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  • Mohamed Luqman Wins Best Aspiring Filmmaker Award at ZUMEFF

    mohamed luqman

    film director Mohamed Luqman and co-director Saleh Bin Hallabi receiving the Award from the Acting Provost of Zayed University Marilyn Roberts and the Managing Director of NYFA Abu Dhabi Imad DeirAtany

    Under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khaled Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development, President of Zayed University, the 6th edition of Zayed University Middle East Film Festival (ZUMEFF) took place on May 17 – 18 at Zayed University Abu Dhabi.

    The Awards Ceremony was held on May 18 at 6.30 pm, where the New York Film Academy offered the Aspiring Filmmaker Award in collaboration with the festival.

    The award went to The Final Chapter by Mohamed Luqman, who will join one of the New York Film Academy filmmaking programs. The program will provide him with intensive training in filmmaking, where he will write, shoot, direct and edit number of films while crewing on others.

    Congratulations to Mohamed Luqman! We’re looking forward seeing him on our set.

    -Imad DeirAtany

     

    May 19, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking • Views: 787

  • MFA Filmmakers Bound for Greatness

    echoes of war

    As we all know, networking is an essential element in becoming a success in the entertainment business. But how do you begin networking when you have no connections or resources to begin with? That’s often where the New York Film Academy comes into play. Many of our students come from locations all around the world and end up establishing and maintaining lifelong relationships, both personally and professionally. Juan (JMR) Luna and Kane Senes met in their MFA Filmmaking program in 2008 and became very close friends. They began supporting each other’s writing and producing each other’s directorial works. Since graduating less than five years ago they have earned immense success. Their latest feature film, Echoes of War, starring Ethan Embry, William Forsythe, James Badge Dale and Maika Monroe will be released May 15, 2015. Their future is limitless.

    We had a chat with these two graduates about their film, and how they have successfully navigated the industry thus far.

    Can you tell me what Echoes of War is about?

    Kane: Echoes of War is about a soldier returning from the Civil War to his family in the remote Texan countryside. There he discovers that the neighbors have been stealing from his family while he’s been gone and so he takes matters in to his own hands, sparking another senseless and tragic war. It’s a film about loss, really.

    Where did the idea for Echoes of War come from?

    Kane: My thesis short film at NYFA in 2010 was called A Relative Stranger. Juan was the cinematographer and co-producer. Echoes of War began as a feature adaptation of that short and grew into something else. The short came from my own relationship to my family, coming home every now and then from living in the States and feeling like things have changed while I’ve been gone. Obviously coming home from war is a whole other matter that I have never experienced and would never pretend to understand, but we spoke to as many veterans as we could and tried to ground it in a universal, human story that we can all understand and relate to — no matter our experiences.

    juan luna

    When did you two first start collaborating, and ultimately begin writing the script for Echoes of War?

    Kane: Our directing instructor was Adam Nimoy, who taught me everything I know. Juan directed some of his own stuff but gravitated towards cinematography, so he began shooting most of my projects, starting with my Year One Film and then my thesis. From there, we worked on each other’s films throughout school.

    The script I began writing with my writing and producing partner John Chriss, who produced my thesis. He didn’t go to NYFA but he was basically an honorary student as he worked on a lot of our films. I graduated NYFA at the end of 2010, and we were writing by mid-2011. A year later the script was done and Juan came onboard to help produce.

    Juan: My relationship with Kane can’t just be contained on Echoes of War. We have been friends all throughout, and we support each other constantly. When I was directing my movie Kane was there helping out too — emotionally and giving me notes and helping out with whatever he could.

    Can you tell me a little bit of how this film came together? Raising funds, attaching talent, etc.

    Kane: Juan and I were going door to door in Australia, meeting with film investors I knew there and trying to raise funds. It didn’t go as well as we were hoping, and Juan brought in some producers he knew from LA who graduated from AFI the same year we graduated NYFA. They had a connection to Emily Schweber, a wonderful casting director. A few weeks later, I was flying back to LA and meeting with actors every day for six months. We were fortunate enough to put together a great cast, which Juan was able to use to land the rest of the money we needed, and we shot the movie.

    juan and kane

    JMR Luna and Kane Senes

    Would you say your training and education at NYFA was useful in terms of writing / directing / producing this film?

    Kane: 100%. People often ask whether or not to go to film school. I always say the same thing: for me, I needed to know I could do this and school gave me the confidence by encouraging me to make films and seeing that they worked. They started bad and got better and I could see the pieces coming together. I could see I was improving and that was a direct result of film school: being in that environment, with good teachers and a great class room of participating students.

    Juan: I always felt that film school is what you want to make out of it. I feel being in class with Kane defined our careers. We both realize very early on that we had similar objectives, and the same passion for movies. I believe we always had a healthy competition going on. And it has been very stimulating and we both challenged and encouraged each other. We are better filmmakers because we both grew together. I feel film school gave us that safe environment and working structure to achieve it.

    Are you currently working together on another project?

    Kane: We’re always throwing ideas around but nothing is in place just yet. Maybe Juan thinks I’m one of those crazy directors he doesn’t want to work with again. You should ask him!

    Juan: I am working on different things right now. The Runaround, which will star Emile Hirsch and J.K. Simmons (two former NYFA Guest Speakers) was announced yesterday on The Hollywood Reporter, and it’s my next movie.

    We are currently working on THE SAME film together, as we have to distribute it still. People think that after you shoot the movie, you are done with it. But we are still working daily on it. The moment we are both done, I would love to find something else we could do together. I feel we both have grown a lot in the last three years, and our friendship has changed and evolved. So this movie would surely be very different from the first one and hopefully much better!

     

    JMR and Kane will be hosting a special “How to Make it in Hollywood” lecture at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles on May 14, 2015.

  • HollyShorts Presents NYFA Night

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    Continuing its collaboration with New York Film Academy, HollyShorts dedicated a screening exclusively to the films of NYFA students and alumni.

    From HollyShorts‘ website: “HollyShorts is an organization devoted to showcasing the best and brightest short films from around the globe, advancing the careers of filmmakers through screenings, networking events, and various panel and forums.”

    For the past eight years, the HollyShorts annual festival and monthly screenings have become a Hollywood staple. Playing to a sold-out house at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, these eight films were a terrific showcase for our talented filmmakers and performers.

    Maggie Lin’s RED HOUSE received the audience award for best picture!
    Thank you to everyone who participated, and to Theo & Daniel at HollyShorts for hosting such a memorable screening. Congratulations to all the cast and crews!

  • NYFA’s Kenneth Johnson Provides Students with 40 Years of Film & TV Experience

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    NYFA LA Instructor Kenneth Johnson on “The Mike Douglas Show”

    The New York Film Academy believes that a crucial element toward maintaining its intensive hands-on programs is having instructors with industry access and real life experience in the field he or she teaches. Los Angeles Filmmaking instructor Kenneth Johnson knocks those requirements out of the park. Johnson has been a successful writer-producer-director of film and television for over 40 years. Creator of the landmark original miniseries V, he also produced The Six Million Dollar Man and created such iconic, Emmy-winning series as The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk and Alien Nation.

    Referred to as Kenny by those who know him well, Johnson trained in classic theater at Carnegie Mellon University, and had early success as a producer-director of live TV in New York. At only age 25, he became Executive Producer and Showrunner for the legendary, talk-variety program The Mike Douglas Show, which won an Emmy under his leadership.

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    Kenneth Johnson with Bill Bixby

    Moving to California, Kenneth produced and directed several TV specials including Vincent Price in an Evening of Edgar Allan Poe and two top-rated documentaries for ABC: Alan King in Las Vegas. He became the youngest writer-producer-director at Universal Studios when he joined The Six Million Dollar Man where he created the Emmy-winning Bionic Woman. He was Showrunner of both Top Ten bionic series simultaneously. He then created The Incredible Hulk, yet another iconic, long-running Emmy-winner for which he penned Bill Bixby’s now-famous line, “Don’t make me angry…you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

    In the 1980s, Kenneth continued to cement his place in television by unveiling his epic alien invasion miniseries V. It was critically acclaimed and he received a Writers Guild Nomination. His original miniseries V stands as the highest-rated work of science fiction in television history.

    In the 90’s Kenneth created the Alien Nation TV movie-pilot which became an Emmy-winning series and five subsequent Emmy-nominated TV movies. Throughout his career, Kenneth has directed notable television movies for all the major networks including the top-rated Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and Don’t Look Under The Bed for Disney.

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    Johnson on the set of “V”

    Other TV movies include Sherlock Holmes Returns for CBS, which brought him a nomination for the Edgar Allen Poe Award from The Mystery Writers of America.

    Kenneth also directed the feature films Steel and Short Circuit 2. Beyond his film and television work, he has written the novels An Affair of State, V The Original Miniseries and V The Second Generation, published in four editions.

    Needless to say, it’s an honor to have Mr. Johnson teach filmmaking at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles for the past six years—his insight is invaluable.

    “Having had the opportunity to present my seminar at numerous other film schools and universities, I have continually been most impressed by the students at NYFA” says Johnson. “The majority of them have a strong desire and determination to succeed in this very tough business. Their attentiveness is always good and their questions probing and thoughtful. Plus we have fun together.”

    Johnson initially contacted NYFA Los Angeles Director Dan Mackler about being a resource for NYFA LA because he believed he could provide students with something that is often missing in academic settings: what it’s like to actually be in “The Trenches” of filmmaking. As Johnson puts it, he can provide, “What it’s like to be boots-on-the-ground doing the work. Including the prep necessary, a wealth of smart insights from my career producing and directing TV and features, plus useful tools I’ve created over the years that can benefit them. And I do it with gusto, laughs (often at myself) and a gazillion visuals: miles of behind the scenes footage, storyboards, etc., to show exactly how we accomplished the finished work.”

    Kenneth Johnson

    Johnson’s advice begins as soon as you walk into his first class. The very first thing he asks his students is if they love this business. Of course, every student will nod affirmatively, but then he makes it clearer: “Do you REALLY LOVE IT?! —because if you don’t love it like breathing, you can’t succeed and you’d be wise to step away.” At the end of the final session, Johnson gives his students a multi-page handout called “Getting a Gig,” which contains every bit of advice he’s amassed on that important subject over the span of his career.

    When asked about today’s landscape, Johnson says, “I think there are more opportunities in TV simply because there is far more product necessary to feed the TV (read cable, web, streaming, etc.) audience’s infinite appetite. Far more TV and video projects get made every year than features. They also happen faster. TV is also a great place to learn your craft. When I started producing, writing and directing on the Bionic shows at Universal it was like grad school…with pay. TV is the greatest training in the world for making movies — or for waging war. If you can survive through the making of under-scheduled, under-budgeted, restrictive TV schedules, making a theatrical movie becomes a piece of cake. Just ask Joss Whedon or Steven Spielberg.”

    Johnson admits that the biggest challenge in our business is the constant rejection. “All of us in the arts get told no far more often than yes. Or even worse, we get told yes and then no — when the studio or network management changes while you’re in the midst of writing, prepping or even sometimes shooting. Francois Truffaut said he always tried to have at least three to five projects in development simultaneously —because he knew the odds were against more than one ever happening— and that one only if he was lucky.

    A filmmaker has to develop a thick skin and a determination (as Fred Astaire sang) “to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”

    Those who are true survivors will indeed survive to try another day. Where there’s life there’s always hope.

    Johnson has three upcoming guest sessions for the MFA Producers group on July 9, 16, and 23 of 2015.

    May 1, 2015 • Filmmaking • Views: 626

  • Emirati Graduate Directs First Feature “Abdullah”

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    “Abdullah”

    Given the various locations of the New York Film Academy all over the world, often students have the opportunity to explore multiple locations while studying for a certificate or degree. Former AFA Filmmaking student Humaid Alsuwaidi studied his first year in Abu Dhabi and moved to Los Angeles to complete his degree his second year.

    Since his graduation, Alsuwaidi has been hard at work on his first feature film Abdullah, which he directed with fellow NYFA students, including:

    • Jack Elliott: Director of Photography
    • Fatima Al Taei: Main Actress
    • Malik Zenger: Gaffer
    • Shih-Yao Huang: Key Grip
    • Aiham Alsubaihi: 1st AC
    • Effendi Edris: Cam Op
    • Stuart Matthews: Grip

    His film tells the story of an Emirati boy (Abdullah) who develops a fascination with music from an early age, but struggles to hide that over the years from his very conservative family—where many things are “haram- forbidden/prohibited.”

    Alsuwaidi shot the film in the emirates of Ajman, north of UAE, despite all of the difficulties in location and funds. The task of finding the right crew came naturally, as he found NYFA alumni are the best to work with, as they have a high standard of understanding the demands of a film production.

    Humaid’s risk paid off, and he feels very satisfied on the results of his production. He is currently in the middle of post-production.

    We look forward to viewing the finished product!

    April 30, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1091

  • NYFA Covers Young Storytellers’ Final ‘Glee’ Big Show

    glee cast

    As part of our on-going collaboration with the wonderful Young Storytellers Foundation, New York Film Academy students and alumni recently got the chance to film “THE FINAL GLEE BIG SHOW.”

    Glee cast members Mark Salling, Dot Marie Jones, Harry Shum Jr., Max Adler, and Alex Newell along with Chrissie Fit (Teen Beach Movie, Pitch Perfect 2) performed four different short screenplays written by a group of inventive middle schoolers.
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    The connection between Glee and Young Storytellers dates back to the organization’s very beginnings when Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk helped create what is now YSF. Since then, Mr Falchuk has regularly brought the cast of Glee to perform the student’s material as part of YSF’s “Big Show.” With Glee now coming to a close after six seasons, this performance truly marked the end of an era.

    NYFA was honored to be part of the experience, and congratulates the cast and crew of Glee as well as all the Young Storytellers Writers.

  • VFX Oscar Winner Ian Hunter Speaks on “Interstellar” at NYFA

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    “Interstellar” VFX Supervisor Ian Hunter

    New York Film Academy students in Los Angeles had a glimpse into the new dimensions of filmmaking with a screening of Interstellar and the subsequent presentation by VFX supervisor and Oscar winner Ian Hunter, co-owner of New Deal studios. The film event was reminiscent of Star Wars screenings in the 70s with a line stretching out down the long hall in front of the NYFA Theater and around the corner!

    After the screening, Ian gave a brilliant PowerPoint presentation giving a rare behind-the-scenes look at the making of the epic film. He related that the models were built at a massive 1/5 scale and shot with high resolution Vista Vision film cameras running at 72 frames per second to create the majestic imagery. Miniature explosions, rotating rigs, special light sources and tons of in camera VFX work were the primary techniques. Only one green screen shot was used in the entire film.

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    NYFA LA Chair Mark Sawicki with VFX Oscar Winner Ian Hunter

    At the end of Ian’s presentation, chair of animation Mark Sawicki spoke with him to reflect on the modern shooting methodology used for the tentpole picture. Ian shared that unlike many productions, the pre viz of the film was used as a starting point and not a locked down template. Director Christopher Nolan, in his wisdom, knew that the final models photographed in real light would give rise to different and better ideas spring boarded from the pre viz. As a result, shots were not shot to the frame but as full takes, as if shooting live action, giving editing options later on. The process points out the proper use of pre viz as a starting point, thereby allowing the iterative filmmaking process to continue yielding happy accidents and lightning in a bottle. Mr. Hunter shared that pictures done in the 90s such as From the Earth to the Moon had 10% miniature and 90% digital effects, whereas Insterstellar reversed the equation with 90% of the imagery executed with real world miniatures to a stunning effect.

    mark sawicki

    At this time Mark pointed out Ian’s groundbreaking involvement as a director in the new immersive cinema experience of Cinema VR where audiences witness the photoplay in a full 360 degree panorama. This new miracle of the screen is tantamount to adding to the cinema language itself. Ian made note that while takes are much longer when using this process, cuts are possible and sound cues and other techniques can be used to direct the audience’s attention. Mark could not think of a better person than Ian to take on and develop this exciting new art form. Ian’s film Kaiju Fury was shown at Sundance’s new frontier category launching the spectacular screen spectacle.

    Thank you, Mr. Hunter, for shedding light on your process and guiding us to the next dimension of movie making!

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    NYFA LA Chair of Animation Mark Sawicki with Ian Hunter

    April 27, 2015 • 3D Animation, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 961

  • How Do You Define ‘Making It’ in the Art World?

    Often the definition of what it means to be successful will vary from person to person. Is there a real point in an artist’s career where he or she can announce “I’ve made it”? New York Film Academy 8-Week Filmmaking graduate Anthony Moorman explores this topic in his documentary Making IT by focusing primarily on artists Eric Fortune, Andrew Bawidamann, and Brian Ewing’s daily struggles of making a living while staying creative.

    making it

    Making IT is an idea that came about with my friendship and creative collaborator Woodrow Hinton,” recalls Moorman. “Woody is an illustrator and artist. He was pitching an idea to me about making an art documentary about illustration. I wasn’t sure how to go about that, but over a two year process we figured out the logistics and strategy about telling a story about three working illustrators in the middle of their careers. We told that story through Woody’s eyes. It’s a personal journey about Woody, through his three friends. When Woody came to me with the title Making IT, and said the film is about how artists define success — are they or are they not ‘making it’? I was sold on the idea and knew we could tell an honest and fresh story.”

    The film ultimately came together from late 2012 to 2014 with pre, pro, and post, over a three year period on a shoe string budget. Andrew Bawidamann, Brian Ewing and Eric Fortune are three excellent artists who are in the middle of their careers. This stage of their journey is the toughest because they’re on the edge of success, “Making it.” As most of us are aware, the road to success can be very arduous, and in this film, Moorman explores that path through the eyes of students, working professionals, and artists who are working at the top in their field.

    Andrew Bawidamann

    Andrew Bawidamann

    One of the topics in the film is something that prospective students asks themselves all the time before enrolling at the New York Film Academy: is art school worth it? “We all agree that it’s expensive,” says Moorman. “But we can’t imagine our careers without art school or film school. Film school can be a place where you fail and it’s okay. As long as you learn and grow from that failure, your work or craft can only improve. I do wish I would have been more open to my instructors at NYFA. Sometimes as a film student you think you have it all figured out and you’re awesome. I kind of fell into that trap. Instructors are great people, and they are there to help you to improve. But I would say that if I hadn’t had my 8-Week Workshop experience at NYFA, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Furthering your education in any field can really be the key to success. You can’t discover the journey of an artist by living inside your own little world. You need to get out there, experience life a bit, and be okay with failing. Being a filmmaker is all about taking risks.”

    Teaser Trailer from Tony Moorman on Vimeo.

    Through his honest observations of students, recent grads, and art legends about the struggles and the dark times, Moorman hopes his film will not only inspire artists, but also spark an honest conversation about what it really takes to be a success. “We didn’t want to just say how cool it was to be an illustrator. Making that kind of film isn’t helpful,” said Moorman. “But really explaining to people that they need to work really hard for 10 years before they’ll actually make a living was the key message. I believe that also the message of the film industry. You’re not going to graduate and start working in the business and make a ton of money. No. You’re going to struggle, suffer, and crawl for a while. And if you’re lucky, you will make it out on the other side. So the goal was to make sure we prepared people and be honest to them about how hard it is to get in the business of the art world.”

    Moorman is currently in production with Hinton on another art bio documentary on famed local artist C.F. Payne: an American Illustrator.

    Making IT is now available on iTunes, Amazon, X-Box, and Google Play.

    April 23, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1215

  • NYFA Chinese Student Club Invites Filmmaking Alumna Jing Wen for Screening and Q&A

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    New York Film Academy Chinese Student Club invited one of our MFA Filmmaking graduates, Jing Wen, a Chinese filmmaker who studied at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles to screen her short film A, B, C or D? followed by a Q&A last week.

    “I like to observe people’s facial expression, voice, and body language in order to understand them,” says Jing. “That’s one the most important skills a director needs to learn and practice because film ideas are inspired by observations from life and they are a reflection of reality.” As a writer and director with a record of success, Jing Wen is never satisfied with her own films and always believes that there is something she could do better.

    jing wen film

    Inspired by the story structure of Run Lola Run, Rushmore and the 2006 Chinese comedy Crazy Stone, Jing wrote the short film A, B, C or D? as her thesis project. Her final shooting script came out after workshops during her thesis committee meetings and was rewritten seven or eight times during her study at the Academy. “The production only took about two days and in fact we shot for one and a half days.” Jing described, “it saved us a lot on budget, but the biggest challenge we face, like many young filmmakers doing student films, is that we lost one of the main cast a few days before the principle of photography started.” It helped that three quarters of the crew working on her short film were friends who she met on classmates’ sets and were doing her a favor. She suggested that our current students at New York Film Academy begin coming up with ideas no later than March if they want to start shooting between May and July. “It’ll give you enough time to absorb others’ opinions and achieve a more mature storytelling,” she said.

    Jing not only shared her production experience but also gave important lessons she learned along the way. “It is extremely difficult for an Asian director to climb up the ladder and direct a major hit feature in Hollywood. Your experience and networking are equally important whether you want to stay in Hollywood or go back to China,” she says. In addition to filmmaking, Jing has a strong background working in the Television Industry in China. She started interning at major Chinese TV station at a young age and participated in productions of hit variety shows and games shows when she was only 19 years old. Her advice to those seeking a career in the industry was to build a relationship with people. “The most important lesson I learned is that you can’t work alone as an individual but need a team that supports one another no matter what you do or where you are,” Jing explained. “Teamwork in this particular industry together with the network you built is a weapon that will get you far.”

    Wen Jing

    Jing Wen has been selected to direct a forthcoming feature comedy The Disappeared Fish later this year. The film is scheduled to release theatrically after premiering at 2016 film festivals in China. Jing is currently working with Chinese financiers on a second feature written by her. She’s working in development with a production company and is considering a TV platform release. Our Chinese students at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus had a blast listening to Jing Wen’s unique experience and we sincerely thank Jing Wen for taking the time to openly share her insight with us. We also look forward to seeing the Chinese Student Club host more events in the future to benefit NYFA students.

    – Wanyin Bo

    April 22, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 943

  • MFA Filmmaking Grad Developing Female-Empowering ‘Daughters of Abdul-Rahman’

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    One of our MFA Filmmaking graduates, Zaid Abu Hamdan, a Jordanian filmmaker who studied at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, is generating buzz with his newest project Daughter’s of Abdul-Rahman. The film, which raised more than $23,000 on indiegogo, is a dramatic comedy about four estranged and very different sisters.

    Following the mysterious disappearance of their father, the eldest sister, Zainab, must now reunite with her three sisters at the family home to find their patriarch. Only by coming together will they be able to locate their missing father, and, in the process, overcome their differences and realize who they truly want to be. A drama with a unique, Jordanian sense of humor that is full of light heartwarming moments, Daughters of Abdul-Rahman is natural and organic. Yet, the screenplay tackles serious issues and taboos in a poetic, dark, but still comedic style.

    The four female leads of Daughters of Abdul-Rahman loosely represent the wide spectrum of women in Amman while their old traditional father represents the patriarchal structure in Jordan. Given the endless list of differences between them and their divergent social lives, the four sisters do not choose to embark on a journey together to find their missing father, but they must. The sisters’ journey creates a whirlwind of fear, tears, new discoveries, and laughter. Through difficult times, the daughters find their inner voices, not only as individuals, but also as a union of women—sisters.

    “I am a strong believer in the voice of women, the strength of women, the freedom of women, and the much-needed intellectual liberty of women and men in the region,” states Abu Hamdan. “If I wish for something, it would be that this film contributes to a larger movement for women’s liberation in my own country, or even in the Middle East. And when that happens, I will be there, with my mother.”

    Abu Hamdan has proven to be a very prolific and successful filmmaker since leaving the Academy. The Jordanian filmmaker has directed a number of short films including Bahiya and Mahmoud, which won the Best of Festival Award at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival and Shortfest, and was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2012.

    You can view his award-winning film below.

    If you’re interested in donating to Daughter’s of Abdul-Rahman, click here.

    April 15, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 910