The Survivor Lens: Reframing Trauma Narratives through Filmmaking

  • Rubbish Wish by Mania Akbari.5

    How Dare You Have Such a Rubbish Wish, Mania Akbari 

  • #BlackBoyJoyGone - Karrell & Ouro-Gnao

    #BlackBoyJoyGone, Ashley Karrell & Isaac Ouro-Gnao

  • Anti Zweena - Laura E Fischer

    Anti Zweena, Laura E. Fischer

  • Her+Plot+of+Blue+Sky00033

    Her Plot of Blue Sky, Kamila Kuc

  • I Don

    I don’t Know Your Name, Julian Triandafyllou

  • Leaving Syria - Julie-Yara Atz

    Leaving Syria: Long Live the Youth, Julie-Yara Atz

Past Event

This event was on 25 February | 11:30am - 6pm

Access Information

The Survivor Lens: Reframing Trauma Narratives through Filmmaking

25 February | 11:30am – 6pm | £5

The event is currently sold out. If you would like to join the waiting list for possible returns, please email

A day of screenings, conversation, and reflection on the role of artists’ films in reframing trauma narratives. Survivor artists and activists explore, question, challenge, and reimagine trauma – both individual and collective – and create a space for a new discourse to emerge. 

The programme includes work from Julie-Yara Atz, Laura E. Fischer, Andrea Luka Zimmerman alongside shorts by Ashley Karrell & Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Julian Triandafyllou and special previews of new films by Mania Akbari and Kamila Kuc.

Read the full programme schedule here.

Curated by Laura E. Fischer (Traumascapes) with Andrea Luka Zimmerman.

Facilitated by Julie-Yara Atz, Sullivan Holderbach, and Jessa Benson Thorpe from Traumascapes. 



Traumascapes is a survivor-led organisation dedicated to changing the ecosystem of trauma and creating new horizons for survivors through art and science. Our work is bold, disruptive, and caring. Key focuses include rewriting the sociocultural narrative of trauma on survivors’ own terms and developing creative embodied approaches to healing. 


Andrea Luka Zimmerman

Andrea Luka Zimmerman is a Jarman Award winning artist, filmmaker and cultural activist whose multi layered practice calls for a profound re-imagining of the relationship between people, place and ecology.

Films include the Artangel-produced ‘Here for Life’ (2019), which received its world premiere in the Cineasti Del Presente international competition of the Locarno Film Festival (winning a Special Mention), ‘Erase and Forget’ (2017), premiering at the Berlin Film Festival (nominated for the Original Documentary Award), ‘Estate, a Reverie’ (2015) (nominated for Best Newcomer at the Grierson awards) and ‘Taskafa, Stories of the Street’ (2013), written and voiced by the late John Berger.

Selected exhibitions include ‘Art Class’ at METAL and LUX, ‘Shelter in Place’ at Estuary Festival, ‘Civil Rites’, the London Open, Whitechapel Gallery, ‘Common Ground’ at Spike Island, Bristol and ‘Real Estates’ at Peer Gallery.

Andrea’s long essay Don’t play with that girl, on filmmaking as social practice is in the anthology Strangers Within (Prototype). Andrea’s new artists film Wayfaring Stranger is forthcoming late 2023.

Laura E. Fischer

Laura E. Fischer is an award-winning artist, survivor activist, researcher in psychology, lecturer, and the founder & CEO of Traumascapes, a survivor-led organisation dedicated to addressing trauma through art and science. Her art practice focuses on the reclaiming and rewriting of the sociocultural narrative of trauma on survivors’ own terms; her research explores new creative and embodied approaches to healing; and her lectures look at the neurobiology of trauma, body-based interventions, trauma-informed practice, survivor research, creative health, and art as activism. Laura has exhibited, screened, and performed widely, including at the V&A, Royal Albert Hall, and BFI, and her work is held in the Central Saint Martins Museum Collection. She has published articles and book chapters, and presented internationally, including keynotes and TEDx. Laura is a Visiting Lecturer at UCL and QMUL, an Honorary Research Associate of King’s College London and UCL, and she serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of The Lancet Psychiatry.

Sullivan Holderbach 

Sullivan is a trauma survivor, artist, and researcher at Traumascapes focused on the development and facilitation of survivor-led, arts-facilitated, healing practices. His research aims to utilize creative practices as means to encourage and sustain health by renegotiating personal relationships and understandings of trauma. He completed his BA degree in Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham and his MASc degree in Creative Health at University College London. His practice is informed by his multi-nationality as well as his experiences working as a stagehand, performer, costume/set designer and stage manager in both the Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

Julie-Yara Atz 

Julie-Yara Atz is a Syrian-Swiss hybrid who trained filmmaking at HEAD in Geneva and acting at GFCA in London. Her work often tackles trauma, war and identity. She played the recurring part of Salma Nassan in Shetland VI, as well as Wahida in the Trier production of “Birds of a Kind”. Her film “Leaving Syria: long live the youth” premiered at Telluride in 2017 and she is currently developing her first feature film. She spends a lot of time in alternative worlds, with the great company of cats, ghosts and all sorts of monsters. 

Jessa Benson Thorpe 

Jessa is a coordinator and artist at Traumascapes. She also does set design and gardening. She has a BASc in Arts and Sciences from UCL and she is interested in applying arts-based methods to building community and developing understandings of complex issues. Projects she has worked on include plaster casting bodies to centre discussions on menstruation and making clay stamps to cultivate an understanding of ADHD in women and gender-diverse people. Jessa is keen to explore approaches to healing that are simultaneously trauma-focused and positive. 

Ashley Karrell 

Ashley Karrell is an award-winning director, photographer, film and theatre-maker with a career spanning 20 years. He has produced a broad spectrum of work that includes visual art, commercial and experimental video productions and mass participation pieces across and outside of the UK. Ashley graduated from the Northern Film School in 2005 and is now the director of the production company Panoptical and Expression Of You CIC, where he delivers large and small-scale productions at public exhibitions, events and festivals, and pursues work, which explores ideas of community, is socially engaging, and internationally-minded. His name is well known for the film and documentary of Geraldine Connor’s epic masterpiece Carnival Messiah, which debuted at the Leeds International Film Festival 2017. Its West Indies premier was at the Film Festival in Trinidad in September 2018, where it won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary. 2022-2023 Marks a new journey of creativity with Ashley creating four short films, expanding on his living art project Expression Of You and developing his feature film trilogy. 

Isaac Ouro-Gnao 

Isaac Ouro-Gnao is a Togolese-British dance and writing-based multidisciplinary artist, and freelance journalist. He creates empathetic and thought-provoking work rooted in magical realism and Africanfuturism with a focus on themes of childhood, trauma, memory, and mental health. His work has appeared in the forms of theatre, film, feature articles, essays, reviews, and poetry for renowned organisations and publications such as the BFI Doc Society, Mind, The Stage, The Lancet Psychiatry, Sadler’s Wells, and Vocab Dance Company. Isaac is a member of Body Politic’s board of directors and is a mental health advocate through Mind charity’s Young Black Men steering group. 

Julian Triandafyllou 

Julian Triandafyllou is an artist-filmmaker making creative documentary, video installation and incorporates self-reflexive writing in his work. Influenced by academic research and psychology he explores the complexity of the memory experience through a cinematic, non-linear time, working with themes as broad as trauma, sexuality, ageing and the creative process.  

Kamila Kuc 

Set within the realm of social choreography, Kamila Kuc’s work considers complex ways to relate to one another through embodied, trust-building practices that defy the traditional notion of authorship and collaboration. Kamila is a 2021 Jarman Award and IWC Schaffhausen/BFI Filmmaker Bursary Award nominee. Her first feature film, What We Shared (2021), premiered at the 65th BFI London Film Festival and was described as one of ‘the finest examples of UK filmmaking’ by Festival Scope. She is the Founder and Director of Dark Spring Studio, a London-based production company dedicated to the creation and distribution of artist moving image works that are committed to social change. 

Mania Akbari 

Mania Akbari is an Iranian filmmaker and artist, whose works explore women’s rights, marriage, sexual identity, disease, embodiment, body and trauma, body image and the body politic. In contrast to the long tradition of melodrama in Iranian cinema, her style is rooted in the visual arts and autobiography. Because of the taboo themes openly discussed in her films and her opposition to censorship, she is considered one of the most controversial filmmakers in Iran. Her provocative, revolutionary and radical films were recently the subject of retrospectives at the BFI, London (2013), the DFI, Denmark (2014), Oldenburg International Film Festival, Germany (2014), Cyprus Film Festival (2014) and Nottingham Contemporary UK (2018). Her films have been screened at festivals around the world. They have received numerous awards including the German Independence Honorary Award, Oldenberg (2014), Best Film, Digital Section, Venice Film Festival (2004), Nantes Special Public Award Best Film (2007) and Best Director and Best Film at Kerala Film Festival (2007), Best Film and Best Actress, Barcelona Film Festival (2007). Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in ‘Life May Be’ (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins. This film was released at Karlovy Vary Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2014) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (2014). Akbari’s latest film ‘A Moon For My Father, made in collaboration with British artist Douglas White, premiered at CPH: DOX where it won the NEW: VISION Award 2019. The film also received a FIPRESCI International Critics Award at the Flying Broom Festival, Ankara. In 2021 she made  DEAR ELNAZ a documentary in memory of PS752 that screened at HotDocs, IDFA, DOXA, and the Sheffield Film Festival. In 2022 she made the film How Dare You Have Such a Rubbish Wish and screened at IDFA. 

Khaldoon Ahmed 

Khaldoon Ahmed is a consultant psychiatrist and creative non-fiction filmmaker. He was born in London to a Pakistani family. He did his medical training at University College London where he also completed a masters degree in social anthropology. He was a trustee for the Mental Fight Club involved in the foundation of  the Dragon Cafe and ReCreate Psychiatry programme. He currently works in East London Foundation trust. As a film-maker, his short films have screened in festivals around the world from the Berlinale to Sheffield Doc/Fest, and he has recently completed an experimental film about madness and architecture called ‘John Meyer Ward’. He writes, and has taken creative writing courses at Under the Volcano, in Tepoztlán, Mexico.