With film credits in Istanbul, California, New York and Iran on his resume, what was tempting enough to bring decorated director and actor, Bandar Albuliwi, to the Jacksonville area?
Albuliwi's route to Northeast Florida began with a change from acting to directing — a result of being typecast as a terrorist too often. The New York native was displeased with the singular direction of his acting career, and, after a falling out with his agent, turned exclusively to directing. This choice soon became the catalyst for reshaping Albuliwi's professional life, which eventually included a teaching job at Rutgers University. This unanticipated opportunity opened the door to sharing his directorial philosophies with students.
So when Jacksonville University made the offer earlier this month, the timing was perfect because Albuliwi was looking for a place free of distractions and with a slower pace of life. The Sunshine State was not only a great opportunity, but also a nice escape from the heartbreaks in New York City.
At JU, Albuliwi plans on molding young minds in the new film department. But not in the traditional textbook manner. Hollywood stereotypes aren’t his style and infusing originality and spreading the idea of being open-minded are on his agenda. Directing and producing nontraditional films with mixed races that connect cultures are a key part of his vision.
“I want them to go out there, make their own movie, make their own mistakes, and learn from that," Albuliwi said of his students. "I want them to have more of a production-based environment than a classroom setting.”
Being one of the youngest people accepted into the prestigious American Film Institute, Albuliwi got his Master of Fine Arts in Film Directing and met his righthand man, Faruk Ozerten. Ozerten and Albuliwi went on to create "Peace After Marriage," which won the Creative Promise Award at the Tribeca Film Festival in lower Manhattan, and "Azad," which is currently showing in European festivals.
Albuliwi, who also earned earned a theater degree from University of Albany, believes in "pushing boundaries" and using those experiences to influence students in new places like Jacksonville.
“Bill [Hill, JU’s Dean of the College of Fine Arts] has such a unique vision of the program," Albuliwi said. "Jacksonville is an amazing university and the film program is really going to thrive.”
As for Albuliwi's longer-term plans, he only knows he won't return to acting. instead, he'll pursue directing films inspired by ideas he finds "around any corner" and and living life "one day at a time."