Celebrating our alumni

Our alumni Myriam Francois and Lemma Shehadi have produced some exciting work and we’re so proud to share details of the projects:


Myriam Francois | GSDF 2021

A Parisian grandfather searches for the granddaughter he has never seen, against a background of family trauma and seeking to understand how his son became a notorious Islamic State terrorist.

You can watch Myriam’s film here.

Dr Myriam Francois is an award-wining Franco-Irish journalist, filmmaker and writer. Myriam has just completed her documentary directorial debut “Finding Alaa” (BBC/CBC) under her production company Mpwr productions. The film was shortlisted for the 2021Whickers Awards and the Cannes MIPDOC 2022. Finding Alaa has been selected at multiple festivals including Hot docs, Doc Edge, Carmarthen Bay, Cannes Shorts, USA film festival, and more. It has also won Best Documentary Short at the Independent Short Awards 2023, received “Jury Special Mention” at Doc Edge and the Jury Award at the Southern California Film Festival.

Lemma Shehadi | 2022 Fellow

In 2021, wildfires across the Eastern Mediterranean devastated the ancient forests of Lebanon. One of the most affected areas was also the country’s most marginalised: the Akkar region of the north. Akkar is known for its poverty and the lack of basic infrastructure and public services.

Against all odds, an ambitious recovery programme was launched in two of Akkar’s nature reserves. For it to succeed, the designated areas must be protected from loggers and animals. But locals say the initiative restricts their access to an important source of livelihood: the mountainous woodlands. Herders go there to feed their animals, and the region’s impoverished families rely on wood to heat their homes.

These issues are made worse by Lebanon’s current economic crisis, which has caused severe fuel, electricity and wheat shortages in the country. Across the Eastern Mediterranean, wildfires have accelerated dramatically as a result of climate change. In Lebanon in particular, this is aggravated by the recent economic and political crises. By focusing on reforestation in Akkar, the story explores the dilemma of saving nature versus people, and the tensions and solutions that emerge as a result.

You can watch Lemma’s story here, listen to it here and read it here.

Lemma Shehadi’s reporting focuses on international affairs and culture. She has reported from the Middle East, Europe and South Asia. She won The Independent’s Rupert Cornwell Prize for foreign journalism to write a series on the Yazidis of Iraq and the Caucasus in 2019. During the Fellowship, Lemma looked at the impact of wildfires and reforestation in the marginalized north of Lebanon.