Film Industry Role: Director/Academic

Nationality: Palestinian

Major Works: "Ajami" (2009)

Major Awards and Nominations: Honorable Mention and Golden Camera Nomination at the Cannes Film Festival for "Ajami" (2009)


Scandar Copti is a 44 years-old Palestinian filmmaker. Being one of the names to watch in the film industry, Copti brought to life his first full-length feature, “Ajami”, in 2009.

A good example of a first timer success, the film caught the industry’s attention when it won the Camera d’Or Special Mention in Cannes Film Festival. A year later, in the Academy Award 2010 ceremony, “Ajami” was nominated for best foreign film, skyrocketing and reaching a more global recognition.

Copti’s unique style of casting is what differentiates him from his peers. As a strong advocate for the screening of Arab films worldwide, Scandar Copti casts non-actors to play the roles of the protagonists in his movies. By doing so, the director is able to capture reality and natural reactions more effectively, giving the film a more authentic feel.

Based in Abu Dhabi and working as an Assistant Arts Professor of Film at New York University Abu Dhabi, Copti has created an effective method in order to direct non-actors, so they feel comfortable enough in front of a camera.

A former mechanical engineer, Scandar Copti has written, directed, and even edited mostly experimental short films, although we can also find his name amongst the credits of several fiction and documentary shorts.

He is currently working on his second feature “Happy Holidays”, a documentary type fiction film, inspired by real events in Palestine. Without the safety net of a traditional script to lean on too, the director encourages the non-actors to rely heavily on improvisation, therefore permitting the events to unravel naturally and allowing the story to shape itself. This second feature film will follow the example of “Ajami”, which also cast only non-actors. In fact, the award nominated film was a Palestinian-Israeli production, featuring real-life Israeli police, paramedics and citizens.

Having traveled all over the world sharing his knowledge regarding the directing of non-actors, Copti will be attending FEST from the 24th of June to the 1st of July, in Espinho, for a 2-day Training Ground Workshop on “Directing Non-Actors”

His workshops intend to provide the right tools for directors to adopt his casting style, if they see fit to do so, giving participants the opportunity to get a first-hand perception of his technique: the using of the human capacity to respond emotionally in fictional situations.

Make sure you secure your place in the event, and come and learn from the best.