The Sophisticated Storyteller: Indie Filmmmaker Zenofar Fathima Talks Redefining Storytelling With Style And Class

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A fine blend of both glam and activism, Zenofar Fathima, UAE based filmmaker, movie producer and actress is an up and coming name on the film and TV circuit. The CEO of her own boutique film production company Zen Film Productions, Fathima is a renowned ‘activist filmmaker’- a term that had little to no currency prior to her inception into the industry. “With every piece of art I create, the first and most important thing I like to ask myself is, can this help someone, or resonate with somebody?” explains Fathima. 

Dazzling audiences with her own powerhouse performances on screen as well as her knack for storytelling behind the camera, Fathima is now working on her first large-scale OTT TV show Specter: Black Out, a project in which she directs and stars in. 

Although championing causes close to her heart since the very beginning, Fathima was not always doing so through the medium of film. “I started my journey as a storyteller during my tenure as a news journalist for a local Dubai channel years ago. That is where I found myself gravitating towards stories that could help people in more ways than one, and it made me feel good to be able to help someone through the news stories that I came up with.” said Fathima. 

The UAE Golden Visa recipient first dived into the waters of independent content creation with her star studded TV show Food Addict, the first TV show in the Middle East to focus entirely on Pan-Asian cuisine and its unique tapestry of flavors. The show featured Bollywood stars Madhavan and Rahul Dev alongside Fathima as the creator and anchor, and had premiered on Zee Middle East back in 2016. “It was an amazing experience alongside such immense talents, and was one of the first experiences that got me fascinated by the ins and outs of content production. It was always onwards and upwards from there,” explains the movie producer.

In 2018, Zen Film Productions, Fathima’s UAE based boutique film production company, was conceived. Leveraging off her knack for meshing the visual word with a social message, Fathima went on to produce and direct several commercial projects as well as over twenty short films that tackled multiple social issues, from cyber extortion and domestic violence to Internet safety for kids. Her notable works, including ‘The Peril’ and ‘A Dark Tale’ have garnered critical acclaim for their gritty portrayal of societal challenges, with her COVID-19 short film trilogy also earning international acclaim. 

With Zenofar’s storytelling abilities proving themselves to be a powerful tool for initiating positive change in society, it is also her talent and dedication to the craft that has attracted the attention of both audiences and prominent figures of the industry. In 2022, Fathima collaborated with the legendary musician A.R. Rahman’s Expo City based studio Firdaus Studio by A.R. Rahman, producing and directing the meta-spiritual short film ‘Ayah’. The project, which achieved international recognition during its international film festival circuit, bagged Best Short Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, among other accolades. Directed and conceptualized by Zenofar Fathima herself, ‘Ayah’ explores themes of spirituality, faith, miracles, and hope during the hardships in life, and will soon be available for public viewing. 

Now scaling to new heights in 2023, Fathima has now ventured into the world of streaming services, with her producing her first OTT series, a psychological thriller series titled ‘Specter: Black Out’. The series, which also happens to be the world’s first ever fictional escape room TV series, initially originated from a short social media film that gained unprecedented popularity online. ‘Specter’ sees viewers venture on a gripping journey into the mysterious world of an escape room, blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural. The thriller series’ first episode is currently available to stream on OTT platform Starzplay Arabia, and was met with positive reception from audiences, with film critics even likening the series to James Wan’s Saw (2004). “Specter and the production value it holds as a concept is uncharted territory that I’m excited to explore as an artist, I’m as excited to see where it goes as my audiences are,” teased Fathima. The remainder of the show is expected to be released in early 2024 on Starzplay.  There are also talks of Specter exploring the gaming universe, with an app in talks to be launched in line with the Specter saga narrative. Also in the works is Fathima’s all new talk show, which will see her address an array of delicate topics relevant to multiple industries and individuals. Aptly titled Breaking the Ice, the show will see Fathima debate on taboo topics with guest speakers ranging from celebrities to socialites and more. The series is set to be aired on a to be disclosed OTT platform.  

Zenofar Fathima’s impact goes beyond traditional media, as evidenced by her series “Specter: Black Out” teaser being showcased on Times Square billboards in New York. She has also been honored with the Most Influential Women Award for her remarkable contributions to cinema. Her influence extends globally, allowing her to create a lasting impact. As a notable figure in the UAE film industry, Fathima is considered a trailblazer and someone to keep an eye on.

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