Australian-based filmmaker Yaara Bou Melhem has travelled the world making journalistic documentaries on the most pressing issues of our times.
Her debut feature documentary, Unseen Skies (2021) had its world premiere in competition at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It follows US artist Trevor Paglen as he embarks on an audacious project to send a satellite into space, all the while exploring mind-bending art pieces that lift the lid on the inner workings of digital and mass surveillance. It was produced by Oscar-winning company Participant (American Factory, An Inconvenient Truth) and In Films (Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra).
Yaara has also made a number of shorts including War on Truth (2019) for Witness, Al Jazeera English which followed UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize Winner and digital rights pioneer, Maria Ressa and her global campaign against disinformation. She continues to document Maria’s story.
As a journalist, she made films for more than seven years for Dateline, of Australian public broadcaster SBS TV and has also regularly contributed films to Al Jazeera English and ABC TV. She has made documentaries that involved crawling through Syrian rebel-held tunnels, filming in lawless Libyan jails after the fall of Gaddafi, documenting disaster response efforts after wildfires, earthquakes and cyclones, exploring taboo subjects like youth suicide in remote Aboriginal communities, filming with women escaping honour killings in Jordan, following doctors giving free health care in Nepal, profiling artists in south-central LA and conservation efforts in New Zealand.
Yaara’s films have received a number of accolades including two UN Media Peace Awards, two New York Film & Television Festival Awards, a Hong Kong Human Rights Press Award and five Walkley Awards. She has degrees in Journalism and Law and hopes to never need to use the latter.
She is currently directing a documentary series for the ABC and is an inaugural journalist in residence at the Judith Nielsen Institute for Journalism & Ideas where she will continue to create works that are journalistic in nature while also pushing the boundaries of craft. See more of her current practice through her company website Illuminate Films.