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, which they 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 donating to several film festivals in the 1990s and beyond, Hammad started judging film festivals. His first two opportunities were at Flickerfest in Bondi Beach, Australia in 1997 and 1998, a timeless experience where he and his fellow judges would dive into the ocean in between screenings. From there, Hammad went on to become a judge, world cinema screener, filmmaker advisor, panelist, screenwriting contest founder/judge, program curator, advisory board member, and or sponsor at multiple film festivals. These include, but are not limited to, Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, Nashville, Cinequest, and the UCLA Screenwriting Showcase.
Hammad also produced and wrote independent films and TV, started an international film distribution company, wrote 300+ published film-industry related articles (256 of which were published on FilmThreat) and became a member of the Producers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America along the way. But, throughout the years, Hammad always told close friends that he would someday build a film festival. Then, in 2016, he met Jonathan Nadeau, a blind technologist, when Jonathan interviewed Hammad for his “Crowdfunding Cast” podcast. he two hit it off famously, and by early 2017, they started recording Limping On Cloud 9, a podcast about Hammad’s eclectic life. Soon thereafter, Jonathan started encouraging Hammad to harness his 20+ years of film experience and build this festival, and less than one year later, The Lonely Seal Film, Screenplay and Music Festival was born.
Our second annual festival, which took place on October 11-13 at the Regent Theatre, a 103-year-old Vaudeville gem in Arlington, MA (Boston), welcomed 64 films, 77 screenplays, and four songs from 18 countries. Fifty-percent of our creators were women, and we also showcased disabled filmmakers, LBGTQIA filmmakers, and minority filmmakers. We showcase stories aching to be told.
We’re expanding to a five-day festival in 2020 (October 7-11), when we will showcase writers, present a showcase feature film, have a concert, and house a host of panels and seminars.
The Lonely Seal International Film, Screenplay and Music Festival is selecting wonderfully inspiring, humorous and thought-provoking feature films, short films, documentaries, web series, and music videos that promote positive images for disabled, women, minorities and LBGTQIA people. Of course, we are open to considering all projects, but the specifics listed above are what we’re concentrating on. We are screening our collection to a minimum of four North American cities in 2020.