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MENA/SWANA Representation in Film graphic

MENA/SWANA Representation in Film

Free/By Donation Panel


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Who is writing our stories? How does the film industry support us? Who plays our roles? How can we build networks of solidarity to bring our voices to the screens?

Join us for a panel discussion moderated by renowned actor Shayan Bayat with MENA/SWANA film professionals Vanessa Issa, Baraka Rahmani, and Jonathan Akkawi, to dive deep into the challenges of surviving as actors and filmmakers in the North American scene.

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Free registration.


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Jan 28


1:00 pm – 2:30 pm


VIFF Centre, Vancity Theatre

90 min

Book Tickets

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Shayan Bayat headshot

Shayan Bayat

Shayan co-wrote and produced the Leo Award Winning feature length drama Roads of Ithriyah IMDb (Dir. Javier Badillo, Official selection 2021 MENA and 2022 Regina International Film Festivals, distributed by Indie Rights Movies. The film also earned Shayan Leo Award Nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Male Lead Performance, and a Best Actor Win at the CFF awards.

More recently, Shayan completed a Pacific Screenwriting Program internship on the development series Pass The Salt, as well as the National Screen Institute EAVE On Demand Access Program.

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Jonathan Akkawi headshot

Jonathan Akkawi

Jonathan Akkawi is a Greco-Arab-American Actor, Producer, Screenwriter, Librettist and Script Doctor. He has garnered recognition for his extensive work and advocation for amplifying and supporting marginalized and underrepresented voices in the Entertainment Industry, particularly with his #ArabsBreakHollywood movement, which seeks to break the stereotypes of Arab characters and stories in Hollywood and allow for the reclamation of those voices. Through his company, Bougie Arabs Entertainment, he has assisted in the development of various projects from the screen to the web and onto the stage with feature & short narrative and documentary projects, TV pilots and conceptual development of stage musicals and plays. He is also the host, creator, and producer of two original podcast shows: “The Hollywood Chai” and “The Script Doctors” and serves as a script doctor for independent production companies.

Vanessa Issa headshot

Vanessa Issa

She graduated from Vancouver Acting School and Langara College Film Arts, won the Vancouver Monologue Show, and started booking projects. She strives to pave the way for the authentic representation of Middle Eastern women on screen.

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Baraka Rahmani headshot

Baraka Rahmani

Recent acting credits include:
The Watchful Eye (2023), “Alex Toubassy”, recurring guest, 9 episodes
Polarized (2023), “Zein”, supporting
Love Classified (2022), Hannah, supporting
A Million Little Things (2022), Carly, 4 episodes
The Alleys (2021), “Lana”, Lead
Slasher (2019), “Saadia Jalalzai”, Lead, 8 episodes

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