Past Recipients Student Testimonials  

Writer/producer/director Sara Rashad is a first generation Egyptian-American, raised trying to assimilate her parent’s Egyptian cultural beliefs with American values. She spends her summers in Egypt with her family, which inspired her interest in FGM and eventually led to her activism. Sara has traveled—solitary and unfunded—to urban and rural areas throughout Egypt to interview women about the psychology behind their traditional beliefs and practices. She has gained a thorough understanding of how a film like TAHARA requires a sensitive and compassionate approach to both sides of the issue of FGM in order to be effective.

Sara recently spent four months in Egypt collaborating with the national FGM task force comprised of 40 member organizations dedicated to eradicating FGM. Copies of the five minute version of TAHARA were distributed free of charge. 

Sara interviewed the Egyptian Minister of Health, local journalists, FGM activists and physicians to obtain their input. She also spent an additional two months in rural areas with local women to gain a grassroots perspective. Sara consulted with all of these groups on the authenticity of the screenplay. Sara’s diligence in obtaining the perspective of urban and rural women, activists, and government workers will make TAHARA an authentic film.

Sara is the award winning producer of many USC short films, including “Life is a Sweet,” which has won “best of fest” awards for it’s sensitive portrayal of women’s issues at international film festivals, including the Montreal World Film Festival. She also produced “Through Thick and Thin,” which won the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Competition and screened as an attraction before feature films nationwide. The five-minute version of “Tahara,” her producing and directorial debut, received international acclaim at festivals and won the support of numerous non-governmental organizations fighting FGM.

Sara, the writer, producer and director of the 26:40 minute version of “Tahara,” (work-in-progress) has already won four prestigious grants based upon the integrity of the story: The American Association of University Women community action grant for projects promoting equity and education for women and girls worldwide; The Entertainment Industry Foundation Grant for projects that promote health education and awareness for women and girls; The Paul Robeson Pre-Production Grant for films which promote aggressive social change through media activism; The Roy W. Dean Film Grant for film projects which are unique and benefit society and The Caucus Foundation Grant for student directors.

Sara earned a B.F.A. degree in acting from the prestigious Cornish College of the Arts, and has performed in local theatre for 10 years. Her experience acting and directing actors will allow her to draw authentic performances from the Egyptian non-actors. Currently she is enrolled in the M.F.A. degree program in film production from USC’s School of Cinema-Television, one of the top film schools in the world. At USC she has served as cinematographer, editor and producer on several narrative films and documentaries, which has helped hone her writing and directing skills. 

Sara’s ability to adapt to different cultures and lifestyles has served her well in demanding production situations. She traveled through Bosnia during the war, assisting the producer on a documentary about war refugees, “Convoy to Bosnia.” She has also published short stories about her experiences being a first generation Egyptian-American and the difficulties assimilating into two cultures, including “Walking Like an Egyptian.”

TAHARA—collaborative organizations worldwide National FGM organizations who will continue to advise Sara: The Egyptian FGM task force, The Institute for Research on Women’s Health, The Nubian Foundation, Forward USA, Raising Daughters Aware, John Hopkins University School for Public Health and The United Nations Population Fund with its FGM campaign led by super-model Waris Dirie (see letters in application original application package).

Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, internationally recognized FGM activist, also serves as a mentor on the project (see letter). She has spent more than 22 years researching FGM. Between 1979 and 1984, she made three lengthy treks through sub-Saharan Africa, where she conducted more than 400 interviews on various aspects of FGM. The result is three internationally acclaimed books on FGM. Her publications will be used in conjunction with all screening/discussion groups.

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