Za'atari Through The Lens is a documentary film about a young man who lost everything to the Syrian civil war and yet found a way to bring hope to others through his passion for photography. It is the story of resilience and finding light in the darkest of times.
In the middle of the Jordanian desert sits the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world. It is called Za’atari, and from the air it looks like an island of white huts in the middle of an ocean of sand. Over 80,000 men, women and children who have escaped horror and war in Syria since 2012 now have no choice but to call Za’atari home.
In the six years since Za’atari opened, it has morphed from a makeshift camp to a bustling city of refugees. More than fifty percent of those living in Za'atari are age 5 to 18 and resources to help these children are scarce. As with all refugee camps, limited access to education and mental health facilities are serious concerns. Without education and positive direction, an already uncertain future becomes significantly more perilous, and the risks of being forced into early marriage, child labor, or being courted by extremist groups makes life in refugee camps particularly dangerous for young people.
This film is structured around Mohamad’s efforts to teach photography to the children in Za’atari. We follow Ali, Yousef, and Qassem as they explore the camp and meet new people while working on their assignment capturing images that represent what it means to be Syrian. Their interwoven stories are told not just through interviews and verite scenes, but also through the images they capture. Through their unique perspectives, viewers get an unprecedented look into their world and their daily lives. This film will give names, faces, and voices to a few of the thousands of children living as refugees. In emotional interviews, they tell us about their hopes and dreams for the future of their country and themselves; their nostalgia for everything and everyone that they’ve lost in the war. Most importantly, they highlight the importance of rebuilding and believing that things can get better.
What We Need
We are currently raising funds to complete production and post production of the film. All donations will be used to hire translators to subtitle footage, edit, compose music and complete post.
The producers and directors are donating their time and putting a lot of heart into giving these young voices a chance to tell their stories.
We would be most grateful for your support!
Please visit our website for updates and tax-deductible donations. www.zaatari-film.com
Meet the team.
SUZANNE RICHIARDONE - Producer/Co-Director
Suzanne is an international documentary film and television producer. She has produced award-winning films and critically acclaimed programs for networks such as PBS, A&E, Animal Planet, ARTE, France 5, Women's Entertainment Network, and Discovery International. Her projects include Maravilla, a feature length documentary about middleweight boxing champion Sergio Martinez, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Premio Sur in Argentina. Suzanne produced Beyond the Silence, an investigative documentary about the rising tide of sexual violence on college campuses across America for the ARTE Network. Other projects have focused on NGOs in Africa and have included a series of short films for ActionAid International and The Gates Foundation about the empowering of women farmers. In 2016, she produced and co-directed the feature documentary Curiosity, Adventure and Love, which received five awards including a Special Jury Prize at the World Premieres Festival Philippines and Best Documentary at the Soho International Film Festival.
JUSTIN WEINRICH - Co-Director
Justin is a nonfiction filmmaker and journalist with nearly a decade of experience directing, writing, filming and editing nonfiction films. His work has aired on The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and PBS, as well as theatrically worldwide. His projects include the Emmy nominated Hard Time series for National Geographic and the award winning Animal Planet Investigates: Canned Hunting. In 2015 Justin started Elephant Lake, a production company dedicated to exploring unique ethnographic, scientific, and environmental perspectives of our ever-evolving world through film. Elephant Lake’s first feature film, The Burning Field - which will premiere in 2018 - explores the electronic waste crisis through the eyes of children who live and work in the world’s largest e-waste dump in Ghana.
SUNSHINE LICHAUCO DE LEON - Producer
Sunshine is a freelance journalist based in Manila, Philippines. She has written for international media including The Guardian, Forbes Asia, CNN.com, Los Angeles Times, Globalpost.com, NBCnews.com and USA Today. Sunshine has also reported for American and British public radio programs such as PRI/BBC’s “The World”, NPR’s “Newscasts” and BBC’s Outlook, and has worked as a local producer for foreign documentary teams on projects for BBC Radio, Australia’s SBS, Europe’s Arte Channel, and America’s PBS. In 2016, she produced and directed her first documentary film Curiosity, Adventure & Love, which received five awards including a Special Jury Prize at the World Premieres Festival Philippines and Best Documentary at the Soho International Film Festival.
WIDAD SHAFAKOJ - Co-Producer
Widad Shafakoj, a humanitarian, activist and filmmaker, has chosen film as a tool to relay her beliefs and concerns about society. Widad directed “ID: 000,” an award-winning short documentary about the abuse and stigma faced by orphans in Jordanian society. The film made a significant impact on Jordanian regulations, leading to policy changes to protect and improve the social status of orphans. In 2013, Widad directed "The Last Passenger," a short documentary about Syrian refugees. In 2014, Widad was able to depict one of the topics closest to her heart. “If You Meant to Kill Me,” her first feature documentary, addresses the controversial topic of women who are threatened by honor killings and voluntarily turn themselves into prison for protection. In 2017 Widad directed "17," a feature documentary supported and commissioned by HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein. The film is about the U-17 Jordanian female football team, featuring intimate portraits of young women aspiring to become great athletes. The team competed in the first ever World Cup to be held in the region. "17" premiered at El Gouna Festival in Egypt, and was selected to compete in the Tubingen Film Festival in Germany, the Arab Film Festival in San Francisco, and the Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia.
EDOARDO ROSSI - Associate Producer
From his beginnings in the production industry, as a first assistant director in Europe and Latin America, Edoardo embraced a hands-on approach that has endeared him with the many international and local professionals that have worked alongside him over the years. Always raising the bar by adopting best practice methods, he has been able to train and also inspire local crews to increase their proficiency and develop their skills. At present, he covers the roles of Line Producer and Consultant with Cross Wind Advertising, a creative and specialist Prod uction Service Network operating mainly in Latin America and the Mediterranean area. He is an accomplished Senior Executive and Incentives Advisor with established production success across film, animation, documentaries, TV and advertising industries as well as international Incentives & Logistics planning.
JOHN SANVIDGE - Editor
John started his career back in 2006 – after graduating from SVA and cutting his teeth editing for Discovery Health. Since then, his career has taken him from cutting food and lifestyle shows to being nominated for two Emmys for his work on Jaws: The Inside Story and John Belushi: Dancing on the Edge. John is a wizard in post-production and his experience covers a wide spectrum of entertainment. After successfully producing, directing, and editing his feature length documentary "Finding Seoul,” he moved on to be the Creative Director for the Video/Film section of Gazillion Voices online magazine, and created the video essay series "Adoptees in the Wild." When he’s not assembling shots into a coherent sequence, writing original stories and screenplays fuels his imagination. Most recently his short film "Omma," won the Award of Merit for the One-Reeler short film competition in 2016.
JIMMY FERGUSON - Cinematographer
Jimmy is an award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer, specializing in projects around the world that explore themes such as sense of identity and human connectivity in our globalized society. He is a recent grant recipient of the Jerome Foundation, and was selected by EAVE in 2017. Jimmy has lensed over fifty films. The films he has photographed have premiered at prestigious festivals such as Mill Valley, Salento International, Newport Beach and Cannes. They have won numerous awards and grants such as Tiffany, Jerome, IFP and TFI. Jimmy's commercial work includes clients such as Canon, Samsung, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Redken, Rolling Stone, and Google. Jimmy is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. His current feature, "Am I Don Quixote?" was featured in IFP's Spotlight on Documentaries and will premiere in 2018.
ADRIAN BELIC - Camera
Adrian Belic is an Academy Award nominated film director, cinematographer and producer. His work has been seen on National Geographic, History Channel, Discovery, PBS, BBC, Canel+, Arte, NHK, and Sundance Channel. His films have screened at film festivals and theatrically around the world. Adrian and his brother Roko's first feature documentary GENGHIS BLUES, filmed in the remote region of Central Asia called Tuva, won the Sundance Audience Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. Their second film, BEYOND THE CALL, a feature documentary filmed in war zones in the Middle East and Asia, premiered at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival and has screened around the world winning more then 50 film festival awards. The brothers' third feature documentary HAPPY, about the science and practice of happiness around the world, has become a global phenomenon.
- Diana Ezra
- Michelle Pozon
- Yvette Lucero
- Marcia Powdermaker
- Jon Wetterau
Fundraising team: Zaatari Team (7)
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more