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Alaa Zabara

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2021

Alaa Zabara headshot smiling

Alaa Zabara

Alaa Zabara is a Hard-of-Hearing Yemeni-American Director and Cinematographer. Drawn to the power of photographs from an early age, she started to document the daily life around her through the use of a camera. These documentations became her conversation with, and introduction to, the world. She became attracted by the ability of cinema to change the hearts and minds of an audience, highlight the stories that need to be told, and to amplify the voices of the voiceless.

Her approach in telling stories is, through vision, to challenge herself in telling stories that come from personal experience and have a representation of what is usually untold or hidden. She expresses her take on the world creatively, insightfully, and humanely. She likes to play with perception and nudge the audience that they are watching something established by an Arab Hard-of-Hearing woman. Rather than trying to surprise the audience, she strives to unveil potential connections to the characters or the story, creating a new view of their own lives. She wants them to relate to her not as a filmmaker but as a human, filling the distance that comes between each of us.

Her latest short film “Selahy” was Selected for Competition Shorts in Bentonville Film Festival & HollyShorts, primarily focusing on deaf/hard-of-hearing story living in a war zone. She recently finished a project that was selected to present a work of nonfiction for the Arab American National Museum 2021 (AANM). Alaa was one of the participants for its third annual RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. She also recently finished the Minorities in Film (MiFIM) branded Lab to demystify the process of working in the commercial industry and was a Semi-Finalists for the Paxeros 2020 inaugural WCCDP to direct a spot for Subaru. You can check more of her work at

Learn More

After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2021 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 8-week, 24-session virtual summer Lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 22 – August 12, 2021. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. This Lab is a recipient of The Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award. Learn more:

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, Pop Culture Collaborative, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: A&E and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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