Meet the Filmmakers! SAFAR Arab Film Development Workshop October 2021

25 October '21

We’re excited to announce the latest cohort of filmmakers selected to take part in our SAFAR Arab Film Development Workshop. Led by director and educator Saeed Taji Farouky, the workshop brings together six early-career Arab filmmakers or filmmakers working on projects connected to or inspired by the Arab world for an intensive two-day session where they’ll discuss their projects in detail. We were really impressed by their film ideas, their commitment to collaboration and their passion for Arab cinema, and are delighted to be welcoming them to our Arab Film Development Workshop alumni.

Read below to find out more about the filmmakers selected!


Waleed Elgadi is an actor/writer, born & raised in Khartoum, Sudan before moving to London as a child. He also has Egyptian, Turkish and Iraqi heritage. Some career highlights include starring in the BBC/HBO BAFTA winning DIRTY WAR, being directed by Chris Morris in cult classic FOUR LIONS, & working alongside Tom Hanks & Tom Tykwer in HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING. During the pandemic he was supposed to be in St. Ann’s Warehouse in NY performing in THE JUNGLE with Good Chance Theatre Company. But the universe had other plans. This gave him time to at least complete his first play after being selected to (remotely) take part in the Sundance Theatre Lab 2020 as an artist in residence. A commission of the play followed, and he is now grappling with that tricky second draft. He is making his tentative first forays into screenwriting/filmmaking/producing with the short he brings to the workshop, and is eager to soak up everything this experience has to offer.

You can follow Waleed on Instagram and Twitter , or check out his IMDB and Spotlight pages.


Laith Elzubaidi is a British-Iraqi screenwriter and Development Researcher based in London. He currently has a sitcom pilot script in development with Three Little Birds Pictures called “The Weekly Wembley”. He also recently won the Soho House “Scripted Soho-T Seat” competition with his Sci-Fi drama script “Coming Home”. The script was performed to a live audience at White City House Electric Cinema and given feedback by two Emmy award-winning writers.

To learn more, follow Laith on Instagram or Twitter.


Natali Khalili Tari is a Croatian-Iranian photographer and filmmaker based in London. Her work tends to focus on the nexus between diaspora, migration and culture. Most recently she co-directed and produced the documentary ‘Between Mountains and Wars’ which premiered at the 27th Sarajevo Film Festival. This year Khalili Tari also worked as the DoP and editor on the Iranian short film ‘These Hands Tell Stories’ and as an editor for SBTV’s docu-series ‘JEDelve x Adobe’.

You can follow Natali on Instagram for updates about her work.



Olivia Melkonian is an audio producer, analogue visual artist and DJ raised between London, UK and Sharjah, UAE. Invested in projects of cultural preservation and reflections of uprooted histories, Olivia pieces together collective memory through remnants found in the home. Inspired by generational family traditions of storytelling, she archives dialect and ritual.

Follow Olivia on Instagram and check out her archiving project Homegrown.



Zeina Saleh is a card-carrying misfit. An emergent screenwriter, a cultural manager who managed several projects to produce creative content within the Arab region (films&podcasts). She relocated from Palestine to London after receiving a Chevening scholarship, acquiring a degree in Creative Industries from Birkbeck University of London. Zeina as a filmmaker made several films from her perspective as a young Arab woman, the latest was called Sard, produced by Shashat film institute in Palestine and recipient of the Jury Award of the Festival Ciné-Palestine in Paris 2021. Zeina is also a podcast producer, between 2019 and 2020 she lead a project called Feel (the elephant in the room), one of the first large-scale audio series that addressed mental health issues in Arabic.


Ayeesha Starkey is a graduate of Media and Communications and a filmmaker based between Beirut & London. She has worked in the fields of visual arts, and production, specifically video editing, content creation, and script writing. Ayeesha lived in Dubai for 16 years and draws most of her inspiration from the cultural contrast she has inherited from living in between Western and Middle Eastern cultures. After working with BBC Studios, in London, on Doctor Who, BBC Planet, and Top Gear, she found herself increasingly drawn to the arts and entertainment industry. Most recently she wrote and directed a short film, “بنزين” (Benzine) or petrol in Arabic in 2020. The short film approaches Lebanon’s heated political and economic climate in a satirical manner. Ayeesha combines her passions and expertise today in production to explore fashion-films and theatre. The scope of her work has recently diversified to include being a fixer for foreign correspondents, film photography and branding.

You can follow Ayeesha on Instagram and check out her Showreel and Portfolio.