Leila Sansour Palestinian film maker

An acclaimed Filmmaker


Leila has an unconventional portfolio. She is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, a regular freelancer with ITN news and is the founder and Executive director of Open Bethlehem; an organization that works to bring international commitment to the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian question using Bethlehem as a gateway into the situation.

Her latest film, Open Bethlehem, was premiered in London on the 24th of September 2014 at The Royal Geographical Society at an event hosted by Melvyn Bragg. The film is currently on national release in the UK and has been selected as the Must See Film this Week by the Guardian’s film reviewer Peter Bradshaw.

Leila was born in Moscow to a Palestinian father and a Russian mother. She grew up in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. She is the daughter of Anton Sansour, Founder and Vice President of Bethlehem University- a Catholic institution sponsored by the Vatican and the first Palestinian University to achieve international recognition.

At the age of 17, Leila left her hometown of Bethlehem to escape the restrictions of a small town. In 2004, following a 20 year absence, she returned to Bethlehem to find a town struggling for survival behind a concrete wall which Israel says is needed for its security.

For the past 10 years she has dedicated her time to running an initiative that works to bring the story of Bethlehem to global attention in an attempt to save the city, its multi faith communities and its heritage. The initiative operates with a sense of duty to the wider region recognising the urgency and importance of safeguarding the fabric of the Middle East as a diverse and open society.

Leila has travelled extensively to give talks and brief decision makers in Europe and the States. She has written numerous press articles and has given presentations at places like the British parliament, The Royal Institute of Foreign Affairs (UK), The Royal College of Defence, The Carter Centre, Amnesty International, and many universities and churches.

She is also known to international film audiences for her feature‐length documentary, Jeremy Hardy versus the Israeli Army, a tragicomic film shot with celebrated British comedian Jeremy Hardy and released in cinemas in the UK in 2003 to great critical acclaim. The film then toured the USA as part of Amnesty International’s Roaming Film Festival.

Today Leila divides her time between London and Bethlehem and continues to work to raise awareness about the threat that faces her city in the absence of a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine.

She is particularly knowledgeable about the social shifts in the region especially among the Christian community to which she belongs.

BASED IN: London, UK

LANGUAGES: English, Arabic and Russian.

Bethlehem syndrome: understanding the little town of ‘Brand Holy Land’, The Guardian, December 2014

Palestinian inhibition in the walled city of Bethlehem, Haaretz June 2012

My Hymn to Bethlehem, The Guardian December 2014