Hany Abu-Assad is a Palestinian-Dutch film director and producer who has gained international recognition for his thought-provoking and critically acclaimed films. Born on October 11, 1961, Abu-Assad has been nominated for two Academy Awards throughout his career. He studied Engineering in the Netherlands from 1981 to 1987, but his passion for filmmaking led him to pursue a career in the industry.
In 1990, Abu-Assad co-founded Ayloul Film Productions with Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Masharawi. He directed his first feature film, titled "Het 14e kippetje/The Fourteenth Chick," in 1998. This marked the beginning of a successful filmmaking journey that would later earn him international acclaim.
Two of Abu-Assad's most notable films are "Paradise Now" (2005) and "Omar" (2013). Both movies received Academy Award nominations. "Omar" not only received an Oscar nomination but also won the Special Jury Prize of Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.
Abu-Assad's filmography encompasses a diverse range of works. He has directed short films like "To Whom It May Concern" (1991) and "A Boy, a Wall and a Donkey" (2008). His documentaries include "Nazareth 2000" (2001) and the co-directed "Do Not Forget Me Istanbul" (2011). Abu-Assad has also worked on feature films such as "Al qods fee yom akhar/Rana's Wedding" (2002), "Ford Transit" (2004), "The Courier" (2012), "Ya tayr el tayer/The Idol" (2015), and "The Mountain Between Us" (2017), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
After having studied and worked as an airplane engineer in the Netherlands, Hany Abu-Assad began his career in films. He worked on documentaries “Dar O Dar” for Channel 4 and “Long Days in Gaza” for the BBC, to name a few.
In 1992, Abu-Assad wrote and directed his first short, “Paper House.” The film recounts the adventures of a 13 year old Palestinian boy, who tries to build his own house after his family’s home has been destroyed by the occupation forces. “Paper House” was broadcasted by NOS Dutch television and won several international awards at film festivals.
The following year, Abu-Assad produced the feature film “Curfew,” directed by Rashid Masharawi. An international co-production between Argus Film Productions, WDR, ARTE and AVRO, “Curfew” was highly praised, winning awards including the Gold Pyramid in Cairo, and the UNESCO Prize in Cannes, among others.
After his second short “The 13th,” which he wrote, produced and directed, Abu-Assad began working on his first full-length feature project as a director. He collaborated with writer Arnon Grunberg to develop a script that challenged and explored cinematic narrative and style in a comedy about a couple in Amsterdam. The film, “The Fourteenth Chick” was the opening film of the Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht 1998 and was distributed by United International Pictures.
Recent works include the bittersweet documentary “Nazareth 2000,” which Abu-Assad made for Dutch VPRO television. The turmoil in a divided and secretly occupied city and its quarrelling Palestinian inhabitants, Christian and Muslim, as viewed through the eyes of two gas station attendants. Combining a compassionate and satirical approach to a serious subject matter, Abu-Assad succeeded in creating a multifaceted and surprisingly humorous documentary.
Abu-Assad and Bero Beyer founded Augustus Film in 2000. Abu-Assad directed “Rana’s Wedding” (2002), a production realized with the support of the Palestinian Film Foundation of the Ministry of Culture of the Palestinian National Authority. It describes a day in the life of a young woman in Jerusalem, during which she tries to get married before four o’ clock that day. The film was selected for Critics Week 2002 in Cannes and went on to win prizes at Montpellier, Marrakech, Bastia and Cologne.
Abu-Assad’s next documentary, “Ford Transit” (2002) played at the Sundance Film Festival. A portrait of a driver of a Ford Transit taxi, the film humorously observes the resilient inhabitants of Palestinian territories. The film won the FIPRESCI award during the Thessaloniki Film Festival, the In the Spirit of Freedom Award in Jerusalem and together with “Rana’s Wedding,” the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Film Festival in New York.
Abu-Assad and Beyer wrote “Paradise Now” in 1999 and shot the film in Nablus in 2004. It received its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival 2005, where it was won the Blue Angel Award for Best European Film, the Berliner Morgenpost Readers' Prize and the Amnesty International Award for Best Film. In 2006 it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film, and was nominated for a 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2011 Abu-Assad finished working on The Courier, starring Jeffery Dean Morgan, Til Schweiger and Mickey Rourke.
Abu-Assad finished OMAR in 2013, a tragic love story set in occupied Palestine. OMAR won the jury price in the competition of Certain Regard at Cannes Film Festival of 2013, the Best Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (ASPA) 2013, and has been nominated for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (OSCARS) for Best Foreign Language Film 2014. OMAR has won several other awards including but not limited to the Best Feature Film and Best Director at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and Best Director at the War On Screen Festival International De Cinéma.
In 2015 Abu-Assad completed his 6th feature film "The Idol" Drama inspired by the incredible journey of the artist Mohammad Assaf, a singer from Gaza who won the Arab Idol show in 2013.
In 2017, Abu-Assad release “The Mountain Between Us”, a love survival story for Fox 2000 with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba in the leads.
His eighth feature film, Huda’s Salon, was released in 2021. The film met with emphatic applause at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it had its Arab premiere.
Hany Abu-Assad's vision as a filmmaker is rooted in his passion for storytelling and his commitment to shedding light on pressing social issues. His vision is to create impactful narratives that resonate with viewers, using his unique storytelling techniques to inspire empathy, provoke thought, and ignite conversations.
Through his films, Abu-Assad aims to challenge conventional cinematic approaches and push creative boundaries, exploring different genres and narrative styles. His vision is to use the power of storytelling to bridge cultural divides, bringing attention to the experiences of marginalized communities and shedding light on their struggles. With a compassionate and satirical approach, he seeks to create multifaceted and thought-provoking films that entertain, educate, and spark dialogue on social, political, and humanistic issues.
Recognition and Awards
- Hany Abu-Assad l IMDB
- Hany Abu-Assad on Palestinian Thriller ‘Huda’s Salon’ l The Hollywood Reporter
- How cinema can help us understand the Palestinian struggle l The National News
- Filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad Returned to Palestine l IndieWire
- Interview with Hany Abu Assad, Writer & Director of Huda’s Salon l Arab Film and Media Institute
- Hany Abu-Assad l Wikipedia
- HANY ABU-ASSAD l Columbia University, Center for Palestine Studies
- 'Omar' Is A Love Story l NPR
- Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ l Arab News
- Hany Abu-Assad is tackling feminism in his latest work l The National News
- Hany Abu Assad: Man of Many Firsts l Arab America
- Hany Abu-Assad to head 2019 MAMI international jury l The Hindu
- The Grim Intensity of “Huda’s Salon” l The New Yorker
- Hany Abu-Assad's Huda Salon l Variety
- Hany Abu-Assad on ‘Omar,’ love and politics l The Jerusalem Post
- Double Oscar Nominee Hany Abu-Assad Wraps ‘Huda’s Salon,’ Aims for Cannes Debut l Variety
- Hany Abu-Assad l IFFR
- Demythologizing the Palestinian in Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar and Paradise Now l Taylor and Francis Online
- Dual Narratives of Huda's Salon l Paste Magazine
- Film Review: Omar (2013). Dir. Hany Abu-Hassad l Academia
- Hany Abu-Assad made Gaza’s first feature film l Los Angeles Times