MENA Canada Filmmaking Grant

The MENA Canada Filmmaking Grant is a one of a kind funding stream for a MENA/SWANA-identifying filmmaker or team in Canada to help fund a short film to be presented at the fifth annual MENA Film Festival!

Presented in partnership with Movies Move Us, the short film grant 2023 provides a single $5,000 initial or “top-up” fund for new and emerging talent.

2023 Grant Recipient

MENA Film Festival and Movies Move Us are pleased to announce the winner of the third MENA Canada Filmmaking Grant: “Hair! (مو)” by Sara Jade Alfaro.

Sara is a filmmaker and writer hailing from Oshawa, Ontario whose films explore unique experiences within multi-cultural families - often stemming from her upbringing with an Iranian mother and Mexican father. She frequently writes about language, gender and domestic family dynamics, within a whimsical and dramatic lens.

In “Hair! (مو)”, Fariba (aka “Maman”), Miriam and Layla are three middle aged witchy sisters with years of baggage and inches of stubborn body hair.  

As the matriarchs gather for their monthly hair removal and chai session, their daughters – 18-year-old Rina and 11-year-old Nora, observe and are engulfed in the madness of hair and the whirlwind of emotions that come with unfinished business for the suburbanite Iranian diaspora.

Sara Jade Alfaro-Dehghani is filmmaker and writer hailing from Oshawa, Ontario.

She began making films in Montreal while studying at McGill University, developing her short-form work with commercial and music video projects after moving to Toronto in 2017.  

In 2021, Sara served as head of production alongside EP Ian Webb and director Tim Godsall to launch MERCHANT, a Toronto-based commercial production company, with extensive international outreach.

Sara’s films explore unique experiences within multi-cultural families - often stemming from her upbringing with an Iranian mother and Mexican father. She frequently writes about language, gender and domestic family dynamics, within a whimsical and dramatic lens.

In addition to filmmaking, Sara is also devoted to outreach and education and develops workshops and lectures for underrepresented filmmaking communities. Some recent collaborations include: production instructor and board member at the Weengushk Film Institute, producer for Caribbean Tales Incubator, and workshop instructor and producing mentor for the Black Entrepreneur Producer Program with the Reelworld Screen Institute.

Her short film I Cant, Said The Ant is currently in festivals. She is in development for her debut feature film NOCTURNA.

When she’s not filmmaking, Sara is amateur metal detecting and raising bees at the family farm.  

Meet the Jury Board of the 2023 MENA Filmmaking Grant!

Farhiya Ahmed

Farhiya Ahmed is a Somali-Canadian Black filmmaker. Her interest in storytelling came from exploring complex narratives, social issues, and lived experiences of first and second generation racialized immigrants. Through her film, Ahmed wants to explore the untold stories of people in her communities and show a nuanced depiction of immigrants with specificity and universal themes. Her works include Sisterhood Softball, which premiered at HotDocs 2023 as part of the second series of Citizen Minutes. My Father’s Name was funded by the Canada Arts Council and the Winner of the MENA Film Festival’s national filmmakers grant. Ahmed is also a mother of 2, a wife, and an active community member.

Matthew Broughton

Matthew Broughton is a film director, writer, and programmer based in Vancouver, BC. His passion and dedication to film turned into working with VIFF, Vancouver Short Film Festival, MENA Film Festival, and Movies Move Us, which gave him the opportunity to discover and promote new cinematic voices across communities. He’s a certified film fanatic who is driven to share and create stories that impact audiences around the world.

Karen Habashi

Karen works as a freelance writer, podcast producer and show-runner.

She’s an indigenous Coptic Christian(Egyptian.)

She’s living with her family on turtle island. She worked as a dentist before following her passion as a writer. Her work has been published in CBC, Globe and Mail, Today’s Parent and more. She has experience in research, marketing and working in different aspects of media.

Xinyue Liu

Xinyue is reading for a DPhil in fine art at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. She is a practice-led Clarendon scholar aiming to posit the ‘Cinema of Ecological Grief’ as a distinct visual genre using film, text, and installation. In understanding the genre as a filmic endeavour that carries ecological grief through the work of mourning, her art spans the disciplines of visual anthropology, contemporary film and visual art studies, and ethics.

Ogheneofegor Obuwoma

Ogheneofegor Obuwoma (She/They) is a Nigerian storyteller and writer with a BFA in film and communications from Simon Fraser University. The possibilities of bodies as personal archives and their relationship to the world is an important part of her practice. Ogheneofegor’s work emerges from an investigation of the dynamic, nuanced and ever changing state of contemporary Nigerian society, people, and culture. Her artistic practice is influenced by African futurism and a visual language born of cultural and lived experiences. They are constantly exploring the interrelations between cultural production and rituals and ground their practice in traditions of care and reimagination.