U.S. Department of State Honors Hala Galal El Sayed Mohamed of Egypt as State Alumni Member of the Month

Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 1, 2010

The U.S. Department of State has named Hala Galal El Sayed, an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), as State Alumni Member of the Month. Throughout December, her leadership and work to inspire the next generation of Egyptian artists to use film as a tool for social reform will be recognized on the State Alumni website (https://alumni.state.gov), the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ official site for the more than one million alumni who have participated in a Department-sponsored exchange program.

Mohamed founded SEMAT, a grassroots nonprofit working to produce independent films, train young people on how the cinema industry works, and develop alternatives to mainstream Egyptian cinema. After returning from her IVLP project in September 2007, Mohamed redesigned SEMAT to focus more on networking and as a result is now a partner and cofounder in the Network of Arab Arthouse Screen (NAAS). These new networks have helped to amplify her efforts in supporting women’s and children’s issues and film screenings in other countries.

Mohamed has directed dozens of films, short narratives, and full-length features on a variety of social justice issues with a particular focus on women’s empowerment. Her documentary “Deir El Barshaa,” told the story of a village in Upper Egypt where 12 women mobilized a campaign to abolish the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In addition to politically sensitive issues such as FGM and domestic violence, Mohamed uses film to tell the stories of women’s everyday experiences. In “Dardasha” she profiled four generations of Egyptian women in one family, as a snapshot into the issues Egyptian women face and how they have changed over time. The film is intended to be a catalyst for discussion and to find common ground between Egyptian women activists and transnational feminist movements.

In October 2010, Mohamed participated in a panel discussion on the role of film as a tool for social change. Over 100 Egyptian alumni attended to hear her address the challenges faced by independent filmmakers in Egypt and the utility of film in sparking discussions around social issues and inspiring social change. Mohamed is helping to pave the way for a new generation of independent artists in Egypt. Her work is unique and innovative in that she tells Egyptian women’s stories from an Egyptian’s perspective, giving voice to Egyptian women.

Each month the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Office of Alumni Affairs, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, confers the State Alumni Member of the Month award on an outstanding alumnus or alumna. For more information, visit the website at http://exchanges.state.gov/alumni/alumnus.html.

Media Contact: Catherine Stearns, StearnsCL@state.gov, phone (202) 632-6437

PRN: 2010/1736