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Beginnings

Hammad Zaidi, a disabled kid with a rail-thin left arm, useless hand a cowboy limp, watched a documentary on the clubbing of harp seals with his little sister Mona. All of the snow-white pups perished, except for one called “The Lonely Seal.” The name stuck, as did Hammad’s intent to make the world a better place. A few decades and several charitable endeavors later, from wrangling donations for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in the 1970s to several film festivals in the 1990s and beyond, Hammad started judging film festivals. Hammad’s first opportunity was Flickerfest in Bondi Beach, Australia, in 1997, a timeless experience where he and his fellow judges would dive into the ocean in between screenings. From there, he went on to become a judge, world cinema screener, filmmaker advisor, panelist, program curator, advisory board member, and or sponsor at multiple festivals including SundanceSlamdance, and SXSW. Hammad also produced and wrote independent films and TV, started an international film distribution company, wrote 300+ film-industry-related articles (256 of which published on FilmThreat), became a member of the Producers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, as well as a certified cinema buyer worldwide. Then, in 2016, Hammad met Jonathan Nadeau, a blind technologist, when Jonathan interviewed him for a podcast. Jonathan started encouraging Hammad to harness his 20+ years of film experience and build this festival. So, a few years later in 2018, The Lonely Seal Film, Screenplay, and Music Festival was born.