The inaugural Asian World Film Festival (AWFF), set to be held in Los Angeles from October 27 to November 2 has a big ambition for advancement of the Asian cinematic arts. With a mission to “bring the best of a broad selection of Asian world cinema to Los Angeles”, the festival aims to help smaller and independent movies from Asian countries increase their odds of winning Academy Awards.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is known the world over for its annual ceremony of the Oscars. What it’s not known for, however, is its diversity and representation of minorities in its awards. Countries all over the world fight for attention of the Academy by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, in an attempt to compete in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
This past year, a record number of 87 Oscar hopeful countries sent in their best work to go through the rigorous AMPAS selection process. An Academy Award Film Committee convenes in each respective country to decide which film will be the official country submission. Whether it’s a documentary, animation, or feature, the committees can only select one film to represent their country. After a comprehensive selection process, the Academy narrows down the 9 shortlisted films down to 5. The final film that takes home the prize will have successfully passed 4 rounds of voting: the submission stage, the shortlist, the nomination, and the final vote of active and lifelong Academy Members.
Interestingly, the Academy Members are only required to watch the five films nominated before the final vote. During all other stages of the voting process, only the voting members are required to watch a designated percentage of the competing films. This implies that the members do not have to watch all the films for their vote to count. As a matter of fact, many members don’t even watch all 87 films. If an Academy members has never even heard of your film, the likelihood that they even watch it is slim to none.
Since exposing a movie to academy members is so vital, marketing and PR of the films play a crucial role in getting their attention.Advertising and marketing campaigns start long before countries submit to the Oscars. This past year’s winner, Ida, from Poland started circulating in the international film festival scene for almost two years before finally submitting. Film producers typically plan 1 - 2 years in advance before deciding to go for the Oscars.They invest aggressively on ad campaigns, strategize release and exposure and hire publicists with knowledge of subtle details of voting rule to work on their campaigns.According to the New York Times, a foreign language film award campaign can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. While that sort of money can be quite a small sum for foreign movies from more developed countries like Germany, Korea, Italy, France etc, it can definitely deter filmmakers from less developed countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan etc. to boost their films during the award season. Because of such high cost of creating a “buzz” during their season, these countries usually just settle down for submitting their movies with no hope beyond the submission process. With such lack of exposure to entertainment industry in Los Angeles, often times talented filmmakers from Asian countries are overlooked and underrated. In fact, it’s no surprise that out of 67 Best Foreign Language Film Awards handed out since 1947, 55 have gone to European films. European films, most of which come from Western Europe, have better resources and access to effective platforms to promote their movies during the award season
With the aim of addressing the issue of lack of exposure for smaller and independent Asian movies, Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, a successful public figure, producer and director from Kyrgyzstan, created the Asian World Film Festival, a week long event that will start from October 27 at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles, California. “I created the Asian World Film Festival to fill a void that I noticed was missing in America. There is a wealth of underrated filmmakers from our region that deserve recognition and this festival was designed to champion and promote them,” Festival Chairman and creator Sadyk Sher-Niyaz said.
AWFF is scheduled to kick off with an Opening Ceremony and Red Carpet Gala on October 26, where several well-known celebrities and foreign filmmakers will be honored for their contributions to the industry.The Festival aims to use its location in Los Angeles-- the heart of the entertainment industry-- as an opportunity for professionals to network with talented filmmakers from around the world. Winners of the Festival will also receive over $100,000 worth of prizes that are driven to help the film in its award campaign, such as print advertisements, and a special screening for Academy Members, hosted by online entertainment organization The Wrap, a leading digital media covering the business of entertainment and media. Moreover, the Wrap will also provide full page ads in foreign film and OscarWrap issues for the winner of the festival.
Nirakar Poudel is currently pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering at University of Southern California.