Chairman Mao, arguably the most influential Asian individual of the 20th century, famously said that “women hold up half the sky.” He was referring, of course, to China’s vast population and acknowledging the fact that the country needed its female labor force to grow its economy and become competitive with the rest of the industrial world.

And now, as women proactively raise their profile across the entertainment industry in many nations, all eyes are on the way female activists are sparking a cultural change in show business.

Along these lines, the Asian World Film Festival’s theme for 2018 is female empowerment and the role and growing professional influence of women in the film industry of the Asian continent. Roza Otunbayeva, former president of Kyrgyzstan, will attend. She is the first woman to become a nation’s president in Central Asia.

A woman — actress and producer Vivian Wu (pictured above in the film “The Pillow Book”) — has been named head of the fest’s official jury. Wu’s credits include the Oscar-winning “The Last Emperor,” “Heaven and Earth,” “The Soong Sisters” and “The Joy Luck Club.” Additionally, four of the seven other jury members are women.

“I am thrilled that this year our festival revolves around women, from our respected honorees, to both the opening and closing movies, which are centered on strong female characters,” says AWFF executive director Georges N. Chamchoum. “As far back as I can remember I have always believed in the artistic power, creativity and leadership demonstrated by women.”