Orwa Nyrabia

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Orwa Nyrabia
عروة النيربية
Orwa nyrabia by razan ghazzawi 2014.tiff
Orwa Nyrabia in Beirut, 2014
Born (1977-12-16) December 16, 1977 (age 40)
Homs, Syria
Years active 1998—present
Spouse(s) Diana El Jeiroudi
Awards The Polk Award (2015)
HRW Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking(2014)
Katrin Cartlidge Award (2012)
European Documentary Award (2012), The PL Foundation's Human Rights Award (2012)

Orwa Nyrabia (Arabic: عروة النيربية‎; born 16 December 1977) is a highly acclaimed independent Syrian documentary film producer, filmmaker, trainer, human rights defender and co-founder of DOX BOX International Documentary Film Festival in Syria. Nyrabia is a resident of Berlin, Germany, since the end of 2013 [1] In January 2018 Nyrabia became the director of International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

Education and career[edit]

Nyrabia graduated with a degree of acting from the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts in Damascus, Syria. From 1997 to 2002, Nyrabia wrote regularly for Lebanese daily As-Safir.[2] In 2004, he starred in Yousry Nasrallah's "The Gate of Sun". The film, an adaptation of Elias Khoury's novel with the same name, was screened at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.[2] Nyrabia also worked on several feature films as a first assistant director.[2]

Nyrabia trained as a film producer at the INA/Sorbonne in France. In 2002, he co-founded Proaction Films, the first independent film production and distribution company in Syria.[2] He and her partner and wife, Diana El Jeiroudi, launched DOX BOX in early 2008. The international documentary film festival grew quickly into the most important documentary film gathering in the Arab World.[3] The festival started with screenings in Damascus cinemas but from 2009 on screenings were expanded to other Syrian cities including Homs and Tartus.[4] Along with the annual festival, many workshops and activities were offered to young Syrian filmmakers. The fifth edition of the festival, planned for March 2012, was cancelled in protest of the Syrian government's crackdown on protesters during the ongoing Syrian uprising. Instead, Nyrabia advocated for Syrian documentary films to be shown in festivals around the world in what was termed the "Dox Box Global Day." The aim, according to the DOX BOX website, was to show "how poverty, oppression and isolation do not prevent humans from being spectacularly brave, stubborn and dignified."[5] His work with DOX BOX earned him and his partner, Diana El Jeiroudi, several awards including the Katrin Cartlidge Award and the European Documentary Award in 2012.[3]

The most significant of the films Nyrabia produced was the 2008 documentary Dolls, A Woman from Damascus, by Diana El Jeiroudi, Syrian filmmaker and Nyrabia's partner;[6] the film was screened in over 40 countries around the world, on Television, in festivals and Art exhibitions.

In 2013, while residing in Egypt.,[7] Nyrabia produced the documentary film Return to Homs, by Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki, and the film became the very first film from the Arab World to open the prestigious IDFA, in November 2013.,[8] Return To Homs won many awards including the Grand Jury Prize of 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

In 2014, he was one of the producers of the highly acclaimed film Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, directed by seasoned Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed in collaboration with Wiam Simav Bedirxan , premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, and received highest critical claim by major outlets such as Le Monde and Variety. Nyrabia's success in 2014 was highlighted by CBS's show 60 Minutes on December 15, 2014.[9]

Nyrabia served on the juries of many international film festivals and funds, including IDFA,[10] Prince Claus Fund and Dok Leipzig,[11] among others. He also worked as a documentary film tutor at various prestigious workshops, such as the IDFA Academy [12] and the Encounters documentary workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.[13] In June 2017, Nyrabia, together with his partner Diana El Jeiroudi, were the very first Syrians to be invited as members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[14]


Nyrabia's role in the drafting of the Syrian filmmakers' international Call in late April 2011, which is the Syrian uprising's first public statement by a professional group, is known to be central. The call was signed by over 70 Syrian filmmakers, inviting filmmakers around the world to join in demanding democracy for Syria. Stars like Juliette Binoche, Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Mike Leigh were among more than one thousand international film professionals who joined the call.[15]

Nyrabia has been one of the unnamed people behind Syria's most famous grassroots revolutionary organization, Local Coordination Committees in Syria, working on activists’ support and humanitaian aid to displaced citizens. Arabic media praised Nyrabia for his role in humanitarian work, mainly to displaced civilians from Homs,.[16] It is known that Nyrabia worked closely with renowned Syrian opposition figures and activists, such as Riad Seif and Razan Zaitouneh. Nyrabia's father, Mouaffaq Nyrabia, is also a known Leftist political dissident, previously detained by the Syrian authorities, and has been the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces's representative to the EU in the years 2013-2015 and then the Coalition's Vice President in 2016.[17]

Since Razan Zaitouneh was abducted late 2013 in Douma, near Damascus, by an unknown group of extremists, Nyrabia became the temporary Acting Director of the organization she founded and directed, Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC).


Nyrabia was reportedly arrested at Damascus International Airport by Syrian authorities on 23 August 2012. His family lost contact with him shortly before he was supposed to board an EgyptAir flight to Cairo. The airline company confirmed that Nyrabia did not board their flight.[18] He was reportedly released on 12 September.[19] Later on, Nyrabia announced on his personal Facebook page that the Syrian Military Intelligence was responsible for his detention. Nyrabia was released following an international filmmakers' campaign for his freedom, in which thousands of film professionals from around the world demanded his freedom in the media. These included Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Charlotte Rampling, Kevin Spacey, Juliette Binoche and many others.[20] The campaign was a rare example of successful pressure on the Syrian government, as it was the reason why he was released without charges. Following his release, Nyrabia published a letter of thanks to everybody who participated in the campaign [21]


  1. ^ "Syrische Künstler im Exil" (in German). Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Arab Shorts - Independent Arab Film - 2009 - Orwa Nyrabia". Arab Shorts. Goethe-Institut. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Sarajevo Film Festival - Diana El Jeiroudi and Orwa Nyrabia Winners of the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation Scholarship". Sarajevo Film Festival. Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Ibrahim, Bashar (12 March 2009). "الجزيرة الوثائقية - متابعات - حوار مع عروة نيربية مدير مهرجان "سينما الواقع"" (in Arabic). Al Jazeera Documentary Channel. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Bank, Charlotte (29 August 2012). "The Hunt for Awkward Cultural Activists - Qantara.de". Qantara.de. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Dolls, A Woman From Damascus". IDFA. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Tales From A Syrian Jail: Filmmaker Witnesses The 'Surreal' Of Regime's Cruelty". Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "IDFA to open with Return to Homs". Le Monde. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "CBS 60 Minutes Inside Homs". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "IDFA Juries". Archived from the original on 11 September 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Orwa Nyrabia Juror Profile". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  12. ^ "IDFAacadmy Summer School 2015". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Encounters SA Workshop announcement". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "AMPAS New Members - Class 2017". Oscars.org. Retrieved 4 July 2017. 
  15. ^ Syrian Filmmakers' Call (29 April 2011). "Syrian Filmmakers' Call". Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  16. ^ Sky News Arabia (24 August 2011). "اعتقال منتج أفلام ساعد بالثورة". Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  17. ^ The Syrian Observer (21 August 2013). "Coalition Appoints New EU Representative". Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  18. ^ Al Aarabiya with Agencies (24 August 2012). "Syria arrests film-maker who helped victims of govt crackdown". Al Arabiya. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  19. ^ "IDFA - Syrian film producer Orwa Nyrabia set free". International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  20. ^ "Film stars urge Syria to free detained festival director Orwa Nyrabia". The Guardian. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "Syrian Filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia Says Thanks". CBC. 20 September 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 

External links[edit]

Selected public and TV appearances[edit]

Selected press interviews[edit]