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From Baghdad to The Bay is a documentary that follows the journey of an Iraqi refugee and former translator for the US military. Wrongfully accused of being a double agent, tortured by the U.S. and ostracized from his family and country, Ghazwan Alsharif struggles to rebuild his life in the United States while coming out as an openly gay man.



Erin Palmquist is an independent filmmaker in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked for Lucasfilm, Actual Films/National Geographic Explorer and PBS. She was the producer, editor, and director of photography for BDSM: It’s Not What You Think! which premiered at the San Francisco International Frameline32 Film Festival in 2008 before traveling the world.  She was the director of photography for Anthony Palombit’s film Out on the Dance Floor, also an official Frameline32 selection. Alongside From Baghdad to The Bay, she is currently director of photography on 5 Blocks, a feature length documentary chronicling the revitalization of the Central Market Street neighborhood in San Francisco, and is serving as producer and director of photography for the documentary shorts series Oakland Originals.

executive producer

Frances Reid has been producing, directing, and shooting documentary films for over 30 years. Her most recent production, with Deborah Hoffmann, was Long Night’s Journey Into Day: South Africa's search for Truth & Reconciliation. It won the Grand Jury Award for best Documentary at Sundance 2000, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 and a DGA award in 2002, and has been exhibited at festivals worldwide, including the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2000 where it won the “In the Spirit of Freedom” award.

In 1995 Frances produced and directed Skin Deep, a film exploring race relations on college campuses. It was broadcast nationally on PBS and is now in use by nearly 2,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. In 1994, she received an Academy Award nomination for her documentary short Straight From The Heart. Additional producing and directing credits include such films as the groundbreaking documentary on Lesbian mothers and child custody, In the Best Interests of the Children (1977), a Blue Ribbon Winner at the American Film Festival. Her film The Faces of AIDS (1992) won a First Place at the Black Filmmakers‚ Hall of Fame. Her cinematography credits include The Times of Harvey Milk, Visions of the Spirit, The Ride to Wounded Knee, Reno's Kids, and scores of other award-winning documentaries including Deborah Hoffmann's Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter.

Frances has traveled widely to speak and lecture with her films and on filmmaking and cinematography. She served on the Grand Jury for the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. She is also the recipient of the James Phelan Art Award in Video. Frances is one of the original members of Iris Films, founded in 1975.

consulting PRODUCER

Jack Walsh is an Emmy Award-winning producer of the documentaries And Then One Night: The Making of Dead Man Walking and Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria. Among his other producer credits are Hope along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay and Girl Trouble. A former executive producer at San Francisco public television station KQED, Jack is the recipient of numerous awards for his films among them three Golden Gate Awards from the San Francisco International Film Festival and his productions have received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Pacific Pioneer Fund, and most recently The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Feelings Are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer, was his documentary directorial debut, which premiered in the Documentary Panorama at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, 2015, and has been screening around the globe since then.


Eli Olson is an Emmy Award winning film editor with a unique storytelling ability. Her extensive experience reaches into the feature film, documentary, non-fiction broadcast, and commercial realms. Eli won an Emmy for her work on “My Flesh and Blood” for HBO Films, which also won an Emmy for Best Documentary, and the Audience Award and Best Director Prizes at Sundance Film Festival. In 2014, Eli co-directed the documentary “’Stories from Tohoku” about the courage and strength of the survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. “Tohoku” won a Jury Prize at the 2014 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and was featured on PBS.  Other 2014 editing projects include “Heaven Adores You”, a documentary on singer Elliott Smith featured at San Francisco International Film Festival, and “3 Still Standing”, a documentary about the rise and fall of three San Francisco comedians.  “Standing” was featured at the 2014 Mill Valley Film Festival. In 2015, Eli edited “The Nine”, a non fiction feature by acclaimed photographer Katy Grannan, and “Saving Eden”, a documentary by Oscar winning director Bill Couturie. Eli also edited the feature films, “And Then Came Lola,” a comedy, and “Mrs. Menendez” a feature length documentary for A&E Films. Other non-fiction television credits include “Sam Cooke: Crossing Over” for PBS’ American Masters, “Amelia Earhart” and “The Boston Strangler” for National Geographic, “True Life” for MTV,  “Sports Wives” for A&E, and “Rocket Dogs” for Animal Planet. 



Andrew Gersh is a documentary film and video editor based in Berkeley, California. His work has appeared on PBS, ABC, MSNBC, National Geographic, Discovery, Turner Broadcasting, the BBC and Channel 4, UK and in theaters worldwide. He is a Sundance Documentary Edit and Story Lab Fellow.

He began his editing career on staff at WGBH in Boston, working on many groundbreaking series for PBS, including NovaFrontline and the ten-hour WGBH/BBC co-production on the history of Rock & Roll.

His latest feature documentaries include REAL BOY, for which he was awarded the Karen Schmeer Excellence in Documentary Editing Award at the 2016 Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston 2016), and the James Lyons Editing Award For Documentary Feature at the 2016 Woodstock Film Festival, followed by national broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens.

SPARK: A Burning Man Story, premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, was an official selection to both Seattle International and Ashland Independent film festivals, and was the opening-night film of the 2013 San Francisco DocFest.

The Revolutionary Optimists was awarded the Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens, followed by ITVS Community Cinema screenings and a national theatrical release. The film was also nominated for a 2014 News and Documentary Emmy® Award.

Other recent work includes Ask Not (San Francisco International Film Festival, MoMA NY, PBS’ Independent Lens),  Daddy Don’t Go (DOC NYC, Cleveland International Film Festival, STARZ Network) and Ready, Set, Bag! (Los Angeles International Film Festival).

He continues to edit on a freelance basis throughout the San Francisco Bay area, and is also available for story consultation.


Co-Producer Neva Tassan worked for nine years as a criminal defense attorney and is passionate about giving a voice to stories that would otherwise not be heard. Neva is also the production manager of One, a feature film by East Side Sushi producer Julie Rubio, which is currently in pre-production. Neva received her BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley and JD from Golden Gate University School of Law.



 hoto Credit:  dimnikolov


Jennifer Huang has been a documentary filmmaker in the Bay Area for 14 years. She recently co-produced a four-hour documentary series, Standing on Sacred Ground, about indigenous people fighting to save their sacred sites, including locations in Papua New Guinea, Canada, Peru, Ethiopia.  At the documentary department at Lucasfilm, she wrote and produced Harlem's Black Hellfighters: Black Soldiers of World War I, and contributed to nine other films, with topics ranging from Gertrude Bell to Dracula, from Tin Pan Alley to the Congo. She has worked as a writer, field producer and associate producer on productions for PBS, the Travel Channel, HGTV, TNT and AZN TV, and she co-founded Hyphen, an Asian American news and culture magazine. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Social Welfare and Ethnography through Cinema. 



William Ryan Fritch is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has scored and contributed music to numerous award winning documentary and narrative films; including recently the 2016 Academy Award nominated documentary "4.1 Miles." His music has been featured in films, shows and miniseries for Netflix, HBO, Amazon, AMC, CBS, IFC, Showtime, Discovery, and PBS as well as for numerous dance and theatre productions, art installations and in national ad campaigns and PSA's. In addition to his commissioned multimedia work, he has an active recording career, releasing more than 30 albums of his unique amalgam of Folk, Contemporary Classical, and Experimental music. His distinct, organic sound is the product of his diverse talents as an instrumentalist and recording engineer, we he utilizes a vast and varied arsenal of live, acoustic instrumentation  to fully realize his compositions and scores as a solo endeavor.



sound mixer

Raised in Palo Alto, CA and educated at UC Santa Cruz and SF State University, Dan Olmsted joined the staff of Berkeley's Saul Zaentz Film Center in 1987, and spent 15 years working there as a sound editor and re-recording mixer. The Zaentz company produced such well-known films as 'Amadeus' and 'The English Patient', and also provided sound design for many other documentary and feature films.

Now working at Berkeley Sound Artists, Olmsted continues to design and mix sound for a wide variety of films. When he's not teaching or mixing films, he plays guitar in the local bands, Loretta Lynch and Mushroom.

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motion graphics designer

Joe Brody is a PromaxBDA and Emmy Award-winning Motion Graphic Designer. Originally from New York, he graduated with a BFA from Alfred University and now resides in the Bay Area where he enjoys spending time outdoors as much as possible.  He won the Emmy for the live broadcast of San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade on KTVU for Art Direction and Motion Graphics. He currently works at Pac-12 Networks as the Senior Motion Designer and works on graphics for live sporting events including image campaigns and support for the network's studio shows.


Scott Schwerdtfeger is the director of photography, editor and post-production manager at Little Thunder Films. He has served as an Assistant Editor on the short documentary Halmoni. He is also a freelance videographer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Scott graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Technocultural Studies & Film Studies in 2013.


Associate producer

Kat Cole is a Bay Area artist working within independent film and contemporary dancetheater as a director and producer. She holds an MFA in Film from California College of the Arts and was a fellow with the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar.

Recent film projects include producing short films directed by Chris Mason Johnson (TEST) and by Dana Genshaft, and line producing for the San Francisco Dance Film Festival's Co-Laboratory Program. 

She co-founded and co-directs the IZZIE-nominated detour dance as well as the annual Tiny Dance Film Festival.  detour dance's short films have been screened across the globe, receiving 1st place in the SF Weekly's Masterminds Competition and a 1st place Audience Award in the Barbary Coast Film Festival.  detour has been the recipient of grants from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Horizons Foundation, Phyllis C. Wattis Fund, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Zellerbach Family Foundation and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

CONSULTANT / advisor

Erica Marcus has been working on documentary and narrative films for more than twenty years. She began her film career working in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.  Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she assisted the Cannes award winning filmmaker Hu Jin Quan (胡金铨 or King Hu).  In the mid-nineties, Erica was based in China where she produced and directed Behind the Scenes (电影与电影人), a popular weekly prime time program on international film and film festivals.  Her documentary films include My Home, My Prison, which premiered at Sundance in the Documentary Competition and the ITVS funded film, Alive in Limbo about Palestinian refugee youth in Lebanon. Erica is currently co-directing with Christiane Badgley, the NEH Bridging Cultures funded documentary Guangzhou Dream Factory about the African community in Guangzhou, China


Do to the sensitive nature of this film, most of our community advisors must still remain anonymous.

 English Translation:  Homosexuality is not a choice. Stop Hate. May 17th the international day against homophobia.

English Translation: Homosexuality is not a choice. Stop Hate. May 17th the international day against homophobia.

Maisaa Al-Hatemi is a writer and an activist for human rights and sexual minorities. Originally from United Arab Emirates, she moved to United States in 2012 in search of freedom and to be the person she is without fear. Maisaa has published two books in Arabic: The Other Voice a collection of short stories that reflect on the mysteries of women and their dark hidden-side, and Women in Chrysanthemums Color a novel that talks about women’s lives in Middle East and how to overcome the obstacles they are facing. Currently, she is working on a collection of short stories in English called Under Niqab. She is also writing for Aswat Magazine about sexual minorities in the Arab world.

Maisaa works for Immigration Firm helping other Arab asylees who have also fled their home countries because of fear and persecution.

Maisaa’s YouTube channel "Mais in the United States" tells her life story and explores controversial topics that concern Arab LGBT people in Middle East and abroad. She is also interested in media and advertising and is always interested in participating on any project that helps to ease the LGBT struggles in the Middle East.

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Niam Itani is a Lebanese filmmaker with more than 15 years of production experience. Niam worked for 5 years at Al Jazeera as a programs producer before moving to independent film production. Her short film “Super.Full.” screened at the prestigious Venice Film Festival in Italy in 2012. Itani’s feature documentary film “Twice Upon a Time” won Best Documentary Award at the Lebanese Film Festival in 2016. Itani has an MFA in Screenwriting from Hollins University in Virginia (USA) and a BA in Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut. She produces under the banner of her company, placeless films.


Dr Samar Habib is an expert of international standing on gender and sexuality in the Arab world and Islam. She is the author and editor of several seminal books, including Female Homosexuality in the Middle East and Islam and Homosexuality. She is also a novelist. Her latest novel, The Greatest Story Ever Written,  about Arab lesbians and the lives they lead, is currently looking for the right agent. Go to to learn more about her work. 

Read about how this film got its start in our blog post "Heck Yeah and I've got a Story to Tell!"