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Christian Gaines was born in Brussels, Belgium to American parents and educated in British boarding schools until he came to the United States in 1984 to attend Vassar College, where he earned a B.A. in English.

In 1989, Christian helped to start The American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival, a communication and hospitality center for the American film community attending the Cannes Film Festival. In 1990, he went to work for the Hawaii International Film Festival as Administrator, and then served as Film Coordinator and Film Programmer in Hawaii from 1992 until 1994, dividing his time between Honolulu, Los Angeles and Cannes. He also coordinated the Asia-Pacific Film Tour in 1994, a fifteen film, eleven-city tour of films from Asia and the Pacific Rim.

In August 1994, Christian became a Film Programmer at the Sundance Film Festival where he was a major decision-maker in all facets of programming the 1995 and 1996 Sundance Film Festivals. He was also Director of New Media for the Sundance Institute and a consultant for the Sundance Channel, a premium cable channel under the creative direction of Robert Redford.

From 1996 to 2000 he served as Festival Director and Director of Programming for the Hawaii International Film Festival where he was responsible for the overall execution and programming of this annual international event. Christian also served on the Shorts Juries at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and SXSW 2001 in Austin, Texas. Christian has independently consulted for domestic film festivals, has attended dozens of film festivals worldwide, and has filed regularly for the online independent film daily IndieWIRE. Most recently, Christian was appointed Director of Festivals at the American Film Institute (AFI), where he oversees several festival and film program projects including AFI FEST 2002 and the annual AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival from November 7 - 17.

Christian is married to Kristen Taylor, a neuroscientist. They live in Los Angeles with their two children - Lola, six and Luke, three. Neither of the children have jobs yet.