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NYFA Student Produces Sundance Film

Saudi Film Associate Produced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Student Aya Hamdan Wins Jury Award at Sundance

January 29, 2019 Proving that documentary skills come in handy in the fiction world as well, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary student Aya Hamdan associate produced Dunya’s Day, a satirical short film tackling class privilege that has premiered and won at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film is notable for its all-female, Saudi cast, who give layered, complex performances that have generated a lot of buzz. During Sundance, Dunya’s Day was awarded the Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction.

Saudi filmmaker Raed Alsemari wrote and directed the film, which tells the story of Dunya, a Saudi woman struggling to throw the perfect graduation party after she’s been abandoned by her domestic help. The film already has the honor of being the first Saudi film to have its premiere in Saudi Arabia, with an IMAX screening at the Vox Cinema at Riyadh Park organized by the General Culture Authority, represented by the Saudi Film Council.

Hamdan is a current student of NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking 1-year conservatory in New York City — after having previously attended NYFA’s 1-week Filmmaking workshop — where she is being prepared by professional, distinguished faculty members for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.

The Documentary staff and faculty have been incredibly supportive of Hamdan as she’s worked on Dunya’s Day. She tells NYFA, “I want to thank Andrea, Tracie, Joao, Claudia, and Maxine for all of their support.”

Hamdan is working on several documentary shorts as part of her curriculum, including a social issue film and a thesis film that she will shoot in her home country, the Kingdom of Bahrain. She also plans on working with Alsemari on his next film, possibly a feature set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Aya Hamdan

Dunya’s Day stars Sara Balghonaim, Rahaf Bazian, and Ayah Bazian. Hamdan served as the films associate producer; the crew also includes Sarah Elnawasrah as producer, Oliver Theurillat as director of photography, and Tamara Kalo as production designer. The film’s director, Raed Alsemari, is already earning a lot of praise from his peers.

“He has the creativity and drive to positively influence the perception of Arab women in the media,” Hamdan says of writer/director Raed Alsemari. She adds, “I am truly thankful and proud to be part of this journey. I love this film and what it represents not only for Saudi Arabian cinema but for cinema across the Middle East. I can't wait for it to be shared with a wider audience; it touches on a universal topic that anyone can relate to, but through the stories of the fierce women of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.”

The first screening of Dunya’s Day at Sundance is Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at Prospector Square Theater.

The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking student Aya Hamdan on the Sundance premiere of and Jury Award prize for Dunya’s Day and looks forward to following her work as she completes her studies!

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