Alumna Breaks New Ground as an Acclaimed Screenwriter and Director

Recognized at The Academy’s Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship with Story Set in Qatar

Israa Al-Kamali, a GU-Q alumna (SFS’17), is breaking new ground in the international film industry, winning multiple accolades for her screenwriting and films.

The Los Angeles-based Iraqi screenwriter and director most recently clinched the Quarterfinalist award at the 2023 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for her film about Qatar.

Out of 5,599 screenplays submitted worldwide, her script, The Anxious Place, was one of 364 selected by The Academy, which presents “The Oscars.” The script has also broken through with multiple awards at film festivals across the US and in Switzerland, establishing her as one of the first Iraqi filmmakers to receive recognition at some of these prestigious industry events.

The Anxious Place has a universal message, and people from all over the globe have been relating to the story, said Al-Kamali. The coming-of-age story is about two high school best friends, one Qatari and one Syrian, racing against time to document some of Qatar’s old neighborhoods before they give way to development.

An Education in Justice and Empathy

Al-Kamali spoke of how attending GU-Q played an important role in fueling her passion for storytelling around social justice. The Culture and Politics major, who went on to receive an MFA in Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy, explained, “I’m thankful for my education and journey at Georgetown. It gave me the awareness and tools to understand and dissect the world around me,” she said. “I remember the discussions in class. I’d leave wanting to read more, talk more, look up something that I never understood, or [reflect on] the emotions from an opposing opinion. Empathy is so important in creating complex characters in films.”

Award-Winning Short Film

Another of her films, Instincts, which she describes as a feminist horror film, continues to win multiple awards.

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