From the archives: this interview originally appeared on No Country for Young Women on November 22, 2013.
Niam Itani is a talented Lebanese filmmaker who, despite her young age, already has an impressive list of film credits under her belt. Her short film Super.Full has screened at festivals around the world – including the prestigious Venice Film Festival and Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Niam is currently producing and directing a feature-length documentary and is developing a feature-length narrative film – Shadow of a Man – which received a production grant from the highly competitive Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC). This is her story.
What is your name, age, and location?
Niam Itani, 33 years 4 days old, between Beirut, Lebanon and California, USA.
What is your profession?
I am a filmmaker. I write, direct, and produce films – mostly without combining directing and producing on the same project.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
I have a Bachelors degree in Communication Arts (Radio/TV/Film) & a Masters degree in Education from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, and an MFA in Screenwriting from Hollins University in Virginia, USA.
What was your first job in your current field?
My first (paying) job was a five year producing career at Al Jazeera Satellite Channel in Doha, Qatar in 2005.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
My passion is what made me pursue this career and my teachers at my Undergraduate school (Lebanese American University in Beirut).
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
Every project is very rewarding while it happens. At the moment, my personal documentary Twice Upon a Time is the most rewarding project I am working on.
In 1989, my parents left Beirut for a small village in the Bekaa Valley called Ghazzeh. I was eight years old. In 2012, the mother of a boy named Khalil left Syria and took refuge at our house in Ghazzeh. Khalil was ten years old.
Twice Upon a Time tells the story of my friendship with Khalil, and our efforts to find hope and joy in the midst of madness and despair. It is also a personal reflection on childhood, nostalgia, home, belonging, memory and war.
Because of its personal nature, and through putting it out there for the world on IndieGogo, it is bringing me closer to many people all over the world who share the experience of exile or leaving home. It is also allowing me a lot of education to my audience who is not yet familiar with crowd funding, so it is a very special experience we’re currently going through. The campaign ends on December 1st.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
It is a bitter/comic truth but being a Hijabi woman makes some people expect less of me than others, and I don’t mind low expectations when the product is of much higher quality.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
Being a woman has not hindered my career so far, and I hope it never does, thanks to my family for being very supportive and the Lebanese society for being open minded and loving of life and the arts.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
My role model is Andrei Tarkovsky in his passion for Cinema and seeing beyond the screen. My top mentors are my teachers Lina Abyad in Lebanon and Tim Albaugh in the US. I have learned a lot of things about life, art, sacrifice and discipline from them.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
My advice for a woman entering this field is to balance confidence and humility. Among lots of other things, this is the most important balance to have.
Niam’s personal site: niametany.com
Niam’s film “Twice Upon a Time” on Indiegogo
Follow Niam on Twitter: @niametany
– Interview by Elena Rossini