Sara Ishaq is an OSCAR® and BAFTA nominated Yemeni-Scottish filmmaker, film trainer and yoga teacher, born in Scotland and raised in Yemen. She pursued a higher education in Scotland first with an MA General in Humanities & Social Sciences (with a focus on Politics, Religion & International Law) at the University of Edinburgh (2007) and later, a Film Directing diploma from the London Academy of Radio, Film and TV, followed by an MFA in Film Directing at the Edinburgh College of Art, UoE (2012). In between, she trained as a yoga teacher in Nasik, India.
In 2007, Sara began freelancing for the BBC on a number of TV series covering the Middle East, before buying her own camera and traveling to Palestine for 3 months in 2010 to document the eviction of the Palestinian residents of El-Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. In early 2011, she returned to Yemen as the country's 2011 uprising was unfolding and began covering events in Sanaa's 'Change Square', first disseminating the videos through her own youtube channel, until she was hired as a camerawoman for the BBC to cover events on the ground.
In 2011, she also began independently covering the tragic events of the 18th of March 'Friday of Dignity' massacre in the Yemeni capital Sana'a. This endeavour inevitably evolved into her debut film Karama Has No Walls (2012). This short doc went on to win multiple awards worldwide, followed by a nomination for a BAFTA Scotland New Talents Award (2012) and a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 2014 (the very first Oscar nomination for Yemen).
In 2013, Sara completed her award-winning feature documentary film The Mulberry House, which deals with her relationship with her Yemeni family against the backdrop of the revolution.
In 2017, she co-founded Comra Films, a Yemen-based film community space for creative film-production and training, having already conducted several filmmaking training courses for aspiring young filmmakers in Yemen under media collective #SupportYemen, which she had formerly co-founded in 2011. In 2019, she completed a Film Teacher Training at the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen.
Sara currently lives in Amsterdam with her son & Dutch husband, and is developing a documentary film on the current war in Yemen, along with her first fiction feature film, "The Station". Besides filmmaking, Sara has been an avid yoga teacher since 2008, teaching extensively in Edinburgh, the West Bank, Sana'a & Cairo.
She regularly returns to Yemen to teach filmmaking at the Sana'a-based Comra Films Centre.
DIRECTOR . CO-WRITER | The Station | (FICTION FEATURE - In Development) - Debut Feature Fiction Film, with co-writer and producer Nadia Eliewat
PRODUCER | The Flower Men | (SHORT DOC / In Development, Yemen)
DIRECTOR . DOP | Like A Woman | (SHORT DOC / In Development, Yemen)
DIRECTOR . DOP | The Wild Ones | (SHORT DOC / In Development, The Netherlands)
LOCAL PRODUCER . RESEARCHER | The House of Saud | (TV DOC / Episode 1 / 60 Mins, 2018) BBC WORLD
PRODUCER . DIRECTOR . EDITOR | MULTIPLE FILM-RELATED MASTERCLASSES (ONLINE, 2018) DOXBOX GmbH
LOCAL PRODUCER . RESEARCHER | Funeral Bombing | (TV DOC / 30 min, 2017) BBC OUR WORLD / NEWSNIGHT
DIRECTOR . DOP | Yemen Fight Club | ( TV DOC / 2 mins, 2016) AJ PLUS
DIRECTOR . DOP . EDITOR | Stranded | (SHORT DOC / 6 mins, Egypt 2015)
DIRECTOR . DOP . CO-EDITOR . CO-PRODUCER | The Mulberry House | (FEATURE DOC / 64 min, Yemen 2013) - Co-produced by No Nation Film, Seen Films and Setara Films
LOCAL PRODUCER . RESEARCHER | Yemeni Child Prisoners on Death Row (TV DOC / 60 min, 2013) CHANNEL FOUR / UNREPORTED WORLD
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR . LOCAL PRODUCER | Entrepreneurial Tribal Women (WEB DOC / 10 min, 2012) MEDIATRUST
DIRECTOR . EDITOR . PRODUCER | Karama Has No Walls | (SHORT DOC / 26 min, Yemen 2012) - Co-Produced by Sara Ishaq & Hotspot films
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR . DOP . LOCATION COORDINATOR | Yemen Uprising | ( TV DOC / 30 min, YEMEN 2011) BBC World Service / Newsnight / BBC Our World
DIRECTOR | Marie My Girl | (SHORT FICTION - 8 min, UK , 2010) - Edinburgh College of Art
DIRECTOR . DOP | Steve’s Art | (SHORT DOC - 4 min, London UK - 2008) - Short documentary, London Academy of Film & TV
LOCATION COORDINATOR . RESEARCHER | Women In Black | (5x60 min, 2007) BBC TWO
KARAMA HAS NO WALLS
THE MULBERRY HOUSE
YEMEN'S FIGHT CLUB - AJ+
AWARDS & GRANTS
THE FLOWER MEN (Short Doc, In Development)
Doha Film Fund for Development (2019)
THE STATION (Fiction Feature, In Development)
Cairo Film Festival Palm Hills Award (2019)
Asia Pacific Screen Awards for Development (2019)
Netherlands Flim Festival Emerging Talent Award (2019)
Jordan Film Fund (2019)
IFFR Hubert Bals 'Bright Future' Development Fund (2018)
DIFF Writer's Room (2017)
Carthage Film Festival Production Market (2017)
COMRA FILM FOUNDATION TRAINING PROGRAMS
Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship Program (ACE) 2019 - 2020 | Supported by Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)
Comra Film Teacher Training 2019 | Supported by International Media Support (IMS)
Comra Doc Camp 2018 | Supported by Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)
THE MULBERRY HOUSE (Feature Doc, 2013)
IDFA Bertha Fund | AFAC Crossroads Fund
DIFF Enjaz Fund | FORD Foundation Fund
StoryDocs Athens | InterDocs Scotland
This Human World Film Festival Jury Prize 2014 | WINNER
Audience Favourite Award at Berwick Film Festival UK 2014 | WINNER
Dubai International Film Festival MUHR Award 2014 | NOMINEE
DOK.FEST Munich Best Doc Award 2014 | NOMINEE
AEGEAN DOCS Best Political Doc Award 2014 | NOMINEE
DocsBarcelona+Medellín International Doc Film Festival 2015 | SPECIAL JURY MENTION
KARAMA HAS NO WALLS (Short Doc, 2012)
Academy Award for Best Documentary Short 2014 | NOMINEE
One World Media Award 2013 | NOMINEE
BAFTA Scotland | New Talent Award 2012 | NOMINEE
EDINDOCS Film Festival | Best Short Film Award 2013 | WINNER
Al-Jazeera TV Awards | Best Short Doc Award 2012 | WINNER
United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) | Best Short Film Award 2012 | WINNER
Arab Film Festival, San Francisco (AFF) | Outstanding Short Film Award 2012 | WINNER
#SUPPORTYEMEN MEDIA COLLECTIVE
During the Change Square sit-ins in Yemen's 2011 uprising, Sara and a group of fellow artists and activists co-founded the non-profit media collective #SupportYemen to counter the media blackout surrounding events taking place at the time. In 2015, #SupportYemen collaborated with the British Council to launch Yemen's first film camp, Comra, of which Sara was lead trainer of the Comra 1 Doc Camp.
OUT OF THE RUBBLE: Art Therapy for Child Survivors of Airstrike
In September 2015, Sara collaborated with Yemeni street artist, Murad Subay and the British Council to run an arts and crafts workshop for children who had survived airstrikes on their homes. The project, Out Of The Rubble, aimed at giving the children an outlet for the traumas they had endured by reconstructing pieces of rubble gathered from their demolished homes into works of art.
COMRA FILMS & DOC FILM CAMP
In 2017, Sara co-founded Comra Films - a Yemen Based Foundation for Filmmaking. In war-torn Yemen where film studies is non-existent, foreign media access is blocked and political media outlets control the world's view of Yemen, now is the most pressing time for independent Yemeni filmmakers to have a voice. Comra FIlm's Doc Film camp aims to provide these filmmakers with the tools and support necessary to tell their stories to the world.
JURY PANELS & TEACHING
60 Second Intl. Film Festival | Film Award Jury Member | April 2019 (London, UK)
DOCUMENTARY CONVENTION | Member of Expert Group, Moderator | April 2019 (Leipzig, GERMANY)
ROYAL FILM COMMISSION | Project Selection Jury Member | March 2019 (Amman, JD)
IDFA BERTHA FUND | Grantee Pre-selection Committee Member for MENA Region | Jan 2019 (Amsterdam, NL)
COMRA DOC FILM CAMP Intensive Documentary Residency Supported by AFAC Fund | Course Designer & Lead Trainer | March-Dec 2018 (Sana’a, Yemen)
Al-Madaniya Magazine | Videography Mentor | July - Dec 2018 (Online)
DIWAN AL-FAN Artist Residency | Filmmaking Mentor | Nov. 2017 (Berlin, Germany)
DOXBOX Doc Free Zone E-Coures | Guest Mentor | Sep. 2017 (Berlin, Germany)
DOXBOX The Residency | Feature Doc Editing Residency | Film Selection Committee Member | March 2017 (Berlin, Germany)
COMRA Intensive 2-Week Documentary Editing Masterclass | Course Designer & Lead Trainer | March 2017 (Yemen / Online)
60th BFI London Film Awards | Short Films Judge | October 2016 (London, UK)
How To Tell A Story Documentary Workshop (with Assaad Taha) | Guest Trainer | May 2016 (Istanbul, Turkey)
COMRA SupportYemen Intensive 2-Week Documentary Filmmaking Camp | Course Designer & Lead Trainer | June 2015 (Sana’a, Yemen)
BBC AAN KORB Arabic Film Festival | Films Awards Juror | November 2013 (London, UK)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: THE ARAB REVOLUTIONS Southbank Centre | Event Co-curator | September 2012 (London, UK)