Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Oscar-nominated producer Waleed Zuaiter aims to tackle 'misrepresentation' of the region with new production company

FlipNarrative aims to tell authentic stories from the Menasa region by collaborating with local talent

FlipNarrative co-founders Khurram Mozaffar, Joana Zuaiter and Waleed Zuaiter. FlipNarrative
FlipNarrative co-founders Khurram Mozaffar, Joana Zuaiter and Waleed Zuaiter. FlipNarrative

Renowned actor and Academy Award-nominated producer Waleed Zuaiter hopes to tackle onscreen misrepresentation of the Middle East and beyond with the launch of his new production company, FlipNarrative.

As the name indicates, the company wants to do just that: flip the narrative.

The American actor, who has Palestinian heritage, says the newly formed company will challenge a lack of diversity, inclusivity and representation in the industry, as well as shine a light on misrepresentation, with its TV and film projects.

"The mission of our company is to amplify the voice of the underrepresented and historically misrepresented voices around the world and we want to start with a focus on the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia," he says.

Waleed Zuaiter is a critically acclaimed actor and producer. FlipNarrative
The critically acclaimed actor and producer wants to change misrepresentation of the region in film and TV. FlipNarrative

For the Baghdad Central and The Spy actor, this is a project that has been almost two years in the making, but only really came together in light of the pandemic.

"I'm not doing this alone; I'm doing this with very passionate and motivated people whom I've worked with over the past three decades," he tells The National.

Zuaiter co-founded FlipNarrative with his producing partner and wife Joana, as well as actor and writer Khurram Mozaffar.

What they ultimately hope to do is produce Hollywood-standard stories in collaboration with talent from the Menasa region.

FlipNarrative already has a number of projects under its belt, including The Valley, a fictional mini-series about the illicit drug trade in Lebanon; a documentary about international artist eL Seed, titled Perceptions; a romantic comedy set in Palestine and Israel; and a female-centric family drama set in Morocco.

To be relevant in the industry, Zuaiter says, you have to tell globally relevant stories.

We're looking for the best stories from underrepresented communities worldwide

Waleed Zuaiter

"There is no longer such a thing as a local audience. We've seen, especially through the growth of streaming, it's a global audience," he says. "The Middle East and North Africa is very important to us and it will grow considerably over the next five years."

It is this gap that Zuaiter hopes FlipNarrative and other production companies will be able to fill.

"Content is the most valued asset in this industry," he says. "When you have exceptional material then you have so many more options."

That's why FlipNarrative is also launching a development fund, which aims to support established and emerging talent – writers, directors and editors – and buy the intellectual property that would allow FlipNarrative to make deals on behalf of investors.

"This could be a novel that we want to transfer to a series or a film," he explains.

Zuaiter and his team are also raising money to support future projects. "This will further develop pitches, get scripts written, help with any kind of promotional material we need," he adds.

"We're looking for the best stories from underrepresented communities worldwide."

Updated: October 1, 2020 05:45 PM

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