Soraya Umewaka is of Japanese-Lebanese descent, born in Tokyo to Madeleine Abdel Jalil and Japanese Noh Theater Conductor Dr. Naohiko Umewaka. She graduated with a degree in Comparative Politics from Princeton University in the United States and has been a Noh Theater actress, working alongside her father since the age of three.
According to Soraya, a lifetime of Noh training made her highly aware and sensitive to the “nuances, symbolism and subtleties of expression found in the arts.”
Branching out from her Comparative Politics’ background, Soraya is a highly successful documentary filmmaker, with documentaries on cross-cultural and intimate personal portrayals that “highlight the resilience and dignity of the human spirit in the face of adversity.”
Her mid-length film “Street Witness” (2007) was screened around the world at the Miami International Film Festival in 2008, HBO NY Latino Film Festival in 2008, in the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival in 2008, as well as Belgrade Documentary Film Festival in 2009.
Soraya received Princeton University’s Labouisse Fellowship to complete her film “I am Happy” in 2009, which was screened in 2009 at the HBO NY Latino Film Festival, the Rio International Film Festival, the Cinema Brasil Festival, the London Latin American Film Festival, the Brasilia International Film Festival, and finally in the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival in 2010.
Her latest documentary project “Tomorrow We Will See” completed in 2012 was awarded the Jury Prize at the 2012 Deutsche Bank Creative Awards.
Shot alongside the coastal regions of Lebanon, “Tomorrow We Will See” offers a first-hand look into Lebanon’s emerging and contemporary creative culture through the eyes of ten local artists who “have overcome decades of social and political instability and the uncertainties of what tomorrow may bring.”
Of her craft, the filmmaker has said, “I am captivated by the unexpected encounters, discovering cultures through the eyes of those who live it, and the unpredictability of the unscripted story that emerges while filming.”
“Tomorrow We Will See” had its World Premiere at the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival in Washington D.C. in 2012, and has since been at the center of discussion across university courses, panels, and cultural debates around Japan and the world.