Masri, Mai (1959–)

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Masri, Mai

Masri is a Palestinian filmmaker, director, and producer.


Masri was born in Jordan in 1959 to an American mother from Texas and a father from a noted Muslim Palestinian family from the West Bank city of Nablus. She developed an interest in film and photography during her high school years in Beirut, traveling to the United States to pursue her university education in 1977, where she received her bachelor's degree in film from San Francisco State University in 1981.


Masri has directed and produced several award-winning films that provide a fine-grained view of women's and children's lives in situations marked by conflict, uncertainty, and crisis, including Children of Fire (1990) and Children of Shatila (1998). During the later years of the Lebanese Civil War, Masri and her husband, Lebanese filmmaker and producer Jean Khalil Chamoun, filmed Lebanese and Palestinian civilians attempting to live and work under bombardments in Beirut and in South Lebanon, turning their copious footage of the war years into award-winning films such as Under the Rubble (1983), Wild Flowers (1987), War Generation-Beirut (1989), and Suspended Dreams (1992). All of these films show the costs of war and displacement, but also the strength of the human spirit and the importance of creative expression in the midst of large-scale destruction. In 1995 Masri directed a portrait of hanan mikha'il ashrawi for BBC television, titled A Woman of Her Time. She has also produced Hostage of Time (1994) and the feature film In the Shadows of the City (2000).

Masri currently lives in Beirut with her husband and their two daughters. She and Chamoun established Nour Productions.


Masri's films have been broadcast in the Arab world, Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America and have received ten international awards, including Best Documentary at the Institut du Monde Arabe Film Festival in Paris. Children of Shatila won Best Director and Best Camera awards at the Arab Screen Festival in London in 1998. In the City of Shadows won the Cannes Junior Award in 2000. In 2002, Frontiers of Dreams and Fears received fourteen awards including First Prize at the Arab World Academy in Paris; First Prize at the al-Isma'ilyiya International Festival in Egypt; First Prize of Women's Movies festival in Turin; and jury's special award at the Beirut Movie Festival.


While still at work, Masri will be remembered as an important Palestinian filmmaker, particularly in the realm of documentaries.


Privett, Ray. "The Four Corners of the Earth: Mai Masri on Children of Shatila." Facets Multimedia. Available from

                                       Laurie King-Irani

                        updated by Michael R. Fischbach


Name: Mai Masri

Birth: 1959, Jordan

Family: Husband: Jean Khalil Chamoun; two daughters

Nationality: Jordanian, American

Education: B.A. (film), San Francisco State University, 1981


  • 1983: Releases Under the Rubble
  • 1998: Wins Best Director and Best Camera awards at the Arab Screen Festival in London for Children of Shatila
  • 2000: In the City of Shadows wins the Cannes Junior Award
  • 2002: Frontiers of Dreams and Fears receives fourteen awards