards, the Festival presents a number of other awards, including the new Bruce Lee Award in partnership with the Bruce Lee Foundation, which in 2021 was awarded to the multi-award-winning actor, stunt choreographer and martial artist Andy Cheng (Rush HourShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings).

Emmy-winning director and producer Georges Chamchoum has been the Executive Director of the Festival since its inception. A Niger national of Lebanese origin, Georges was the international director of the Yakutsk and Monaco film festivals and has been tirelessly promoting the idea and mission of AWFF through his festival experience, innovation and vision.

As he explained, “When we initially came up with the idea of the Asian World Film Festival, the first thing that came to mind was, what can we do to ensure that it does not get drowned in the 8,000 plus film festivals which are held worldwide every year? How can we be original as well as do something meaningful? Thanks to our festival, we have showcased films from many countries and regions which were previously unknown to Hollywood and the general public. For example, we have screened films from little-known countries such as Yakutia, Kalmykia, Buryatia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Bhutan. Looking back at the history of the Oscars and Golden Globes, dating from 1929 and 1944 respectively, when AWFF was launched in 2015, only six Asian movies had actually won an Oscar. This is unbelievable, considering the amazing masterpieces that have come out of Asia over the past seven decades, and taking into account the fact that the Koreans literally reinvented the language of cinema in the early 1990s. The Asian World Film Festival was therefore born to put the spotlight on this injustice!

“Our next challenge was to find the perfect partner who could help to make a difference in Hollywood, and the first name that sprang to mind was the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We have now been happily partnered with the HFPA for nearly seven years and throughout this time they have been extremely supportive, investing fully in our mission and vision for foreign language films. We continue to champion the HFPA and the tremendous contribution they have made to the film industry and their philanthropic work. Over the past 28 years, the organization has donated $50 million to entertainment-related non-profit organizations, academic programs and humanitarian organizations. We look forward to working together with the HFPA for many years to come.”

In addition to its diverse film screenings, the AWFF organizes several expert panels on industry trends and innovations relating to subjects such as film financing, co-productions, streaming, PR, sales, and marketing and distribution. AWFF also runs a parallel program of Film Days for a few specially selected Asian countries, screening a small number of acclaimed films which vividly reflect each country’s culture, customs and traditions. In addition, the Festival hosts many receptions and special events to encourage networking amongst Asian filmmakers and top LA film industry influencers. As a result, AWFF has gained incredible support amongst several Asian communities and works in close cooperation with many embassies, consulates and ministries within the Asian region and worldwide.

The Festival has also found tremendous support among representatives within the film industry. Events have been attended by many famous guests, including Angelina Jolie, Freida Pinto, Awkwafina and Chloé Zhao, and the Advisory and Honorary Boards consist of award-winning actors Lisa, Lu, Lucy Liu, Lini Anderson and Ken Leung, Oscar-winning writer, producer and director Bobby Moresco, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The King’s Speech David Seidler, award-winning casting director Sarah Finn (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and Oscar-winning producer of The Godfather, Al Ruddy, among many more.


The eighth edition of the Asian World Film Festival runs from November 9 – 18, 2022. Further information can be found at asianworldfilmfest.org