Ali Selim

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For general secretary of the Irish Council of Imams, see Ali Selim (Ireland)

Ali Selim is an Arab-American advertising and independent film director. Over the past fifteen years he has directed over 850 television commercials, five half-hour documentaries and several music videos.

Early life[edit]

Ali Selim was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota to an Egyptian-born father and a mother of German descent. He attended school at Saint Thomas Academy and the University of Saint Thomas (Minnesota), where his father was a professor of economics.

Film career[edit]

His first project, a documentary celebrating the centennial of Saint Thomas Academy, won awards at several international film festivals. Selim formed his own production company (Departure Films) in 1989. He directed a number of award-winning television commercials, including a public service announcement for the YMCA which received a Gold Lion, advertising’s most coveted award, from Cannes Advertising Film Festival in 1991. Later that year, Selim was hired by Giraldi/Suarez Productions[citation needed].

In 1993 Selim wrote, produced and directed Yonnondio, a 15-minute music video in collaboration with Academy Award winning composer Peter Buffett which was awarded the Silver Hugo from the Chicago International Film Festival and a CINE Golden. Selim was an honoree at the AICP Show, “The Art and Technique of the American Television Commercial,” where his work was placed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

His narrative film Emperor of the Air (1996), based on Ethan Canin’s story of the same name, was awarded the top prize at Worldfest and the D. L. Mayberry Award. Selim was placed on Advertising Weekly's list of the top 1% most sought-after directors in the United States[citation needed].

Sweet Land[edit]

His script for the film Sweet Land, based on a short story by Will Weaver, was the only screenplay selected for the inaugural year of the Cyngus Emerging Filmmakers Institute. The film, which took him fifteen years to finance,[1] was shot in 2005 around Chippewa County, Minnesota.[2] It starred Alan Cumming, Ned Beatty, Elizabeth Reaser, Alex Kingston and John Heard. The film was the recipient of the 2005 Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Film at the 13th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival.

Current status[edit]

Ali Selim is currently in production on a feature-length documentary, Trash Dawgs, which focuses on the history and problem of garbage in America.[citation needed]


  1. ^ 'Sweet Land' a sweet success story, Seattle Post Intelligencer, January 19, 2007
  2. ^ Ali Selim's long trek to "Sweet Land", Minnesota Public Radio, April 28, 2006