International Advisory Board

Youssra

Youssra is one of Egypt’s biggest and most celebrated cinematic icons. The internationally acclaimed
actress and singer has been associated with almost 90 films, winning awards and accolades through
her illustrious career. Among them: the 2001 Egyptian National Film Festival prize for her role in
Khaled Youssef’s The Storm, a Marrakech International Film Festival Honorary Award in 2003,
the Award for Excellence at the Turin Film Festival in 2007, and the Arte Award at Taormina Film
Festival in the same year. She starred in several films that participated in the official competitions of
international festivals, such as Egyptian Story by Youssef Chahine, screened at the 1982 Venice Film
Festival, and Yousry Nasrallah’s Mercedes, selected for the 1993 Locarno Film Festival. Among her
other notable films are Raafat El-Mihi’s The Lawyer (1984); Chahine’s Alexandria Again and Forever
(1991),The Emigrant (1994, GFF 2018), and Alexandria... New York (2004); Sherif Arafa’s Terrorism
and BBQ (1992), El-Mansy (1993),and Birds of Darkness (1995); Khairy Bishara’s Strawberry War
(1994), and Marwan Hamed’s The Yacoubian Building (2006). Youssra has served as a jury member
at numerous international film festivals, and headed the jury of Carthage Cinema Days in 1994. She
also became the first Egyptian actress to head the international jury of the Cairo International Film
Festival in 2014. In 2006, Youssra was chosen to be a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations
Development Programme.

Mohamed Malas

Born in 1945 in the town of Quneitra in the Golan, Mohamad Malas represents the Syrian cinéma
d’auteur. The turmoil and conflict he witnessed while growing up is something that was to play a
major role in his later work. After having worked as a teacher in Damascus while studying at the
Faculty of Philosophy, Malas received a scholarship to study filmmaking at the VGIK. He returned
to Syria in 1974 and soon acquired the reputation of a socially engaged filmmaker. He received
international acclaim for his feature and documentary films and won several awards at film festivals
around the world. Among his most important films that are themed on personal freedom and
oppression are Dreams of the City (1983), The Night (1992), and Passion (2005). His film Ladder to
Damascus premiered at Toronto and was invited for screenings at more than 50 international film
festivals. Malas has authored The Dream. A Diary of the Film, a haunting chronicle of life of the
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. An English-language book titled The Cinema of Muhammad
Malas (Visions of a Syrian Auteur), written by Samirah Alkassim & Nezar Andary, presents Malas’s
work and gives dimension and humanity to a country currently defined by ruin and catastrophe.

Hend Sabry

Hend Sabry is a Cairo based Tunisian actress, who has a huge following in the Arab world and has
been recognized, awarded and applauded internationally. In 1994, she won the Best Actress awards
in both the Carthage Film Festival and the Valencia Festival of Mediterranean Cinema for her role
in The Silence of the Palace by Moufida Tlatli. She was also awarded the Best Actress prize at the
2001 Francophone Film Festival in Belgium for her role in Nouri Bouzid’s Clay Dolls, and in the same
year she won the Best Actress award at the Egyptian National Film Festival for her performance in A
Citizen, a Detective and a Thief by Daoud Abdel Sayed. In addition, Sabry received the Best Actress
award at the National Catholic Center for Egyptian Cinema and from the Rabat Film Festival for Hala
Khalil’s The Best of Times (2004), as well as the Best Actress award at the 2008 Rotterdam Arab
Film Festival for Yousry Nasrallah’s Aquarium. Among her other remarkable works are Sherif Arafa’s
The Island (2007) and Rida Al Bahi’s Aleppo Flower (2010). In 2010, she was chosen to be a UN World
Food Programme Ambassador, and has been working diligently for years to raise awareness about
hunger in the region. In 2014, the Government of France granted her the honorary title of Chevalier
de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Atiq Rahimi

Atiq Rahimi, born in Kabul in 1962, is a French-Afghan writer and filmmaker. In the mid 80s, he
sought political asylum in France. He completed his PhD in audio-visual communications at the
Sorbonne, and began writing Earth and Ashes in 1996. In 2004, he won the Prix du Regard vers
l’Avenir at the Cannes Film Festival, for his debut film Earth and Ashes, based on his own book. In
2008, he was awarded the Prix Goncourt, the highest literary honor in France, for The Patience Stone.

In 2012, Rahimi directed the film adaptation of the book from a screenplay he co-authored with Jean-
Claude Carrière. The film won several awards including the FACE Award at the Istanbul International

Film Festival and the SIGNIS Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Rahimi has also
authored novels A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear (2011), in which he uses his tight, spare prose
to send the reader deep into the fractured mind and emotions of a country caught between religion
and the political machinations of the world’s superpowers. In his novel, A Curse on Dostoevsky (2014)
he not only flirts with literature but also ponders the roles of sin, guilt, and redemption in the Muslim
world.

Hiam Abbass

Hiam Abbass was born and raised in a village in northern Galilee. After studying photography in
Haifa, Abbass moved to France in the late 1980s and embarked on a career as an actress. She earned
fame in the role of a mother who takes up belly dancing in Red Satin by Tunisian director Raja
Amari. Other prominent directors she has worked with include acclaimed filmmakers such as Yousry
Nasrallah in The Gate to the Sun (2004), Hany Abu-Assad in Paradise Now (2005), Najawa Najjar in
Pomegranates and Myrrh (2008), Patrice Chéreau in Persecution (2009), Jean Becker in Conversations
with My Gardener (2007), Nicolas Saada in Spy(ies) (2009), Jim Jarmusch in The Limits of Control
(2009), Thomas McCarthy in The Visitor, Julian Schnabel in Miral (2010) and The Diving Bell and the
Butterfly (2007); and with Radu Mihaileanu in The Source (2011). Hiam Abbass was an adviser to
Stephen Spielberg during the filming of Munich and to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for his film Babel (2006).
She has directed three short movies; Bread, in which she acts as well, The Eternal Dance and Le
Donne della Vucciria (2013), which she also co-wrote. Her first feature-length movie as director and
writer, Inheritance (2012), was highly acclaimed.

Tareq Ben Ammar

Tarek Ben Ammar, often described as a cultural entrepreneur, is a graduate of the prestigious
Georgetown University. He and his studio Carthago Films, launched in 1975, were instrumental in
promoting Tunisia as a shooting destination. He provided production services to high-profile films
such as Star Wars (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Ben Ammar also produced prominent
works like Jean Yanne’s Quarter to Two Before Jesus (1982), Roman Polanski’s Pirates (1986), etc. In
the early 90s he started to transition from servicing and production to media business. In 2000 he
founded Émotion, a European alternative for film projects that have difficulty finding 100% of their
budget with the American majors. In 2004 he launched Quinta Distribution and acquired distribution
rights for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Under his leadership, Quinta entered into an
agreement with Technicolor and Thomson, and acquired seven television channels in Italy with TF1:

D-Free, a TNT platform. At the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, Ben Ammar announced his new Europe-
wide film distribution strategy, in partnership with the bank Goldman Sachs. He has produced or

co-produced more than 70 movies and has developed a group presence in several countries, including
France, Italy, North Africa and the United States.

Yousry Nasrallah

One of Egypt’s most highly regarded filmmakers, Yousry Nasrallah, was born in Cairo in 1952. He
studied economics and political science before moving to Lebanon, where he worked as a journalist.
His career in film began as an assistant to Volker Schlöndorff on his film Die Fälschung, followed by
him assisting Youssef Chahine on his well-known works Al-Dhakira and Adieu Bonaparte, which
he also co-wrote. Nasrallah’s films have been screened at festivals around the world since his 1988
debut Summer Thefts. Produced by Youssef Chahine, the film made a significant contribution to the
revival of Egyptian cinema. He carried on his collaboration with Chahine as co-director of Alexandria
Again and Forever (1990) and Cairo as Seen by Chahine (1991). Both Mercedes (1993) and El Medina
(1999) competed at Locarno. The latter was awarded the Special Jury Prize. The Gate to the Sun
(2004) was presented at Cannes, The Aquarium (2008) at Berlin, and Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story
(2009) at Venice. In 2012, he competed for the Palme d’Or with After the Battle (2012) and in 2016
with Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces. The last one, a wedding-themed comedy-drama, was
invited to Locarno as well as Toronto. His much celebrated films are known for depicting Egypt’s
social and political complexities.

Abderrahmane Sissako

Born in Mauritania in 1961, Sissako grew up in Mali and move to Moscow to study at the Federal
State Film Institute, VGIK. His early work October (1993), a medium-length black-and-white film,
was screened in Un Certain Regard at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. After moving to France in the
early 90s, he directed Life on Earth (1998), which was invited to Directors’ Fortnight, Cannes. Waiting
for Happiness (2002) won the FIPRESCI Award at Un Certain Regard. He returned to Cannes with
Bamako (2006), an outdoor courtroom drama, in which the Malian people accuse the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of harming their economy. Timbuktu (2014), screened
in the competitive section of the Cannes Film Festival, is described as a brilliant portrait of a people
traumatized by division. It was Mauritania’s first entry to be nominated for Best Foreign Language
Film at the Academy Awards (2015), and it won seven César awards in France, including Best Director
and Best Film. Sissako, whose work offers serious narratives about the realities facing Africa, is one
of the few film personalities from the Sub-Saharan Africa to be considered as one of the world’s
leading filmmakers.

Margarethe Von Trotta

Actress, writer and film director Margarethe von Trotta began her career in cinema as an actress. Shortly thereafter, she began co-scripting works with Schlöndorff with whom she co-directed The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975). Her first solo feature was The Second Awakening of Christa Klages (1977), a film which confirmed von Trotta’s unique directorial voice by introducing many of the themes that recur in her later work: the complexities of female bonding and the uses and effects of violence. She followed this up with a trilogy of films, which contributed to the development of mainstream feminist cinema. The first, Sisters, or the Balance of Happiness (1979), is perhaps the most personal of all her films and has drawn favorable comparisons to Bergman’s Persona (1966, GFF 2018). In 1981 von Trotta gained international acclaim with Marianne and Juliane, also known as The German Sisters, her calling card to the world and arguably her masterpiece. It was the first film directed by a woman to win the Golden Lion at Venice since Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia (1938). Psychologically insightful and politically complex, von Trotta’s work, which includes more than 20 directing credits and 34 prestigious awards, is noted for its focus on women’s relationships.

Forest Whitaker

American actor Forest Whitaker is the recipient of more than 50 international acting performance
awards, among them an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a New York Film Critics
Circle Award for his portrayal of former Ugandan president Idi Amin in Kevin Macdonald’s The Last
King of Scotland (2006). He also won the Best Actor Award at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival for his
performance in Clint Eastwood’s Bird, and was given the Creative Achiever Award at the 2013 Abu
Dhabi Film Festival. He played distinctive roles in more than 120 films and TV series; The Color of
Money (1986) by Martin Scorsese, Platoon (1986) by Oliver Stone, The Crying Game (1992) by Neil
Jordan and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) by Jim Jarmusch. In addition to his outstanding
repertoire as an actor, Whitaker is also the director of six feature and short films. Whitaker is
committed to supporting humanitarian causes, and is the founder of the International Institute for
Peace and the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative. He is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
for Peace and Reconciliation, and a UNESCO Special Envoy working to combat poverty and hunger. He
is the recipient of a Crystal Award from the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos for his philanthropic
efforts in youth empowerment.