MFA Filmmaking Alum Zaid Abu Hamdan Wins ‘Audience Award’ at Cairo International Film Festival

December 15, 2021

New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Zaid Abu Hamdan premiered his latest feature film Daughters of Abdul-Rahman, to a global audience at this year’s 43rd Cairo International Film Festival. The film received recognition for its storyline and continues to compete on the festival circuit.

Film poster for Daughters of Abdul-Rahman

The film Daughters of Abdul-Rahman surrounds the story of four estranged sisters who escape highly dictated lives and are then forced to come together to find their suddenly-missing father. On the journey to search for their father, secrets are revealed. Inspired by the director’s own mother’s story, Zaid Abu Hamdan tells Variety Magazine about his mother’s inability to achieve her aspirational goals within their own home country of Jordan. He says, “Having to be the perfect eldest sister, then a young wife living up to the social standards expected of her, then a mother to four boys, all that seemed to put her personal plans on hold.”

To gather information about women’s perspectives, the director distributed surveys to various Jordanian women of different religious, educational, and socio-economic backgrounds and found that “So many of the women fantasized about screaming their truth and shouting out their anger,” he shares in an interview with Variety.

Daughters of Abdul-Rahman won the Audience Award at the 2021 Cairo International Film Festival

The film stars Saba Mubarak, Farah Bsaiso, Hanan Al Hilo, Mariam Al Basha, and Mohamed Bakri and was produced by Pan East Media, Lagoonie Film Production, Arab Media Network, and iProduction. At the Cairo International Film Festival, Daughters of Abdul-Rahman won the ‘Youssef Cherif Rizkallah Award,’ otherwise known as the ‘Audience Award’ which is granted to only one film among the many within the international competition.

Daughters of Abdul-Rahman was selected as a finalist project and received a grant from the Tribeca Film Institute among other organizations. The film was also screened at the Saudi Arabia 2021 Red Sea Film Festival. This festival marked the first big international film festival since the country’s long-standing ban on cinema was lifted.

At the Red Sea Film Festival this year, Abu Hamdan also won $100,000 for the festival’s Red Souk competition for ‘best project by a non-Saudi filmmaker,’ which will grant him funding to develop The Zarqa Girl, a genre film about a tough street-fighting heroine who rises to power in a world dominated by male thugs.

Director and Writer Zaid Abu Hamdan

The film’s success is felt across everyone at NYFA. As quoted by Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of the Film Festival Department, “I feel like there’s a special kind of thrill around winning the Audience Award at an internationally respected film festival like Cairo. It means the filmmaker’s story connected with its audience, touched their hearts, made them feel seen. I’m so happy that Zaid got to have this experience live and in person, to talk to his audience, participate in Q&As. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what filmmaking is about? Impacting your audience? I wish Zaid all the best and can’t wait for this film to land in the US so that American audiences can enjoy it.”

According to Abu Hamdan’s former Instructor at NYFA, Senior Directing Instructor at the Los Angeles campus Nick Sivakumaran, “I couldn’t be more proud of Zaid! He was an amazing student and such a passionate and visionary director. Even though I worked with him over ten years ago, I still remember his talent and determination. I’ve loved hearing about all his projects since he graduated from NYFA and can’t wait to see Daughters of Abdul-Rahman!”

With professional experience ranging from assistant directing, producing, and his work in television, Abu Hamdan created Zaha Productions, which produced the highly acclaimed short film Baram & Hamza. With the subject of women and women’s issues at the forefront of his professional career, the director shares his latest work and next project in his interview with Variety, “My latest work was MAC Cosmetic’s Ramadan miniseries Qata’ef, featured in Vogue Arabia, which starred five beautiful women. What I realized is that empowered female characters with a distinct point of view excite me, and working with actresses [is] a challenge that I adore.’” Abu Hamdan’s next feature film will also center around the subject of women.

New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Zaid Abu Hamdan for his well-deserved recognition for the film Daughters of Abdul-Rahman and wish him success with the film as it continues to delight audiences internationally.

Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.