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Award-winning filmmaker returns to American University of Sharjah as teacher and mentor
Life has come full-circle for award-winning filmmaker Mohammed Mamdouh, who began his foray into film as an undergraduate student at American University of Sharjah (AUS). He now returns as an Assistant Professor at the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD), which offers a minor in film to students of any academic major at AUS as part of the university’s liberal-arts curriculum.
Egyptian-born and UAE-raised, Mamdouh graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and a minor in film from AUS in 2012 and demonstrated a remarkable talent for storytelling through film early on. As a first-year student in 2008, he won the Middle East International Film Festival Special Jury Prize, competing against professional filmmakers. In his senior year at AUS, Mamdouh collaborated with the late John D. Swanstrom, who pioneered the film minor at CAAD, on the short film Bu Qtair which was selected for the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
Mamdouh credits Swanstrom (known as Jack), who pioneered the film minor at CAAD, as his most instrumental influence until his tragic passing in 2015.
“Jack was a constant source of inspiration and mentorship to me. To say that he left a massive impact on my life and career as a filmmaker would be an understatement,” said Mamdouh.
Over the past decade, Mamdouh has gone on to earn a Master in Fine Arts in Film from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, in the United States, and has enjoyed a successful career in filmmaking, writing and directing a variety of work including multiple films, screenplays, commercials and documentaries as well as series. His films have received over 20 selections at international film festivals and won several awards. In 2021, he was awarded the long-term Golden Visa by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for his contribution to the cinematic arts in the UAE.
Most recently, Mamdouh’s screenplay for feature film Everglow has received over 10 nominations at international film festivals, mostly in the United States, including a recent honorable mention at the 2023 Los Angeles Movie Awards. The film was also selected as a semi-finalist at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIFF) in the United States, considered to be an Academy Award (Oscar) and BAFTA qualifying film festival.
“Everglow is a feature film screenplay set in the UAE that is currently raising funds for production. All my previous experiences were preparing me for taking on the challenge of writing and directing a large scale feature length film,” he said.
“The screenplay also competed as a finalist against Hollywood celebrity Shia Labeouf in the U.S. Script Summit but the selection at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, as an Oscar and BAFTA qualifying film festival, is both intimidating and exciting.”
As an educator, Mamdouh maintains the art of storytelling is an important skill for any profession.
“What I enjoy the most about teaching here is watching passionate film students take classes alongside engineers, architects, computer scientists and business students as they become master storytellers and apply the power of a strong narrative towards their own discipline,” said Mamdouh.
Last semester, his students representing majors in finance, engineering and psychology gained acclaim for a film they produced as part of an introductory film course he taught. The film Naseeb (Kismet) received a Best Super Short Film nomination at the Student World Impact Film Festival (SWIFF), an honorable mention at the Athens Monthly Art Festival, and an entry into the Lift-Off Global Network.
“There is nothing more exciting than being surrounded by the creative energy in CAAD, which inspires my filmmaking process as a writer and director. In fact, I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues at AUS as Everglow goes into production”, he said.
This collaborative approach to learning is foundational at CAAD—something Mamdouh has reflected on since returning to AUS and he has considered the AUS faculty who played a part in his own story.
“As a student, Professor Anthony Tassa—who pioneered the Performing Arts Program at the College of Arts and Sciences—empowered me to understand the dramatic process and how to direct actors effectively, as well as the importance of audience perception across cultures. Former AUS mass communication professor Kim Alan Bigelow—an accomplished writer and storyteller himself—encouraged me to always find my voice as a filmmaker through the lens of culture and mythology which transformed my filmmaking approach. And Dr. Zinka Bejtic, Head of the Department of Art and Design at CAAD, has provided valuable guidance and consistent encouragement on my filmmaking journey,” he said.
For more information about the minor in film offered by the College of Architecture Art and Design at American University of Sharjah, visit w.aus.edu/caad.