Our Story

Meet the Disabled Guy and the Blind Guy

This festival is run by Hammad Zaidi, a disabled filmmaker, and entrepreneur, and Jonathan Nadeau, a blind technologist. That’s right; a disabled guy and a blind guy curate this festival. Hammad became disabled from a head injury as an infant, and 24-years later, Jonathan went blind in a freakish car accident. So, Hammad and Jonathan just don’t promote inclusiveness, they live it. We cherish inclusiveness, independent voices, and stories aching to be told. That doesn’t mean we don’t like comedies. We love them and encourage all filmmakers and screenwriters to submit their funniest work. In fact, we love all genres, as long as the films are brilliantly made.

Our Misson


Our inaugural year welcomed 54 films and 22 screenplays from 15 countries. 26 of our 54 films were created by women, as were 10 of our 22 screenplays. We proudly showcased Women Filmmakers, films from the American Film Institute, LGBTQA cinema, as well as films from Zimbabwe to Australia, Canada, Cuba, and beyond.

Hammad Zaidi, Founder and Festival Director

In 1997, Hammad Zaidi began producing, and executive producing indie films under the Lonely Seal banner. In 2005, Hammad founded Lonely Seal Releasing, an international film distribution, and production company and in 2010, he created “Script Accessible,” a screenwriting contest for writers with disabilities and non-disabled writers who write about disabled lead characters. “Script Accessible” was showcased at Slamdance in conjunction with the Writers Guild of America-West. The 2010 winner, “All the Wrong Reasons,” was produced and went on to win the Discovery Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2010, Zaidi created and was the sole writer of “Going Bionic,” a film distribution and filmmaker career strategy column which was housed at FilmThreat. 256 of Hammad’s articles were published on Film Threat between 2010-2015, and now all 300+ can be seen at GoingBionic.com.In 2013, Zaidi became a partner at Industry Corporation, the Canada-based multinational video game, software, technology, and entertainment company that developed Designware.io.In 2017, Zaidi launched Limping On Cloud 9, a very successful podcast based on his life as a disabled person. In 2018, Zaidi co-founded Hourglass24, a new crowdfunding-oriented technology platform, and entertainment production and distribution company. Zaidi is also launching Lonely Seal Streaming, a home for independent cinema, in 2019. Hammad Zaidi is a member of the Producers Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, and he is certified as a buyer at many film festivals and film markets worldwide, including Cannes. Zaidi holds a Master of Fine Arts from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television’s Producers Program.

Jonathan Nadeau, CTO, and Festival Director

Jonathan Nadeau, a blind technologist, is the Chief Technology Officer of Lonely Seal Releasing, The Lonely Seal International Film, Screenplay and Music Festival, and Lonely Seal Streaming.  is also the principal of Nadeau Media, which produced open-source Linux-based conferences at Harvard. In addition, Jonathan Nadeau is the co-founder of Hourglass24, a co-host of the Limping on Cloud 9 podcast, and an executive producer on several films, television, and music-related projects in development at Lonely Seal Releasing and Hourglass24.

In the Beginning

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.

Several decades and many charitable endeavors later, including donating to multiple film festivals over 20+ years and gifting funds to his alma mater UCLA, Hammad wrote,  directed and produced “Champions of Home,” a White House endorsed, September 11th related PSA honoring those who perished on the one-year anniversary of 9/11. The public service announcement was funded by Disney and Verizon and distributed by Regal Cinemas and AEG to 5,001 theatres, television networks and major sports arenas across the United States. “Champions of Hope” triggered the largest immobilization of youth in the history of the United States, when 650,000-1,000,000 young Americans engaged in community service to honor those who died on 9/11.

Decades and many charitable endeavors later, including donating to multiple film festivals over 20+ years and gifting funds to his alma mater UCLA, Hammad wrote,  directed and produced “Champions of Home,” a White House endorsed, September 11th related PSA honoring those who perished on the one-year anniversary of 9/11. The public service announcement was funded by Disney and Verizon and distributed by Regal Cinemas and AEG to 5,001 theatres, television networks and major sports arenas across the United States. “Champions of Hope” triggered the largest immobilization of youth in the history of the United States, when 650,000-1,000,000 young Americans engaged in community service to honor those who died on 9/11.

Our Companies

Hammad is a partner at Industry Corporation, a Canada-based multinational video game, and enterprise software company that created Designware

Zaidi created Pet Divorce Court, a TV series shooting in early 2019.