“I was just this young Arab girl from Toronto, trying to figure it all out in the world”
From her New York living room, Sara Elgamal, a director and producer, sits down to speak to us about her latest career milestone: receiving the 2023 Willie Dunn Award, one of four Special Awards handed out by the Prism Prize, an annual awards event recognizing outstanding artistry in music video production This award recognizes her excellence within the music, music video, and film production communities. We had the privilege of speaking with her about her achievements and experience in the industry.
Receiving this award came as a surprise to Sara. She vividly recalls the moment she received an email from the organizers of the Prism Prize informing her of her win. As part of the award, a tribute video was created, involving Elgamal reviewing past photos and videos of her work. This introspective experience allowed her to take a moment to reflect on her journey, stating, “It’s been forcing me to sit with everything I’ve done in the past and reflect on my life.” Being in the creative industry, she has little opportunity to sit with her work once they’re completed, describing the industry as “very go-go-go” with little time to reflect on all one has achieved. Elgamal candidly admits that she is not the best at celebrating achievements along the way, but she is striving to be more grateful and appreciative instead of constantly seeking the next big thing. This award allowed her to realize just how proud of herself she was for all she’s accomplished.
“You don’t expect people to remember you or think about you for these kinds of things.”
Along with receiving the Willie Dunn Award, Sara has the opportunity to select an emerging creative whose work will be spotlighted during the Prism Prize presentation and receive a $2,500 honorarium. This year, Elgamal has chosen director Roya Del Sol. When considering different Canadian creatives for the spotlight, Elgamal recognizes Canada’s exposure to multiculturalism as a standout factor. She believes that cities like Toronto excel in embedding multiculturalism into every aspect of growing up, remarking, “[the integration of different cultures] helps us empathize with different people and having all those cultures become part of who we are, sets us up [to be] richer with our storytelling and gives us a broad perspective that sets us apart.”
“At the core of it, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world but it’s the moments where you can tap into this side of humanity between two people that inspires me.”
In addition to her creative endeavors, Elgamal has a background in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism. Her interest in world issues and politics has been a lifelong passion. Compelled to share history and stories, she pursued political science. Although she does not currently work in journalism, Elgamal approaches her directing work through a political lens and journalistic eye. Especially when it comes to telling the stories of real people, such as the Piece of Me series she completed for the UN.
Filmed in Afar, Elgamal collaborated closely with the women of the community who’ve undergone female genetal mutilation [FGM]. Drawing inspiration from women in her own country of Egypt who’ve faced FGM, she presented the idea of a fashion campaign. Instead of focusing on the victims’ suffering, Elgamel sought to celebrate the women and showcase their strengths. “I wanted to change the way we looked at victimhood and trauma,” she says, “I wanted to celebrate the women for all they were, not what they were missing.” This video earned her a Shorty Award and a Webby Award. It was also featured in Elle Magazine and was further exhibited in UN headquarters in London, Toronto, and New York.
The Prism Prize, presented on July 6th in Toronto, highlighted Sara Elgamal and other Canadian trailblazers in the music industry. As the conversation comes to a close, Elgamel expresses her gratitude to everyone who has supported her, emphasizing the importance of community making her journey worthwhile. Currently, she is at the beginning stages of her first feature documentary set to be filmed in Egypt. More about Sara and other Prism Prize recipients can be found on their website.