A jury consisting of veterans and notables of the film and entertainment industry will judge all entries for creativity, quality and originality.

2024 Jury

Mark Amin – Jury Chair

Mark Amin is currently the CEO of Sobini Films, a motion picture production and financing company. Through Sobini Films, Amin has produced a diverse slate of feature films, including THE PRINCE & ME, PEACEFUL WARRIOR, and his directorial debut, EMPEROR, which was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards, most notably Outstanding Independent Motion Picture. Upcoming projects include NELLIE BLY, starring Chloe Grace Moretz in the leading role, and ZORRO 2.0, a futuristic reboot of the lucrative Zorro franchise starring Gael García Bernal. Mr. Amin served as Vice Chairman and member of the board of directors of Lionsgate Entertainment from 2000 to 2009. Prior to his work with Lionsgate and Sobini, Amin founded Trimark Holdings, Inc. and served as the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Under Amin’s leadership, Trimark soon developed into one of the entertainment industry’s leading independent production and distribution companies. Amin’s past credits include the critically acclaimed EVE’S BAYOU and FRIDA, which was nominated for five Oscars and won two. In addition to film production, he is actively involved in the acquisition and development of pistachio and almond orchards in central California, with more than 8,000 acres under management. Mr. Amin holds a BA degree in Economics from the University of Kansas and an MBA from UCLA.

Lily Amir-Arjomand

Lily-Amir-ArjomandLily Amir-Arjomand is the visionary founder and champion behind one of the most progressive institutions for the culture, education and creativity of children and young adults, known as Kanoon in Iran.

The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, commonly referred to as Kanoon, was involved in various cultural and artistic activities. Ms. Amir-Arjomand was also at some point the Director of the National University Library of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company Library, and an associate professor at Tehran University; she formed Kanoon by building a network of permanent and mobile libraries across Iran to promote culture and education to children and young adults.

Created in 1965, Kanoon had become a prolific cultural producer by 1969, involving itself in everything from book publishing and book illustration to film making, animation, theater, film festivals, and conferences. The organization was at the center of the vanguard of cultural production in Iran through the 1970s, serving as the platform through which many of Iran’s most highly regarded creative minds launched their careers. Kanoon quickly became a creative incubator that offered unprecedented freedom and support to an incredible group of artists, many of whom worked across different media, including filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, graphic designer Morteza Momayez, animator Noureddin Zarrinkelk, and painter Ali Akbar Sadeghi. Kanoon remains the single most important cultural and educational network for children in Iran.

Zar Amir

Zar-AmirZar Amir is an Iranian-French actress, director, producer and casting director living in Paris whose impeccable and nuanced work was recently seen in HOLY SPIDER, for which she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for a numerous Best Actress Awards across Europe and was Denmark’s submission for the US Academy Awards. Directed by Ali Abbasi, the film is based on the real-life case of the Spider Killer who strangled sex workers, often with their own head scarves, in Iran in 2000-2001. Amir gives an amazingly restrained performance as the journalist searching for him, while putting her own life at risk. In addition to the starring role, Zar was also casting director and associate producer for Holy Spider.

Zar can currently be seen in SHAYDA, which made its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award in the world cinema dramatic competition. It also screened at Locarno, London, Sydney and Hamptons Film Festivals, among many others. Directed and written by Noora Niasari and executive produced by Cate Blanchett’s Dirty Films, the film was bought by Sony Pictures Classics in the US for an Oscar qualifying release and will be released in the US and the UK in March 2024. The film also stars Mojean Aria, Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen and Osamah Sami. Zar stars as a young Iranian mother, who with her six-year-old daughter, finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of Iranian New Year. Revealing how heartbreakingly alive Shayda’s trauma is, the quiet ferocity of Zar’s performance fuels the drama, while juxtaposed with her tender chemistry with Selina Zahednia as 6-year-old Mona.

Zar makes her feature directorial debut on TATAMI, along with Oscar-winning director Guy Nattiv. She stars in the film, as well as serving as casting director and associate producer. The film, which also stars Arienne Mandi, follows an Iranian female judoka and her coach as they face life-changing decisions during the Judo World Championships. The project is the first feature film to be co-directed by an Iranian and an Israeli filmmaker, during a time when the Iranian government still criminalizes any contact with Israelis, and state violence against women is amplified. The film made its world premiere at the 2023 Venice Film Festival and then played at the Tokyo Film Festival, where the film won as Special Jury Prize, as well as Zar winning Best Actress. The film is readying worldwide distribution in 2024.Also upcoming is an adaptation Azar Nafisi’s classic memoir READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN. The film features an ensemble cast led by Zar and Golshifteh Farahani. Translated into 32 languages and set after the revolution in Iran as extremism took hold, Nafisi’s memoir tells the autobiographical story of a bold and inspired teacher, who secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. The pic is an Italian-Israeli co-production directed by Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree) from a screenplay by Marjorie David.

Her last films, THE WORST ENEMY and SEVEN WINTERS IN TEHRAN, made their world premiere at the 2023 Berlinale Film Festival. Seven Winters in Tehran by Steffi Niederzoll, which opened the German Cinema session, received the Compass Prespective Award and Peace Film Prize at Berlinale, as well as the FACT Award at CPHOX among other awards and nominations. This film, in which Zar lends Reyhaneh Jabbari her voice, portrays an involuntary heroine who gave her life in the fight for women’s rights. In My Worst Enemy by Mehran Tamadon, which premiered in the Encounter session and won the FIPRESCI Award at Yerevan Film Festival, Zar plays an interrogator – a brave and powerful exploration of language as a destructive tool of oppression presented in an unorthodox and provocative cinematic form.

LES SURVIVANTS (White Paradise), a contemporary western directed by Guillaume Renusson, was released in France in January 2023. Zar plays the female lead role opposite Denis Ménochet’s Samuel, who is living alone in the Italian Alps. An Afghan woman, trapped by the snow, tries to cross the Italian Alps border into France illegally. While three locals try to stop her Samuel decides to help her reach the border. The film is both tender and physical showing the depths of grief.

As a result of using her film projects and voice to bravely demand change for women in Iran, Zar was selected for BBC 100 Women 2022, a prestigious list of inspiring and influential women from around the world. Always looking to champion filmmakers around the world, Zar presided over the jury of the 2023 Gothenburg Film Festival, which is the largest film festival in the Nordic countries. Zar also sits on the international competition jury at 2023 Locarno Film Festival led by French actor Lamber Wilson and alongside Carlotte Well, Scottish filmmaker. She was one of the guest jury members of 2023 ANDAM Fashion Awards, alongside Gigi Hadid and Pat Cleveland.

Her film TEHRAN TABOO, directed by Ali Soozandeh, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 and in 2018 she won Best Actress at the Nice International Film Festival for her performance in BRIDE PRICE VS DEMOCRACY directed by Reza Rahimi. TIDE directed by Manon Coubia premiered in 2019 Locarno Film Festival and the film TOMORROW WE ARE FREE directed by Hossein Pourseifi screened at the Talinn Black Nights Film Festival and Filmfest Hamburg, among others.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Zar graduated from Azad University of Tehran, majoring in dramatic arts. She first directed a short film named KHAT, produced by the Iranian Youth Cinema Society. Her career took off acting in the feature film WAITING by Mohammed Nourizad and gained national attention with series such as HELP ME, LIKE A STRANGER and NARGESS. She also appeared in other films such as JOURNEY TO HIDALOU by Mojtaba Raei, HAFEZ by Abolfazl Jalili and SHIRIN by Abbas Kiarostami.

In 2008, she moved to Paris, making documentary films, and also continued her acting career by appearing both on stage and in front of the camera. Notable films include: DETERIORATING WORLD OF NATIA, directed by Amir Dorri, WHERE MIGHT THE WIND REST, directed by Ali Shirzadi, ADOPT A DADDY directed by Xavier De Coudens, PLEASE RISE by Sheida Sheikhha.

Zar founded ALAMBIC Production in Paris in 2019 to produce movies focused on women empowerment and diversity. Her latest documentary for BBC World is OUR WOMEN, WOMEN OF CINEMA, in three episodes, which she produced and co-directed, along with Aida Mosadegh. Zar continues participating in movie projects as the casting director including OPPONENT by Milad Alami, LONDON CLASS MBC Series and HOME OF THE HEART by Sara Saidan. She’s currently casting Noora Niasari’s upcoming movie RAYA.

Ahmad Kiarostami

Ahmad-KiarostamiAhmad Kiarostami is the president of the Kiarostami Foundation, a non-profit based in San Francisco, CA. Before the Kiarostami Foundation, he co-founded Koantum, a platform to teach science to elementary school students in the United States, and founded Fotomoto (acquired in 2012) where he holdsseveral patents on distributed e-commerce. Before moving to the United States in 2001, he founded three tech companies in Iran.

Ahmad makes music videos and has produced 24 FRAMES, Abbas Kiarostami’s final film, co-produced COUP 53, a feature documentary on the story of the CIA/MI6’s coup in Iran that overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh, and FEATHERS OF FIRE, a visually breathtaking cinematic shadow play by Hamid Rahmanian, inspired by the Persian epic Shahnameh (‘The Book of Kings’).

In 2014, Ahmad started Docunight, an initiative to show Iranian documentaries, with monthly screenings in 25 cities in North America, which is now a streaming service to make Iranian documentaries available everywhere in the world.

Ahmad has served on the boards of The Roxie (the oldest operational movie theatre in North America) and San Francisco Cinematheque.

Ahmad has studied Math and Computer Science at Sharif University. In 2007, Ahmad was chosen as a “young leader” at Asia Society’s “Asia 21’s Young Leaders” summit, and in 2016 became fellow at Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit think tank founded in 1950 and based in Washington, DC.

Noora Niasari


Noora Niasari is a Tehran-born, Australia-raised Writer/Director/Producer and Co-Founder of Parandeh Pictures. A graduate of architecture and cinema, her debut feature film Shayda – starring Zar Amir Ebrahimi (Cannes Best Actress Winner for Holy Spider) and executive produced by Cate Blanchett – premiered in the World Dramatic Competition of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award and was sold to Sony Pictures Classics. Shayda was in the Official Selection of the 48th Toronto International Film Festival, 76th Locarno Film Festival, 28th Busan International Film Festival, 67th BFI London Film Festival, 37th AFI Fest, 71st Melbourne International Film Festival, Young Talent Award recipient at the 31st Filmfest Hamburg and winner of CinefestOZ, Australia’s richest film prize. Shayda was Australia’s official submission for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards, and following her win for Best Direction in a Feature Film at the 2023 Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) Awards, Noora was nominated for the Michael Apted Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in First-Time Theatrical Feature Film at the 76th Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards.

Niousha Noor


Niousha Noor is a Los Angeles-based actress and writer. She stars in Sony Pictures Classics’ critically acclaimed film ‘The Persian Version,’ now available on Netflix.

The recipient of the 2023 Sundance Audience Award, Niousha’s portrayal of Shireen, the resolute and unwavering matriarch, garnered widespread critical and audience acclaim. Noor can also be seen starring in the Netflix limited series ‘Kaleidoscope’ (#1 Show Worldwide) as FBI Agent Nazan Abassi. In 2020, she starred in IFC’s ‘The Night,’ opposite famed Iranian actor Shahab Hosseini, earning widespread praise from critics.

Her other credits include ‘Here and Now’ (HBO), ‘Stitchers’ (ABC) and ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’ (Fox).

Shabnam Tolouei


Shabnam Tolouei, a naturalized French citizen born in Tehran, Iran, is an actress, filmmaker, theater director, and playwright. She holds degrees in Filmmaking from Bagh-Ferdos Film School in Iran and Theater Studies from Université Paris X, Nanterre, France.

Shabnam Tolouei has been honored with numerous awards, including five accolades for best actress, best playwright, and best director at the prestigious International Fadjr Theatre Festival in Iran from 1996 to 2004. Her journey in the arts began in 1990 when she contributed short stories to cultural magazines. Since then, she has been actively engaged in writing plays and film scripts, showcasing her acting prowess since 1993 with leading roles in over 25 plays.

With a passion for teaching, Shabnam Tolouei has been imparting various acting methods since 2001. Her novel “MY DEAR ACTOR,” which delves into Theatre History, has been published by Cheshmeh Publishing House and serves as a valuable resource for young adults.

In 2004, Shabnam Tolouei immigrated to France, where she has continued her artistic career. Since 2007, she has directed and acted in theaters and films, while also venturing into documentary filmmaking, podcasting, TV series, and animation series for children and teenagers. She has lent her expertise as a consultant to over 50 projects in collaboration with audio-visual producers.

In recognition of her exceptional talents, Shabnam Tolouei was granted a permanent US visa under the category of “Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement” in 2019. She currently resides in Northern California, USA, where she continues to contribute to the cultural landscape through her artistic endeavors.

Set against the backdrop of the Woman Life Freedom movement in Iran, her latest film “One Thousand and One Hundred” follows the harrowing journey of a woman who confronts sexual abuse and is coerced into making a false confession. The narrative unfolds within the context of the challenges faced by women striving for freedom and equality in Iran.