Abbas Kiarostami - President
Abbas Kiarostami is one of Iran’s (and, indeed, the world’s) most highly regarded filmmakers. Trained in graphic arts, his first work in film was in short documentaries before he moved on to craft unique narratives – poetry-infused examinations of day-to-day life (and death), often incorporating documentary techniques. His 40 films in as many years are led by Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987), Close-Up (1990), And Life Goes On (1991), and Through the Olive Trees (1994). His A Taste of Cherry (1997) won the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes. He has won countless other awards at festivals worldwide. Kiarostami’s artistic vision is not limited to film as he is also an acclaimed poet, painter, and photographer.
Joan Chen is one of the most widely recognized and respected Asian stars in international film. She began acting as a teenager in China, attended film school in the U.S., then found success in Hollywood with starring roles in The Last Emperor (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987), Heaven and Earth (Oliver Stone, 1993), and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Meanwhile, she continued appearing in many Chinese movies, including the award-winning Red Rose, White Rose (Stanley Kwan, 1997), and earned praise for her directorial debut Xiu-Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl (1998). She won the Australian Film Institute award for Best Actress for The Home Song Stories (Tony Ayres, 2007) and played important roles in Lust, Caution (Ang Lee, 2007) and 24 City (Jia Zhang-Ke, 2008).
Sunil Doshi is a Mumbai-based producer and a self-described “film activist.” He runs Handmade Films and has produced such titles as Nine Emotions (Santosh Sivan, 2005), Mixed Doubles (Rajat Kapoor, 2006), and Bheja Fry (Sagar Ballary, 2007). Doshi also founded NDTV Lumière with the aim of promoting international cinema in India. The company acquires quality international films, including winners from top festivals, for distribution in India; runs a 24-hour television network focusing on speciality cinema; and plans to offer films online and on other digital platforms in efforts to reach new Indian markets. According to Doshi, “Elitist walls must break down; cinema must reach out to the people.”
Producer Michael Fitzgerald was born in New York City, raised in Italy and educated in Ireland. After graduating from Harvard, he began his film career as a screenwriter in Rome before producing and co-writing John Huston’s celebrated adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood (1979). He was also executive producer on Huston’s Under the Volcano (1984), which was nominated for two Oscars®. A producing partnership with actor/director Sean Penn culminated in their critically acclaimed 2001 production of The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson. In 2005 he completed both Colour Me Kubrick, starring John Malkovich, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, which won the Actor prize for Jones and the Screenplay prize for Guillermo Arriaga at Cannes.
Nayla Al Khaja
Nayla Al Khaja is the first woman film producer in the UAE and is the owner and CEO of D-Seven Motion Pictures. She graduated from Dubai Women’s College, then hosted a top-rated travel show on Arabian Radio Network. Later she studied film at Ryerson University (Toronto). Returning home, she founded her company in 2005. The following year she directed Arabana, a short film on the taboo subject of child abuse, and won the award for Best Emirati Female Filmmaker at the Dubai International Film Festival. She also helped found The Scene Club, the UAE’s first film club, and has received many accolades for her efforts and determination, including Emirates Woman of the Year in 2005.
Mohamed Khan has become one of the best-known directors in Egyptian cinema by crafting narratives that depict contemporary Egyptian life and often ordinary people in a realistic, disarming fashion. He was born in Cairo to Pakistani and Italian parents, and studied film in London before returning home. His directing career began in 1978 with the hit Cham’s Blow, and he has made more than 20 features since, working as a “rebel” within the industry, with high points including Wife of an Important Person (1987) and Dreams of Hind and Camilia (1988), both of which won awards at many festivals, and his most recent feature, In the Heliopolis Flat (2007).