ZAHRA PICTURES is an independent motion picture company based in Southern California. It launched in 2004 with the aim of producing and distributing quality films and documentaries that celebrate cultural diversity, contribute to public dialogue and provide a platform of understanding among different cultures with a special interest in stories that showcase the Arab and Muslim experience.
Zahra Pictures' first film, On Common Grounds, produced and directed by Ahmad Zahra and broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, demonstrates this commitment to dialogue and understanding. Zahra Pictures' mission is also illustrated in its other productions including its deal with Faith & Values Media, a New York based broadcaster, to produce segments for their award winning daily show, New Morning, that airs on the Hallmark Channel and features stories of ordinary people with extra-ordinary life experiences.
Another goal of the company is to support new and emerging talent in front of, and behind the camera through diverse casting, short film productions, internships and training opportunities. In 2005, Zahra Pictures joined award winning actor Tony Shalhoub and the Network of Arab American Professionals (NAAP) to co-sponsor the 1st Arab-American Filmmaker Competition. In 2006, it made possible a film grant to Cal State University, Fullerton to produce the schools first 35mm student film, Beyond the Fence, directed by emerging Saudi filmmaker, Fahmi F. Farahat.
Zahra Pictures was founded and is headed by Producer Ahmad Zahra and is co-owned by Colorado based investment firm the Dana Group. The company currently has many projects in various stages including AmericanEast, a feature film co-production with veteran film company Distant Horizon, starring Golden Globe Winning Actor, Tony Shalhoub.
Our logo, the Hand, is a symbol that has been used since the dawn of civilization in many cultures throughout history. It is most prevalent today in Islamic societies where it is known as the "Khamsa" from the Arabic word for "five", referring to the digits of the hand, or as commonly known in Western societies, the Hand of Fatima. It is widely used throughout the Islamic world, mostly in the Middle East, Iran, Turkey and North Africa.
The Hand serves as an ancient talismanic way of averting the evil eye, bringing good luck or more generally, providing a "protecting hand" or "Hand of God". It appears in various stylized designs and often used in amulets, charms, jewelry, door entrances, cars, and other places. The design in some examples merges into another called the eye-in-hand motif. In those instances, a realistic or stylized eye appears in the center of the palm of the hand often blue in color. The eye is sometimes replaced with a gemstone, most commonly, Turquoise.
Although, it is not a symbol that is condoned by the religion of Islam, but rather a cultural fixture, however, tradition in Islamic cultures associates the symbol with Fatima Zahra, daughter of the prophet Muhammad, while some have even linked it to the “ Five Pillars” of Islam, the core principles of the Islamic faith.
While the “Khamsa” has been mainly linked to Islamic societies, the origin of the Hand symbol actually predates Islam and can also be found in other older cultures and traditions. It has been used in ancient Punic (Phoenician) and early Egyptian cultures and still exists in Hindu (Humsa), Catholic (Mano Ponderosa) and Native American traditions. In the Jewish culture especially, the same symbol, though with a slightly different design, is commonly known as "hamsa" or "chamsa", also meaning “five”, and in Jewish lore it is known as the Hand of Miriam, in reference to the sister of Moses and Aaron. Some also link the symbol to the five books of Torah.
In recent years some activists for Middle East peace have chosen to wear the Hand as a symbol of the similarities of origins and tradition between the Islamic and Jewish faiths. We chose to adopt a variation of this ancient symbol in our logo to represent our mission statement of celebrating cultural diversity through film.
The name ZAHRA, an Arabic word, pronounced (Zahra'a) with an emphasis on the end, means illuminated or shining bright. It was a title given to Fatima Zahra (also associated with the Hand symbol), daughter of the prophet Muhammad, who is highly regarded by Muslims. They call her Al-Zahra, “the Lady of Light”. ZAHRA is also the family name of company founder and producer Ahmad Zahra.
Ahmad Zahra was born in Damascus, Syria and raised in both Syria and the UK. After acquiring a Medical Degree from Damascus University, Ahmad went on to study Film, his first passion, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His film experience ranges from development and production to distribution in both independent and studio pictures. After several years with 20th Century Fox, Ahmad went on to found Zahra Pictures in response to a need in the film market for media that can bridge the gap between different cultures.