Panel Discussion

Chair: Nadia Rahman
Sarra Al Shehhi
Ines Sebiane
Nezar Andary
Timothy Wilkerson
Omar Butti

The Middle East is producing some dynamic and creative young filmmakers who are exploring and questioning themes such as: identity, war, marriage, the environment, discrimination, among many other topics.  Their access to the internet and affordable technology is giving many, from a remote village to a war torn-city to a thriving metropoles, the opportunity to share their perspective with the rest of the world.  Weather they are documenting a story unravelling before them or they are orchestrating the imagery through animation and fiction, their imagination is rich, poignant, and fresh.  This panel discussion will focus on emerging Arab Artists and their attempts to tell their story through film.  It will explore: the filmic landscape in the Arab World and whether it is thriving or not?  What are the motivations and challenges in allowing the young filmmakers tell their stories?  What stories are they telling and why? What are the common thematic trends in film that are beyond boundaries?  And finally, how do they get beyond the short film and be a filmmaker:  funding and distribution?  

Nadia Rahman
Associate Professor Zayed University
Producer, Director

Nadia Rahman is an Associate Professor at Zayed University in Dubai, teaching film and video production. Prior to joining ZU, she worked as a broadcast journalist for 10 years producing hundreds of hours of pre-recorded and “live” television programming. She covered 9/11 as a senior producer, director and news editor based in Washington D.C. For most of the 1990s, she worked as a senior producer for the BBC covering the Middle East. She also produced for the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation and CNN in Jerusalem. Her print work has appeared in the Washington Post and Gulf News. Prof. Rahman moved to Dubai in 2004 to research a documentary on “The Oral History of Elders in the UAE” as a Fulbright Research Scholar. She served as a media advisor for Sky News Arabia Channel in Abu Dhabi. Her research interests focus on film and documentaries, the landscape of broadcast journalism, oral history, and youth culture in the Middle East.  She holds an MFA in experimental filmmaking.

Sarra’a Abdulaziz
Emirati filmmaker

Sarra’a Abdulaziz is an Emirati filmmaker and an artist from Ras Al Khaima. At the age of eleven, she experienced writing her first dialogues for a school play and she wanted to tell stories ever since. She graduated from Zayed university with a Bachelors of visual communications which gave her a window to the art of photography and videography. She holds a master’s degree on film writing and directing from  (NYU Tisch School of the Arts). Her film (Open Wound) was an official selection at the Dubai international film festival (DIFF) in 2015 and was distributed by BBC Arabia. She aims to highlight the voices of women and unrepresented people in the Arab world. She dreams of bringing stories from UAE to the rest of the world.

Ines Sebiane
Media Entrepreneur

Ines Sebiane is a media entrepreneur hybrid based in Dubai. She started working in the media at the age of 13 YO as a TV presenter and producer with Dubai TV. She also has theatre acting experience on plays that won 1st place awards in the UAE and Other arab countries. With her 15+ experience in the field she started her own production boutique house that serves global media agencies and clients providing them with creative solutions  in creating Digital content, marketing and video production services. She took part in creating award winning digital content and videos for International Brands; such as (Google, Cartoon Network Arabia, Sephora, Jaguar, Toyota and many More…). When she’s not busy on production sets, she uses her social media platforms to share glimpses of her daily life as a Mom, a wife, cinephile with her movie reviews that live in her YT channel #PopcornwithInes

Dr. Nezar Andary
Associate Professor Zayed University

Dr. Nezar Andary received his bachelors from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. from UCLA. Andary is an Associate Professor at Zayed University.  He is the co-editor of book series Focus on Arab Cinema for Palgrave MacMillan. Andary recently published a book entitled Cinema of Muhammad Malas: Visions of a Syrian Auteur. For the last three years, he has been a creative producer on 10 short documentaries with Arab Film Studio, ImageNation.  Currently, he is completing a feature documentary entitled Unlocking the Doors of Cinema to be released 2019.   In 2016, he directed the documentary theatre production, Memories of Childhood, currently is he writing the second edition on the concept of Guilt.  He has published on various subjects in literature, philosophy, and history recently he wrote an essay on creative non-fiction of Anthony Shadid and another essay on the representation of the philosopher Ibn Khaldun in contemporary culture.  

Timothy Wilkerson
Assistant Professor Zayed University

Tim Wilkerson is an award-winning and well-respected America director of fiction, documentary, and animation films, whose work has been seen worldwide via film festivals, broadcast, and the web, and whose commercial clients have included Ford Motor Company, State Farm Insurance, and Caterpillar Tractor. As an undergraduate, Wilkerson studied Cinema and Photography at Southern Illinois University in the United States. After his undergraduate experience he received a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to study in Egypt, where he studied the culture, language, and film industry of this fascinating country. In 2002 Wilkerson received his MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, where he held the very prestigious Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. He then went on to teach filmmaking/ digital media production as an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida, and Northwestern University, both of whose communications programs rank in the top 10 within the United States. Wilkerson’s last film “The Oracles Of Pennsylvania Avenue” was a feature length documentary, which garnered “Best Director of A Feature Documentary” at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival,  “Best Director” at the Silent River Film Festival in Beverly Hills California, was screened world-wide via satellite by a major international boadcaster, and was listed by one influential film blogger as one of the most important films of 2014. Currently Wilkerson is in pre-production on a feature length fiction film, which will be a co-production between Egypt and the U.S.

Omar Butti
Executive Director of Innovation Programs
Dubai Film and TV Commission

With over ten years of experience in global media, Omar has worked in front of and behind the camera as well as managed large scale industry development initiatives. One of the most recognized faces from the UAE’s biggest English language TV channel, Omar presented for seven years on a variety of programs on Dubai One, including cultural documentary series “Emirati” and news and current affairs show “Emirates 24/7”. He also anchored many of
the channel’s prestigious live events, from the metro launch to announcing the Expo 2020 victory live from Paris. Omar is widely known as an emcee, hosting international events and government ceremonies. This includes the Forbes Global CEO Conference where he introduced His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Global Diabetes Forum where he introduced His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Behind the scenes, Omar is a narrative and documentary filmmaker. Since working with Paramount Pictures on “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and HBO on “Quran By Heart”, Omar has been busy writing and directing his own projects. Omar’s short film, “Black/White”, ran in the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. He was also a finalist in a UN supported documentary competition in Chennai, India. Omar has written a feature film script, “The Cage”, which was optioned by Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Omar is focused on developing the burgeoning digital media sector in the UAE. As the
Executive Director of Innovation Programs at the Dubai Film and TV Commission, he launched VIDXB, the region’s first event dedicated to the digital content industry.