We are individual partners who have been working together along this course since 2007. Together we have supported more than 200 filmmakers from Southwest Asia and North Africa.

Close Up was founded by Sigal Yehuda, Ahmet Boyacioglu, Bruni Burres, John Appel and Vincent Melilli. Our strength has always been in our belief of the urgency and the necessity for a dialog between individual artists coming from broken societies but aiming to create and build bridges despite censorship. We’ve witnessed our ability to resist prejudice and ignorance by creating cinematic, powerful documentaries within our community of filmmakers. These filmmakers remind us all about our common values and the strength of an inclusive and open society.

As international partners, we are determined to maintain the urgent support we have built for our filmmakers. The safe environment we have formed offers an important open discussion, one which is essential for the challenges our filmmakers are facing.



Sigal Yehuda

Founder & Executive Director

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Bruni Burres

Founding Partner & Mentor

Vincent Melilli


Vincent Melilli

Founding Partner

John Appel1


John Appel

Founding Partner & Mentor

Ahmet Boyacioglou


Ahmet Boyacioglu

Founding Partner 

Note from Founder & Executive Director

Our cultural legacy is one of the most important possessions each of us carry; it is an essential part of our identity.

I, Sigal Yehuda, was raised as an Iranian Jew in Israel. My parents emigrated from Iran to Israel in the early 1950s. They loved Iran, they spoke Farsi and lived as Iranians in Israel, a foreign country in which they were never able to fully integrate. Although they had a different religion, they were like the Muslim Iranians, deeply connected to the Iranian culture. They lived peacefully with their Muslim neighbors and considered Iran as their homeland.

The Jews who came to Israel from Muslim countries in the 1950’s loved their homeland, but they were taught that this homeland was the enemy. For centuries they lived peacefully with their Muslim, and other neighbors of different religions, in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen.

I cherish the legacy I inherited from my parents, culture is a strong tie that connects us no matter what our nationality, religion or ethnic background.

In that spirit, we established Close Up, an international development and training program for documentary filmmakers from South West Asia and North Africa that aims to support filmmakers from diverse ethnic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds from Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

Mentors & Special Experts

John Appel1


John Appel


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Bruni Burres


*Gitte Hansen


Gitte Hansen


NIno Kirtadze


Nino Kirtadze


Hans Robert Eisenhauer


Hans Robert Eisenhauer

Special Expert

Editing Consultants



Phil Jandaly

Editing Consultant



Joelle Alexis

Editing Consultant



Giles Gardner

Editing Consultant



Nadia Ben Rachid

Editing Consultant



Anne Fabini

Editing Consultant


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Zeynep Kaserci



Marine Perez

Social Media and Visibility Coordinator

Funding Partners

As an international cultural non-profit organization, we rely on our dedicated and committed donors who share our values and support our activity with great passion and enthusiasm. We are most grateful to them

Anonymous Supporter, New York, USA

Barbara and Eric Dobkin, New York, USA


An independent film distribution company focused purely on non-fiction features.

Working under the umbrella of the Blue Ice Group, Blue-Ice Docs acquire, fund and develop a wide variety of non-fiction projects from around the world. Founded in 2014 in partnership between Robin Smith, president of KinoSmith and Neil Tabatznik of the Blue Ice Group, Blue Ice Docs intends to use the expertise and skills of both organizations to build a singular, world-leading documentary distribution entity that will take non-fiction product across all media platforms within Canada and beyond.




Lisa Kleiner Chanoff is co-founder of Catapult Film Fund, which provides development grants to documentary films. Lisa has also executive produced narrative features including Fruitvale Station (Co-EP), Burn Country, and Love & Taxes, and documentary features including Watchers of the Sky and Brimstone & Glory. With Catapult, Lisa has executive produced Art and Craft, Extremis, When God Sleeps, and Life Overtakes Me.

Lisa has a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and practiced law in San Francisco and with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. After leaving law practice, Lisa received a master’s degree in Museum Studies and worked with museums in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Lisa assists several non-profits in an advisory capacity, and serves on the boards of Working Films and SFFILM.


The Silver Sun Foundation is a family philanthropy dedicated to providing support for professional creative artists, cultural organizations and social change makers. Established in 2017 as a 501(c)(3), the foundation offers assistance through grants, fellowships and community connections, and operates the Silver Sun Residence for Artists and Changemakers, located in Woodstock, N.Y.



The Nordic Culture Fund is a catalyst for arts and culture in the Nordic regionThe Nordic Culture Fund works to support innovative and dynamic artistic and cultural life in the Nordic Region that is diverse, accessible and of high quality. Through this mission, we wish to stimulate the development of art and culture at all levels in the Nordic region, as well as in a global context We believe that art and culture are without borders. In a time of upheaval, when nations close in upon themselves, art can act as a focal point that opens up and creates connections.





Additional Support by

Craig Russel and Pamela Jones – Impact Partners – Kimelman Foundation – John Kimelman & Nancy Rose – Larry Boltansky- Richard and Jennifer Berman – Paula and Jay Goldberg – Beth Swirnow – Joe Cutchin – Sherri Wolf

Advisory Members

John Appel, Filmmaker, The Netherlands  ▪ Ahmet Boyacioglu, The Ankara Cinema Association, Turkey  ▪  Vincent Melilli, Founder & Director of ESAV Cinema School Marrakesh, Morocco  ▪  Bruni Burres, Senior Consultant at the Documentary Film Program, Sundance Institute, USA  ▪  Nino Kirtadze, Filmmaker, Georgia/France  ▪ Gitte Hansen, First Hand Films, Switzerland  ▪ Alex Szalat, Head of Docs Up Fund and Former Head of Documentaries at ARTE, France  ▪ Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Producer and Former Head of Theme ZDF at ARTE, Germany  ▪ Neil Tabatznik, Co-Owner, Blue-Ice Docs, Canada  ▪ Robin Smith, Co-Owner, Blue-Ice Docs, Canada  ▪ Oren Moverman, Filmmaker, USA  ▪ Lisa Chanoff, Co-Founder, Catapult Film Fund, USA  ▪ Karen Sloe Goodman, Founding Director, Silver Sun Foundation, USA  ▪ Pirjo Honkassalo, Filmmaker, Finland  ▪ Nicolas Philibert, Filmmaker, France  ▪ Sergi Dolade, Director of MEDIMED: The Euro-Mediterranean Documentary Market, Spain  ▪ Claudia Landsberger, Senior Executive Partner at BaseWorx for Film, The Netherlands  ▪ Tabitha Jackson, Director, Sundance Film Festival, USA  ▪ Kristin Feeley, Deputy Director, Documentary Film Program, Sundance Institute, USA  ▪ Sean Weiner, Director of Programs, Media Arts Lab at Jacob Burns Film Center, USA  ▪ Lucila Moctezuma, Director of Programs, Chicken & Egg Pictures, USA  ▪ Judith Helfand, Filmmaker and Co-Founder of Chicken & Egg Pictures, USA  ▪ Simon Kilmurry, Former Executive Director, International Documentary Association, USA  ▪ Claire Aguilar, Former Director of Programming and Policy, International Documentary Association, USA  ▪ Amy Hobby, Former Executive Director, Tribeca Film Institute, USA  ▪ Margje De Koning, Artistic Director, Movies That Matter Film Festival, The Netherlands  ▪ Lisa Chiari, Artistic Director, Middle East Now Film Festival, Italy  ▪ Roberto Ruta, Artistic Director, Middle East Now Film Festival, Italy  ▪ Jose Rodriguez, Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival, USA  ▪ Gudrun Hanke-El Ghomri, SWR Channel, Germany  ▪ Mette Hoffmann Meyer, Founder, The WHY Foundation, Denmark  ▪ Ryan Harrington, Head of Film, Kinema, USA  ▪ Sandi DuBowski, Filmmaker, USA  ▪  Dominick Young, Consultant, Al-Jazeera English, UK  ▪ Joelle Alexis, Editor, Belgium/Israel  ▪ Srdjan Fink, Editor, The Netherlands  ▪ Catherine Rascon, Editor, France  ▪ Giles Gardner, Editor, France  ▪ Phil Jandaly, Editor, Sweden  ▪ Maryam Ebrahimi, Filmmaker, Iran/Sweden  ▪ Nima Sarvestani, Filmmaker, Iran/Sweden  ▪ Aboozar Amini, Filmmaker, Afghanistan/The Netherlands

Support Us

We established our program in response to the identified need to strengthen the visual storytelling capacity in our region and create a unique meeting-point for artists, who rarely have the opportunities to meet and forge personal and professional ties. What we have learned during 12 years of work in our region is the filmmakers’ great need for a professional program that will help them realize their documentaries on the pressing social issues in the communities they come from.

At a time of sweeping political changes in the region and around the world, the importance of understanding and addressing these core issues is widely acknowledged.

We’ve witnessed our ability to resist prejudice and ignorance by creating powerful documentaries within our community of filmmakers, who are reminding us all about our common values and the strength of an inclusive society. One that challenges itself to cross boundaries and create a constructive and meaningful dialogue with those that politicians would like us to believe are our enemies.

As an international non-profit cultural organization we rely on our dedicated and committed donors who share our values and support our activity with great passion and enthusiasm. We welcome you to join our community and help us create a pluralist, democratic inclusive society that respects differences and believe in the strength of cultural diversity.

To make a tax-deductible donation to Close Up
please contact our Executive Director Sigal Yehuda at sigal@closeupinitiative.org