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Arab Women Filmmakers Program to Bow at UCLA

The Mohamed S. Farsi Foundation and the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television are opening up a new avenue for Arab woman filmmakers with a partnership and fund that will include three new four-year full-ride graduate scholarships for UCLA TFT’s Master of Fine Arts in Directing.

Designed “to give voice to the unique perspective of Arab women,” as a statement put it, the Hani Farsi Graduate Scholarship Fund will start in the fall 2015.

London-based Saudi philanthropist, entrepreneur and film producer Hani Farsi (pictured) has long been producing and distributing films with sociopolitical undertones such as Elia Suleiman’s “The Time That Remains” and Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” He is also co-owner of French distribution and sales company Le Pacte, which have eight films at Cannes this year, including Nanni Moretti’s “My Mother” and Palestinian dramedy “Degrade” by Arab and Tarzan Abu Nasser.

While a number of Arab female directors have come to the fore in recent years – such as Saudi Arabia’s Haifa Al-Mansour (“Wadjda”), who is on the Un Certain Regard jury in Cannes, and Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki (“Where Do We Go Now”) – Arab women certainly face more barriers to becoming filmmakers than their male counterparts in the region.

“We want these scholarships to be a catalyst, to capture the imaginations of future filmmakers, and to inspire them to reach their goals,” said Farsi.

“This partnership with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television represents the first step in a call to action, which we hope will lead to a positive change for women in the film industry and in my part of the world.”

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