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 diverse societies and 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 new


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

Sigal Yehuda

“As human beings and artists, we have the power to resist the realities in our region by means of creative work.”

We established Close Up in a spirit of resistance – to resist the official narratives and the brutal reality forced upon so many of us in Southwest Asia & North Africa.

Censorship, political propaganda and regimes of oppression are realities in our region, where polarization is the primary force structuring our societies. Despite our rich history and shared cultural heritage, we continuously find ourselves entangled in stories that fabricate enemies out of one another.

As an Iranian Jew who was born in a country that imposes a system of apartheid against Palestinians for decades, I believe that like me, many of us in the region refuse to accept the reality we were born into and fight against official narratives to seek justice. My parents emigrated from Iran to Israel in the 1950s, they loved Iran, spoke Farsi at home, and lived as Iranians in a foreign country. They considered Iran as their homeland but were taught that their homeland was now the enemy. Defining an enemy is a tactic we all know too well. These concocted lies keep us entrenched in wars we did not want to begin and conflicts we wish to end.

We resist the violent oppression that many in our community experience and we stand in solidarity with them, including the Palestinians who are living under Israeli occupation and oppression for decades, the ethnic minorities who experience human rights violations such as the Kurdish in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria; the Bahai in Iran; the Hazara in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We stand in solidarity with Armenians and acknowledge the historically silenced genocide. We resist the brutal conflicts taking place in Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. We continue to fight for the rights of women and LGBTQ+ members in our region and demand equality and freedom for all our filmmakers who face systematic oppression and discrimination.

With that spirit of resistance, in 2019 we decided to do a significant transition and separated from Greenhouse, a past development program we were involved with. We established Close Up as an independent non-profit and non-governmental organization based in Brussels, Belgium. Close Up is founded by five individual partners and is supported by individual philanthropists and organizations in the US, Canada and Europe.

As founding partners, we believe in the power of creative independency. Our support to filmmakers from Southwest Asia & North Africa reflects our commitment to creating a community of independent thinkers and artists who challenge existing narratives and resist through the creation of their powerful documentaries. In that light, we are proud to support independent filmmakers from across our region including 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.

We continue to build a diverse, pluralist, just, and open community that celebrates the richness of our differences. We are aspiring to create an alternative home, that is not defined by borders but defined by a shared vision, a vision that connects us all to our cultural history with full passion, enthusiasm, and pride.

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

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Alex Szalat

Special Expert

Editing Consultants



Anne Fabini

Editing Consultant


Audrey Maurion

Editing Consultant



Giles Gardner

Editing Consultant



Joelle Alexis

Editing Consultant



Nadia Ben Rachid

Editing Consultant



Phil Jandaly

Editing Consultant

Guest Filmmakers



Aboozar Amini



Nicolas Philibert




Talal Derki




Jude Chehab


Maka Gogaladze - Director - Producer

Maka Gogoladze




Natalia Gagunashvili


keren bio

Keren Brickman

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.







The International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) is a Monaco based non-governmental organisation founded with the purpose of discovering and developing film talent from emerging regions, globally. IEFTA connects filmmakers to established industry professionals, engage cultural diversity and foster relationships that are; mentoring, inspiring and educational. IEFTA supports local, sustainable infrastructures, respect and protection of human rights, international labour law and environmental impact.



Goethe-Institut in Exile

In countries where the Goethe-Institut and other international cultural institutions have had to close their locations due to wars or censorship, many artists and intellectuals have lost spaces for dissent, dialogue and intercultural exchange. Goethe-Institut in Exile is a meeting place, safe space and stage for cultural professionals who can no longer work in their home country.


Additional Support by

Impact Partners
Kimelman Foundation
John Kimelman & Nancy Rose
Larry Boltansky
Sherri Wolf
Richard and Jennifer Berman
Paula and Jay Goldberg
Beth Swirnow
Joe Cutchin

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