The mission of the Arab Film Festival (AFF) is to enhance public understanding of Arab culture and to provide alternative representations of Arabs that contradict the stereotypical images frequently encountered in the American mass media. The Arab Film Festival screens films from and about the Arab World that provide realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics.
Serge Bakalian, Executive Director
Serge Bakalian is a San Francisco-based filmmaker and activist. He has worked for the F.A.O. of the United Nations and Greenpeace International before moving to San Francisco in 2007 to produce film, and theater dedicated to the Middle East. In 2011, Serge completed the award-winning “Default: the Student Loan Documentary,” which was released on PBS and LinkTV, and screened at over 140 campuses across the country. He has worked on a wide range of issues and campaigns, notably on defending the biodiversity of the world’s food supply against genetic modification. Serge holds a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.
Sharif Ezzat, Design Director
Design Director Sharif Ezzat is a multimedia artist based in San Francisco. In 1998 he started GoodFood Productions, through which he works in a wide variety of digital media, from web sites to interactive kiosks and installations. His work has been featured by Adbusters, the Electronic Literature Organization, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Sharif has toured extensively with human beatbox artist Yuri Lane, providing multimedia visuals for Yuri’s theatrical and musical performances. Each year he dedicates a portion of his time to helping produce the Arab Film Festival, providing print, web, and motion graphics design expertise.
Raneem Taleb-Agha, Communications Associate
Raneem Taleb-Agha is a Bay Area native and aspiring writer. She is the youngest of nine to Syrian parents, to whom she attributes her love of literature and art. Raneem earned her A.A. in Political Science at Diablo Valley College, where she served as Public Relations Chair for Model United Nations and began her experience as a copy editor and writer on the school paper. A self-proclaimed linguaphile and avid reader, Raneem is now a senior majoring in Spanish and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at UC Berkeley.
Board of Directors
Jess Ghannam, President
Jess Ghannam is a clinical professor and the Chief of Medical Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. He also practices at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center. Ghannam earned his Master’s and Doctorate in Psychology at UC-Berkeley in 1981 and 1984, respectively, and a Masters in Medical Sciences at UC-Berkeley in 1983.
Ghannam is the former president of the San Francisco chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, as well as a member of the international executive committee of Al-Awda, the Right to Return Coalition. Ghannam was also associate producer of the documentary Until when…, which examines the plight of Palestinian refugees. He is currently President of the Arab Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco and Co-Hosts a weekly radio show called “Arab Talk” on KPOO.
Emily Katz Kishawi
Emily Katz Kishawi has enjoyed fifteen years of senior non-profit management and volunteer activism in women’s rights, philanthropic and social justice organizations. For the last five years, Emily has provided communications, fundraising and organizational development consulting to philanthropy, social justice and cultural organizations.
Results of Emily’s consulting services include: messaging campaigns that engage key audiences in a call to action, campaigns to deepen brand identity and establish online engagement, and strategic planning and proposals which consistently attract new, increased and multi-year funding. Prior to consulting, Emily headed communications for an international network of women’s foundations, the Women’s Funding Network.
Born in Beirut to Palestinian parents, Jumana moved to the US after completing her BSEE degree in Electrical Engineering at the American University of Beirut. She received her Master in Computer Engineering from Syracuse University and has held several positions at high-tech companies in the US. A senior manager at Synopsys, Inc, Jumana has extensive experience in managing cross-functional global teams in the US, Asia and Europe and leads product strategic planning and execution. Jumana was a founding member of the Arab Film Festival and directed the festival in its first year. She has also co-hosted a monthly Arabic music radio program for 3 years, broadcasting throughout the Bay Area. Jumana has been involved in a variety of cultural and political activities in the Bay Area, some of which involved media interviews and events surrounding Dheisheh Palestinian refugees for promoting their messages to a broader audience in the US. She also spent time working as a volunteer in refugee camps in Lebanon and Palestine coordinating children’s summer activities. Jumana currently resides in San Francisco, California.
Shadi has been actively engaged in political, civic, and philanthropic affairs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He initiated the first citywide celebration of Arab Heritage Month, which recognizes and celebrates the local Arab American community in San Francisco. Elkarra worked for the United Nations Development Progamme focusing on Democratic Governance in the Middle East & North Africa and most recently oversaw the development and implementation of city programs and initiatives for the Office of Mayor Edwin M. Lee. Elkarra, a San Francisco native, holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley.
Waleed is Senior Business Leader of Global Brand Marketing and Strategy for Visa, Inc. Prior to joining Visa, Waleed was a senior marketing strategist at Prophet Brand Strategy, where he spearheaded the development of global marketing and brand strategies for a diverse group of global clients and industries, including Mercedes-Benz, United Airlines, General Electric, MSNBC, Hyatt Hotels, Airbus, T. Rowe Price, and First Data Corporation. Waleed received a B.S. in Marketing & International Business from Indiana University, and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Waleed is fluent in English, French, and Arabic, and is passionate about travel, history, running, soccer, basketball, and football.
Mariam has a background in biomedical engineering, and a passion for Arab arts and culture. She has over fourteen years of leadership experience developing technology and building innovation centers in medical device and biotechnology sectors. Mariam holds a B.S. degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, with an emphasis on Micro and Nanotechnology from University of California Davis. She also earned dual MBA degrees from Columbia Business School and the University Of California Berkeley Haas School Of Business. Mariam has also been an active member of the Bay Area Arab community. She founded the Arab Community Tutoring program, supporting young Arabs with culturally relevant academic enrichment. She was also a founding member of the Al-Juthoor Dabkeh troupe, a community-based folkdance group aimed at spreading awareness about Palestinian culture and art and empowering the Arab community.
Ghada Saliba-Malouf, Managing Counsel
Ghada Saliba-Malouf is Managing Counsel at Wells Fargo Bank. She is based in San Francisco and provides legal counsel and support to the Bank’s Wealth Management Group. For the past two years Ms. Saliba-Malouf has served on the Wells Fargo Enterprise Diversity Council. She co-chaired the Legal Group Diversity Council in 2004 and 2005 and is founder and co-chair of Arab American Connection Bay Area, an internal Wells Fargo Team Member Resource Group.
Ms. Saliba-Malouf has been involved in community causes for a number of years. She was appointed to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) by Mayor Frank Jordan in 1995 and re-appointed by Mayor Willie L. Brown in 1996 where she served for eight years. She was Chair of the Commission from1999-2003. Her work on the Commission involved initiation of a progressive legislative agenda for the City and County of San Francisco which involved a number of civil rights initiatives such as the City’s Minority, Women and Local Business Enterprise Ordinance wherein Arab Americans were recognized as a minority for the first time in the United States. In addition, she sponsored and co-chaired a historic joint hearing by the HRC and the Social Policy Committee of the Board of Supervisors in January 2002 titled “backlash, violence, human rights violations and discrimination against the Middle Eastern communities in the wake of September 11, 2001.”
Ms. Saliba-Malouf received her BA in Legal Studies from the University of California at Berkeley and her JD from Golden Gate University. Ghada is married and has a seven year old daughter.
Hany Abu-Assad, Director
Hany Abu-Assad was born in Nazareth to a Palestinian family in 1961. After having studied and worked as an airplane engineer in The Netherlands for several years, he entered the world of cinema and television as a producer. In 2000, he and Bero Beyer founded Augustus Film. Since then, he has directed “Rana’s Wedding” (2002), “Ford Transit” (2002) and “Paradise Now,” which won the 2006 Golden Globe Award for best Foreign Language Film, an Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film, and was nominated for a 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Abu-Assad is currently developing several feature films in Los Angeles.
Asaad Kelada, Director
Asaad Kelada is Co-Founder of the Santa Barbara Theatre in Santa Barbara, California and is currently the Television & Stage Director. After graduating from the American University in Cairo, he traveled to the United States to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing from Yale in 1964. As a performer, he acted in several major Egyptian films, such as the classic “Bab el Hadid” (“Cairo Station”), directed by the acclaimed Youssef Chahine. He also sang at many important venues in Cairo, which led to long-running engagements at the famed Auberge des Pyramides. In the U.S., Asaad has directed over 450 episodes for major television networks, including such series as “The Facts of Life”, “Who’s the Boss?” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Asaad has also directed key productions for distinguished theatres around the country, including The Met and El Portal Center for the Arts, both in Los Angeles. Internationally, he has served as an advisor and creative consultant, developing new television series for Tele-Images, a French TV production company based in Paris.
Rashid Khalidi, Ph.D., Historian
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University and editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies. Previously, he was President of the Middle East Studies Association and an advisor to the Palestinian delegation in the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993. He is the author of The Iron Cage (2006), Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (2004), and Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (1997). He has written over eighty scholarly articles on aspects of Middle East history and politics, as well as op-ed pieces in The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Nation. Dr. Khalidi has been a guest on numerous radio and TV shows including All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, Morning Edition, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, the BBC, Radio France Inter, the CBC and the Voice of America.
Tony Shalhoub, Actor
Tony Shalhoub, actor, director, and producer, currently stars as Adrian Monk, in the television series MONK. He has had leading roles in dozens of feature films, most recently providing the voice of Luigi in the Pixar hit film, “Cars,” as well as in the soon to be released “1408″. Shalhoub made his feature directorial debut with the independent film “Made Up,” in which he co-starred with his wife, Brooke Adams. He will also be releasing “AmericanEast”, an independent film that he co-produced, later this year. His experience extends off-screen and on-stage, including many New York theater appearances, proving himself to be one of the most versatile and popular character actors working today.
Kathy Najimy, Actor
Kathy Najimy is known internationally for her portrayal of “Sister Mary Patrick” in the blockbuster hits Sister Acts 1 and 2.She has also appeared in leading roles on Broadway, on television and in her own original off-Broadway play The Kathy and Mo Show which garnered her an Obie Award. For her 20 years of AIDS activism, she has been honored with the L.A. Shanti’s Founder award as well as the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Distinguished Achievement Award. As a proud Lebanese-American, Kathy has received awards from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arabic Museum of Tolerance and the Arab Comedy Festivals Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, she was Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year.
Jack Shaheen, Ph.D., Media Critic
Internationally acclaimed author and media critic, Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, is a committed internationalist and a devoted humanist. A Pittsburgh-native and former CBS news consultant on Middle East Affairs, Shaheen’s lectures and writings illustrate that damaging racial and ethnic stereotypes of Asians, blacks, Native Americans and others injure innocent people. Dr. Shaheen is the author of four books: Nuclear War Films, Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, The TV Arab and the award-winning book [and DVD] Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. His writings include 300-plus essays in publications such as Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to chapters on media stereotypes in dozens of college textbooks. He has appeared on national network programs such as CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Nightline, Good Morning America, 48 Hours, and The Today Show. Dr. Shaheen has served as a consultant on “Three Kings,” “Syriana” and other feature films; he has worked with film and TV companies like DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, and Showtime.
Naomi Shihab Nye, Author and Poet
Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas. Her recent books include You & Yours, Going Going, A Maze Me, 19 Varieties of Gazelle; Poems of the Middle East (a National Book Award finalist in 2002), Come with Me: Poems for a Journey, Fuel, Red Suitcase and Habibi ,a novel for teens which won 6 Best Book awards. She has edited seven anthologies of poetry for young readers, including This Same Sky, The Tree is Older than You Are, The Space Between our Footsteps: Poems & Paintings from the Middle East, What Have You Lost? and Salting the Ocean. A visiting writer for many years all over the world, she has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow and a Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellow.
Mario Kassar, Producer
Co-president of C-2 Pictures, Mario Kassar is known as a major innovator in international motion picture production, financing and distribution. He served as Executive Producer of such hits as “Rambo”, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (grossed over $500 million dollars worldwide and winner of four Academy Awards), “Basic Instinct” (garnered two Oscar nominations), “Total Recall”, “Cliffhanger” (earned two Oscar nominations) and “Stargate”, among many others. In total, his films as producer and executive producer have grossed nearly $3 billion in worldwide theatrical box office returns, making him one of the most creative and prolific filmmakers in the motion picture industry.
Joan Widdifield, Ph.D., Filmmaker
Joan Widdifield is a film critic and journalist for a San Francisco based nationally syndicated Public Radio show. She graduated with honors from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with her practice and expertise in psychological trauma; she co-wrote a book about child sexual abuse for professionals in 2005. She served on the board of Community Violence Solutions from 2001 to 2006. She is the Psychological Advisor to Clear Path International, a victim-assistance NGO that serves victims of unexploded ordnance (uxo), in Vietnam, Cambodia and the border of Burma and Thailand. She is a member of Civil Society working on the Oslo International Treaty to ban cluster munitions. She is the Producer-Director of a feature length documentary film in post-production, about the victims of the uxo leftover from the American war in Vietnam. Since the late 1970′s she has been interested in Middle Eastern issues and, believes that the most accessible medium for cross-cultural understanding is film arts. She is honored to serve on the board of the Arab Film Festival, especially in these times of misunderstanding.
Mhamed Ibnabdeljalil, Ph.D., Entrepreneur
Mhamed Ibnabdeljalil, a former AFF board member, is currently the Executive Director of Sales & Marketing at the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), a Mining and Chemical company headquartered in Casablanca, Morocco. Prior to, M’hammed spent the better part of his career in the semi-conductor industry in various roles and companies ranging from Fortune 100 companies to early stage startups, to Management consulting. He earned a BS and MS in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of London and a PhD in Theoretical & Applied Mechanics from Cornell University.
Dina Saba, Founder
Dina Saba is a long-time Bay Area resident. Dina works in the Pharmaceutical Industry, specifically on HIV drug development. She holds a Chemistry degree from San Jose State University, Program and Project Management Certificate from San Jose State University Professional Development, a Project Management Certificate (PMP) from the Project Management Institute, and an MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. She also founded the Arab Film Festival in 1996 and managed the festival through 2004.
Peter Boyle, Arab Film Festival Legal Advisor
Peter Boyle has been a lawyer in San Francisco for approximately 40 years. After being a partner in two firms, he began an independent practice in 1982, and since then, he has focused his services on business transactional matters, nonprofit corporations, and estate planning. Previously, he served as general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Mr. Boyle received his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Kathy Saade Kenny
Board President Kathy Saade Kenny is a strategic planning and organization development consultant whose clients have included foundations and nonprofit organizations throughout the United States, including the Council on Foundations, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She holds a Masters in Social Work and is a graduate of the Coro Foundation’s civic leadership program. In addition to the Arab Film Festival board, she serves as a director of the Foundation for Osteopororis Research and Education. She resides in Oakland, California and Mexico.