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Interview with Tania Safi, Reporter and Producer, SBS

28 February, 2020

Tania Safi has been a journalist at SBS Sydney since July 2019 and has specialised in documentary journalism for over a decade. She is passionate about educating and entertaining audiences through accessible and innovative video. Tania has also shared her knowledge about digital video at MadFest London; Women in Film at Riverside Sydney; as a consultant on media initiatives at the United Nations 8th Global Forum 2018; and across high schools and colleges all across the globe.


What does a day in the life of a reporter/producer in your field look like?
I’ve been producing, directing, shooting and editing journalism and documentary videos for over 10 years. From SBS to my own series on change makers in the MENA region, Shway Shway, I’ve shot across Lebanon, India, the US, Canada, Australia and more. My pre-production involves researching the history of the person or place I’m featuring, but once I’m there and with a camera in hand, anything can happen. I was most recently living in settlements across Lebanon, for example, talking to those fleeing persecution and the people/groups that try to provide sanitary products, health and education to those most vulnerable.


Tell us about your experience as a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ and media community?
Being a queer Arab woman, it’s unavoidable to have some stories to tell that I haven’t seen or heard elsewhere, which makes for great motivation as a producer-director. My first production was actually an animation that I hand drew while living in a war zone, and my identity inexplicably came through in the piece. It won first place in a UN film festival in New York. Since then I’ve produced, shot and hosted LGBTQIA+ documentaries and stories for BuzzFeed, SBS and Shway Shway, consulted world leaders at the UN headquarters, had a film premiere at Mardi Gras Film Festival, hosted talks at MadFest in London and have been featured on podcasts like Queer Arabs and GurlsTalk. I believe inclusive and accessible film and digital video help shape our world into a more understanding, represented and cohesive space.


What is one of your favourite or most important stories you’ve worked on (regarding the LGBTQIA+)?
I was recently living in Lebanon working on my series Shway Shway. I ended up producing and directing two documentaries about LGBTQIA+ life there, one that was recently in Queer Screen. One film touched on a volunteer-run space in the heart of Beirut that is open all day, every day to LGBTQIA+ people to make or exhibit their art. They also offer housing and work to trans and gender diverse people and provide legal advice to those persecuted. The other film followed two transgender best friends and their plight navigating life through Lebanon. They were equally brilliant to work on and the impact it made on the wider LGBTQIA+ Arabic community was enormous. It was the first time a lot of audiences had seen or heard about life in Lebanon in a way that didn’t feed stereotypes or focus purely on the challenges, so giving back to my community like that was a breath of fresh air for me.


What do you look for in a press release?
Honestly I get so many, it’s difficult to get through them all. Naturally I lean toward things that interest me, but I really value learning new things, too.


How can the coverage of Mardi Gras be more inclusive or progressive?
I think all coverage of anything media related should always be as accessible and progressive as possible, from captioning titles to ensuring that media is fair and honest. I think Mardi Gras has come a far way itself, but still has a lot of leg work to go to ensure their events are more inclusive of First Nation’s panellists and artists, as well as LGBTQIA+ people of colour – and naturally as the celebrations progress, then so too does the coverage.

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