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Meet the Arab Members of the Academy Awards’ Diverse Voting Body

Mai Masri

Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri. Photo: Getty

From Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri to Lebanese composer, Khaled Mouzanar, a number of Arab personalities have been invited to join this year’s class at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Out of the 819 invitations extended by the Academy, 45% of them have been allocated to women, 36% to underrepresented minorities and 49% to countries outside of the United States. “The Academy is delighted to welcome these distinguished fellow travelers in the motion picture arts and sciences,” said Academy President, David Rubin. “We have always embraced extraordinary talent that reflects the rich variety of our global film community, and never more so than now.

Having previously announced their goal of doubling the membership of women and underrepresented minorities by 2020, the Academy’s statement notes that “through dedicated and intentional work by the Board of Governors,” both goals have now been surpassed. In celebration of a new and diverse class of 2020, we take a look at some of the invitations extended to the Arab world.

Khaled Mouzanar

Having composed the scores for a multitude of award-winning films, including Caramel, Where do We Go Now? and Capernaum, all of which starred and were directed by his wife, Nadine Labaki, the admission of Lebanese composer Khaled Mouzanar to the Class of 2020 requires no explanation. Speaking to The National about the success of Capernaum, Mouzanar explained his dedication to his craft, noting he mortgaged his home to do the film.

Ahmad Saleh

Holding a master’s degree in film from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, the Saudi writer and filmmaker is best known for his graduation film, Ayny, which won a golden Oscar at the Student Academy Awards 2016 in the foreign animation category.

Meryam Joobeur

Known for her 2018 short film Brotherhood, which won the Toronto International Film Festival Award for Best Canadian Short Film in 2018 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2020, Joobeur’s work is centered around documentary and fiction.

Najwa Najjar

Best known for her film Pomegranates and Myrrh, a romantically-infused tale of love and life in a besieged Ramallah, the Palestinian-Jordanian director has enjoyed significant success at numerous film festivals around the world.

Other notable mentions include Algerian-British director Salem Brahimi, Lebanese producer Rima Mismar, French-Algerian filmmaker Malek Bensmail and Lebanese sound editor, Rana Eid. Beyond the region, important inclusions spanning women and other minorities include the likes of African-American actor, Zendaya; Cuban actor, Ana de Armas; and South Korean actress Jang Hye-jn.

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