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Laila Hotait

About me

My name is Laila Hotait. I’m a Lebanese-Spanish filmmaker, Fulbright scholar and audiovisual artist. In terms of my studies, I have a PhD in Audiovisual Communication, and I began my career as a correspondent for Al Jazeera Children. I’ve been a film and documentary maker for the majority of my career. My first documentary feature was called Crayons of Askalan which premiered at Hot Docs, a Canadian international documentary festival which is the largest in North America. I also made a short film called The Night between Ali and I, co-directed with Nadia Hotait, which was screened here in Madrid at La Casa Encendida! The film was awarded best experimental film at the Lebanese National Film Festival, which was a big honor.
I’m also inspired by other mediums. I’m the author of a book on Lebanese Cinema, We will always have Beirut (2020, Akal), and my artworks and performances have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. Besides that, I also love to teach. I’m currently a teacher of audiovisual production processes at IE University. A lesser-known fact about me is that I’m probably the best gluten-free almond cake maker in the universe—and I love chocolate in any shape or form.

A passion for connecting people through stories

Starting out as a filmmaker for Al Jazeera Children TV, Laila’s career has seen her take on a range of creative pursuits. She’s worked for Cinepolis as a scriptwriter; for Amnesty International as a creative director of two campaigns in 2019 and 2021; at La Rueda Creative Studio as Head of the Film Department; and now she’s set up her own production company called LAAVENTURA. At LAAVENTURA, Laila has the opportunity to produce her own projects with different kinds of support and sponsors.

Laila’s entrepreneurial endeavors don’t stop there. Today, she’s also setting up a new business called FICCIONA: a company dedicated to audiovisual development. As a joint project with her sister, she believes it will complement the work done at LAAVENTURA and, most importantly, shake up the market of story development.

As for her films, Laila is grateful to have had the support of some inspiring organizations that have helped make her ideas a reality. Her work has been backed by the Sundance Documentary Fund Program, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Cine Qua Non Lab, Berlinale Talents, the Doha Film Institute, and the CPH: LAB, the talent development program of the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival.

As a recent addition to the faculty, Laila arrived at IE University through an industry connection. She reached out to Iôna de Macêdo through LinkedIn and, inspired by her work at the university, asked her to meet for a coffee. Some time and one interview later, Iôna proposed that Laila create a course about the audiovisual production process and teach it at IE University.

So far, Laila has enjoyed her experience at IE University, noting the passion and interest of many international students. In particular, she’s been impressed by how committed they are to the course, which she has designed with her own experience in mind. Her teaching philosophy is simple: she teaches what she wishes she had been taught. If there’s something that would have benefited her learning many years ago, she incorporates it. Her hope is that it’ll help her own students get ahead.

For a lifelong lover of stories and films, Laila’s hobbies are hardly surprising. Her hobbies and passions are exactly what she does for living: storytelling. She spends her spare time getting lost in books, writing, and learning how to express herself through new mediums such as playing the piano. Laila is also someone who loves to be around family and friends, and enjoys bringing people together by preparing a meal for them. As a lover of visual expression, she is always ready to snap a photo to reflect how she feels—even when she wakes up at 7am to go to the gym!

For Laila, defining success is very personal. It depends on what fulfills us—sometimes we feel successful, and other days not at all. In her view, an important factor in achieving success is getting your priorities right, which means we must avoid measuring career and life achievements by comparing them with those of others.

In a nutshell, Laila believes the key to success is perseverance. Reflection is necessary, so we can stop to realize much we have learned and achieved along the way. Even if there is still a lot to achieve, Laila thinks we should view it as an opportunity. In her words: “You just need to go and get it!”

"It’s important to stop and realize how much you have learned and achieved along the way. If there is still a lot you need to achieve, then great—you just need to go and get it!"
Laila Hotait

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