Film Leaders Demand Release Of Missing Syrian Filmmaker

More than two dozen leading film associations called early Friday for the immediate release of Syrian filmmaker and festival director Owra Nyrabia, who has been missing since Aug. 23.

The statement was signed by film organisations including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the International Documentary Association, representing tens of thousands of leading filmmakers working in the U.S. and abroad. 

Nyrabia (pictured with his wife Diana El-Jeiroudi at the Sarajevo film festival in July) was detained by authorities in Damascus on August 23rd — his whereabouts remain unknown. He was believed to have been detained by Syrian security services as he prepared to board a flight from Damascus to Cairo.

On Thursday, the Toronto Film Festival released a statement expressing concern about the filmmaker.

“Nyrabia belongs to the emerging generation of Syrian filmmakers passionate about world cinema and passionate about freedom. We are extremely concerned by his arrest — filmmakers must be allowed to express themselves through their films, without fear of reprisal,” the festival release said.

Nyrabia’s wife, Diana El-Jeiroudi, issued a statement last week saying she had had no contact with him and had heard from the airline that he did not board the plane. Nyrabia and his wife formed the first independent production company in Syria and founded Dox Box, a festival that brought international documentaries to Syria.

The organisations released this statement:

“Syrian filmmaker and festival director Orwa Nyrabia has been missing since Thursday, August 23 after attempting travel from the Damascus International Airport. Nyrabia works as a film producer and is one of the founders of the DOX BOX International Documentary Film Festival held in Syria. Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera, IDFA, Screen International, RealScreen and many other film organisations have covered the news of Orwa’s disappearance over the last few days.

“We, the undersigned, represent tens of thousands of leading filmmakers working around the world. As such, we believe that the artistry and power of film is vital to societies and cultures globally. We strongly defend the right of filmmakers everywhere to practice their art and bring humanity closer together through the telling of our shared stories.

“Orwa Nyrabia is not only a celebrated filmmaker, but also an artist who has devoted his life to bringing people and cultures together through film. Although Orwa is now being held in darkness somewhere, the filmmaking world is paying attention will continue to shine a light on him until he is safely reunited with his family. We call for his immediate return.

The following groups signed the statement:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

BRITDOC Foundation

The D-Word


Docs in Progress

The Documentary centre, George Washington University

European Documentary Network

Film Independent

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival


Independent Lens

International Documentary Association

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam


Kartemquin Films


Producers Guild of America

San Francisco Film Society

The Scottish Documentary Institute

Stranger Than Fiction

Sundance Institute

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Institute

True/False Film Fest

Women Make Movies

Writers Guild of America, West

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