Julia Bacha (born 1980) is a Brazilian documentary filmmaker. She is a media strategist and award-winning filmmaker whose work has been exhibited at Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Dubai International Film Festivals, and broadcast on the BBC, HBO, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya television channels.
Since graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the Columbia University School of General Studies in 2003, she has strategically used film to highlight under documented stories from the Middle East.
Bacha started her filmmaking career in Cairo, where she co-wrote and edited Jehane Noujaim’s critically acclaimed documentary, Control Room (2004), for which she was nominated to the Writer’s Guild of America Award. Since 2004, Bacha has been working closely with Ronit Avni to develop and implement Just Vision’s media strategy. She wrote and co-directed Encounter Point (2006), which was broadcast on Al Arabiya and endorsed by the Israeli Education ministry, directed and produced Budrus (2009), which had a palpable impact on US and Arab media coverage of nonviolent resistance in the Middle East, and with Rebekah Wingert-Jabi co-directed and co-produced the My Neighbourhood (2012), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2012. She has been a guest on numerous television shows such as Charlie Rose, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports and Al Jazeera’s Frost Over the World.
For her influential work in shaping media in the US and beyond, Bacha is the co-recipient of the 2009 King Hussein Leadership Prize, 2010 Search for Common Ground Award, 2011 Ridenhour Film Prize and the 2012 O Globo “Faz Diferença” Award. Her TED talk "Pay Attention to Nonviolence" has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Bacha was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Of her move to the United States and transition to filmmaking, Bacha states:
- When I was 17 I came to the US to study Middle Eastern history and politics at Columbia University. History was always the subject that I loved the most and I felt it gave me the deepest sense of our humanity and who we are and where we’re going. When I came to Columbia and started taking classes with some of the Middle Eastern professors, it really opened a world for me that I hadn’t had the chance yet to experience. Then I got accepted to Tehran University to do my masters but the Iranian government wasn’t issuing visas to international students at the time. I was caught in a limbo because my visa to be in the US had expired and yet I couldn’t go to Iran. So I accepted an invitation by an Egyptian filmmaker to go to Cairo and work on this documentary called Control Room.
Bacha was awarded the 2003 Phi Beta Kappa prize upon graduation from Columbia University.
In 2004, she was the co-writer (with director Jehane Noujaim) and editor of Control Room, a critically acclaimed documentary about Al Jazeera. Bacha was nominated to the Writers Guild of America Awards 2005 for her work on this film. Two years later, she co-directed (with Ronit Avni) the documentary Encounter Point, which was the official selection at Tribeca Film Festival, Hot Docs, Jerusalem Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival and San Francisco International Film Festivals, where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. Bacha directed the 2009 documentary Budrus, which was shown at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival and became runner up in the festival's documentary competition. Budrus won over 18 international prizes, including the 2012 PUMA Creative.Impact Award, a prize given to the documentary film that had the greatest impact on society in any given year. Her two most recent films, "Home Front: Portraits From Sheikh Jarrah" (2011) and "My Neighbourhood" (2012) have received widespread acclaim internationally. In 2013, My Neighbourhood won the prestigious Peabody Award and premiered online at The Guardian. In 2014, My Neighbourhood won a Special Mention at the Social Impact Media Awards.
- Control Room (2004) - Co-writer and editor
- Encounter Point (2006) - Co-Director
- Budrus (2009) - Director
- Home Front: Portraits From Sheikh Jarrah (2011) - Writer and Producer
- My Neighbourhood (2012) - Co-Director and Co-Producer