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Story | Education
14 June 2021

How one NU-Q filmmaker thrived and graduated during the pandemic

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Tony Ihsan El Ghazal, young filmmaker and a graduate of Class 2021 from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), a QF partner university.

Tony El Ghazal, from the Class of ’21 at QF’s partner university, talks about how he was able to continue his passion for movie-making in a COVID-19 world

For Tony Ihsan El Ghazal, a graduate of the Class 2021 from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university, his belief in the power of storytelling, and how it can send powerful messages, is what kept him moving forward with his work despite the different challenges he faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our current times, we know the power of stories, and the important role of storytellers and the responsibility in sharing impactful messages

Tony El Ghazal

“In our current times, we know the power of stories, and the important role of storytellers and the responsibility in sharing impactful messages,” says El Ghazal. “Stories can impact people much more than throwing facts about a social issue.

“When you narrate something through a story and through characters, you suddenly have people empathize with these characters. This is the power of sending a message indirectly as opposed to directly.”

According to El Ghazal, narrating something through stories and characters can send powerful and impactful messages.

At Northwestern Qatar, El Ghazal majored in Communications, and he always looked to pursue a minor in Theater. He talked about how QF had given him the opportunities that helped him pursue his dream as a director and a filmmaker.

Despite how challenging the year 2020 was, El Ghazal had the opportunity to study a semester at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, but his trip was affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I had to continue directing remotely from home. I was in my room with my computer, communicating live with the crew who were in a farm outside of Doha

Tony El Ghazal

“We traveled in December 2019, and were supposed to be there for six months. Unfortunately, we had to cut the trip short to two months, and we completed the rest of the course online. It was a great opportunity overall, and a fun experience to explore the main campus.”

At the end of his first year, El Ghazal was awarded a scholarship from Qatar Foundation – a validation for all the hard work he put in during his first year. And also a nice way to show gratitude to his parents.

But one of his proudest achievements as a student was when he was awarded two grants to create two short films – one called Bayt El Omor (Home of a Lifetime), and the other called Ibn El Ballad (Firas Fits In).

According to El Ghazal, the challenges that he faced as student during the pandemic were not only about remote learning, because for him as a filmmaker, the most difficult part was to be able to continue filming during this situation.

I am just very thankful for my time at Northwestern Qatar and QF. I'm really excited to see what comes out of this experience

Tony El Ghazal

“As students in the media, we can always attend lectures online, but the nature of our work is different because we need to be out in the field. That was particularly challenging for me. I was quarantined before one of the filming days, and with the scheduling constraints we had no choice but to adapt.

“I had to continue directing remotely from home. I was in my room with my computer, communicating live with the crew who were in a farm outside of Doha, while also briefing the actors as we filmed the scene.

“We also made sure to follow strict precautions to ensure that everyone on set is safe by wearing masks, checking temperatures, and maintaining social distance. It was a whole other experience, but we are happy with how it turned out. When you watch the film there is no way you can tell that this happened behind the scenes,” El Ghazal said.

Through his work, El Ghazal hopes to tell meaningful stories that are simple, specific, and universal in their appeal.

“I am just very thankful for my time at Northwestern Qatar and QF. I'm really excited to see what comes out of this experience, and I look forward to be part of the change we are trying to make for the future,” he concluded.

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