Fatima AlBanawi is an internationally acclaimed actress and storyteller from Saudi Arabia. She is a creative writer, performance artist, and director. This multi-hyphenate creative who aspires to deepen the conversation between social impact and the arts is the founder of The Other Story Project - Jeddah city’s public space mover and shaker since 2015. The project has collected almost 5000 real life stories from strangers and packaged many into art productions, such as the short film "A Blink of an Eye". From the first touring Biennale in the world inaugurated in Buenos Aires, to Palais de Tokyo in Paris, AlBanawi travels locally and internationally to perform human stories. Though a challenging endeavor in a private society, she believes in the power of storytelling to channel vulnerable and intimate conversations, making the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris call her the (Sophie Calle of Saudi Arabia) after the great reception of her performance “Amours Saoudiennes”.
AlBanawi received a masters in Theological Studies from Harvard University while focusing her scholarly writings on Gender and Identity in Muslim diaspora and contemporary Middle East, and shedding light on the sociology of film, literature, and issues of representation in both. She combines her passion for ethnography and creative writing in her first book, The Other Story (work in progress), a personal memoir and social commentary on the stories she had gathered from the streets of Jeddah city between 2015-2018. This passion for psycho-social development and the arts is not new; it started in 2010 when AlBanawi co-founded the Theatre of the Oppressed chapter in Jeddah and staged one of its plays at Harvard later on. In 2019, her theatre work as director and actress in "The Straight Circle" play has also caught attention and made headlines for surpassing the classic elite structure as it moved to the streets of the city.
Indeed AlBanawi, the actress, is no less important. In 2016, AlBanawi became internationally recognized for her debut in the award winning Saudi feature film, Barakah Meets Barakah. She continues to act as an instinctive response to her passion for the profession with an incentive to reshape the public narrative about human relations. She starred in "Bashar" series, "A Blink of an Eye" short, "Going South" short, and made a special appearance in both "Roll’em" feature film, "Om AlQalayed" series, and Netflix's up and coming "Paranormal" Egyptian series.
Her role as a juror in film festivals in addition to the aforementioned come to inform her screenwriting practice and infuse her films with intimacy and originality. In 2020, AlBanawi's first feature film screenplay "Basma" was selected as one of twelve to be developed by Torino Film Lab in affiliation with the Red Sea Film Festival. More so, she wrote and directed "Until We See Light," part of the Omnibus Feature Film entitled "Becoming" that was supported by the festival itself. And with the postponement of several cinematic events that year, AlBanawi hoped to contribute a case study for filmmakers during the Covid-19 global pandemic when she co-wrote, co-directed and starred in Al-Shak Series (Shahid.net Original), which she shot fully from home during the lockdown.
Today's leading actress opens the doors to her studio "Alf Wad" [Meaning: A Thousand Valley], as an acting coach, making it a hub to build and foster the actors and film community in her country. She has been trained in the Undesirable Elements Theatre Method by Ping Chong & Company, in addition to Improv by both, Improv Playhouse of San Francisco and Lebanese award winner director, Lucien Bourjeily, and in acting methods by both Luke Lehner Studios and member of the Actor's Studio in LA, Gerald James.
The multi-hyphenate creative has been featured for her acting and storytelling work, and now for her directing and writing endeavors, in many media outlets, including headlines in the Financial Times, The Reporter, Variety, France 24, and from American and Italian, to Egyptian and Saudi channels. In 2018, she was selected as a Next Generation Leader by Time Magazine for her unique storytelling ventures.