The Feeling of Being Watched Filmmaker Talk

Still from The Feeling of Being Watched

This 2018 MDOCS Forum keynote features Assia Boundaoui, Rabab Haj Yahya, and Shuling Yong.

The Director, Cinematographer, and Editor of the new documentary The Feeling of Being Watched, show clips from and discuss the process of making this highly personal film, which is taking the festival world by storm. In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11, code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened and takes the FBI to federal court to compel them to make the records they collected about her community public. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

About the Filmmakers

Assia Boundaoui (Director/Producer) is an Algerian-American journalist and filmmaker based in Chicago. She has reported for BBC, NPR, AlJazeera, VICE, and CNN and was the recipient of a first place Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting in Yemen. She directed a short film on hijabi hair salons for the HBO Lenny docu-series, which premiered as an official selection of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Assia has a Masters degree in journalism from New York University and is fluent in Arabic. The Feeling of Being Watched is her directorial debut.

Shuling Yong (Director of Photography) is a Singapore-born, Chicago-based documentary filmmaker with a passion for social change. She has worked on films like Radical Grace (2015, dir. Rebecca Parrish), In Time to Come (2017, dir. Tan Pin Pin), and films by the award-winning Chicago media collective Kartemquin Films such as In the Game (2015, dir. Maria Finitzo), and America to Me (2018, dir. Steve James). Shuling’s film Growing Roots (2015) premiered on the Discovery Channel. She is now directing her first feature-length documentary, Unteachable, which was selected for Good Pitch² Southeast Asia 2017 and won Best Pitch at the CNEX Chinese Documentary Film Forum 2017. Shuling is a Kartemquin Films Diverse Voices in Docs Fellow, a participating filmmaker at the BRITDOC Queer Impact Producers Lab, the DocNet Southeast Asia Strategy Workshop and the KOMAS Video For Change Forum.

Rabab Haj Yahya (Editor) is an Emmy-nominated documentary editor and a Sundance Edit and Story Lab Fellow. Her recent work includes the award-winning feature documentary Speed Sisters (HotDocs 2015), Love the Sinner (Tribeca 2017) and the web series The Secret Life of Muslims (Peabody Finalist, Vox and USA Today, 2016). Rabab has also edited numerous documentaries commissioned by the Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, including Enemies of the South (2015), which was featured in multiple prime-time slots on the network. In between projects, Rabab has dedicated a significant amount of her time helping aspiring editors and filmmakers, through training and pro-bono consultations in the Middle East, West Africa, and the Balkans. Rabab speaks English, Arabic, and Hebrew fluently and currently lives in New York.

About MDOCS Forum

This event is organized by the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS) at Skidmore College as part of its annual Storytellers’ Institute’s MDOCS Forum. This year documentary makers who explore the theme of surveil/surveilled through film, sound, interactive media, museum curation, scholarship, etc. connect with Skidmore and community members during the weekend-long event. Join an international group of storytellers to explore these questions in events including film screenings, audio experiences, dialogues, and star gazing. Visit MDCOS website for more information on all of the events taking place at various locations on Skidmore campus from June 7-10, 2018. This event is free and open to the public.

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