Introducing TED Fellow: Saeed Taji Farouky

Saeed Taji Farouky is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer whose work focuses on issues of human rights and social justice. Born in the U.K. to Palestinian-Egyptian parents, he grew up between London and Bahrain before heading to the U.S. to attend Tufts University and then studied documentary photography at the School for the Museum for Fine Arts, Boston. Interested in the “gray areas” of documentary filmmaking, he founded his own production company, Tourist With A Typewriter.

How exactly do you plan to change the world? I never planned to change the world. I’d be happy to talk about my work and what changes I think it can make in—for example— documentary films, but that’s answering a different question.

Ok. Tell us more about your approach to filmmaking. I’m always adamant about the fact that I have to explore an issue fully, and I have to satisfy my own curiosity and skepticism before I’m happy with a film. I feel I have to be critical of an issue, even one that I am sympathetic to. In fact, I find the greatest flaw in documentary filmmaking today is the tendency to confuse “personal” films with naive and uncritical filmmaking. All issues, no matter how clear cut, have gray areas, moral ambiguities. It is in these gray areas that I am most interested. I would rather raise difficult questions than pretend the filmmaker knows and sees everything—the traditional approach to documentary filmmaking. I would rather explore the subject along with the audience and make the process of filmmaking part of the film.

I’m also aware of the responsibility I have as a Palestinian making films about the Middle East. I am determined not to simply create set pieces and campaigning videos. They serve no one and ultimately create little more than boring films.

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