Jess Kelly

Documentary Filmmaker & Journalist

Jess is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist who has dedicated much of her career to making investigative documentaries in the Middle East.

In 2021 Jess received a BAFTA nomination in the Emerging Talent: Factual category for her two most recent BBC Arabic documentaries, “The Schools That Chain Boys” and “Silicon Valley’s Online Slave Market.”

“The Schools That Chain Boys” (2020) investigates child abuse in Sudan’s Islamic schools. The film won a Royal Television Society Award and an Amnesty award, was nominated for a Peabody Award and was shortlisted for a Grierson award. The film’s reporter, Fateh Al Rahman Al-Hamdani, also won the One World Media New Voice Award.

Jess’s 2019 film, Silicon Valley’s Online Slave Market, is an undercover investigation into the illegal trade of domestic workers via apps, such as Facebook and Instagram, and follows the story of a 16-year-old girl from Guinea whom the team found being sold into slavery in Kuwait. The film has been watched by over 5 million people. It was screened at the United Nations and in British Parliament and was nominated for a Broadcast Award.

Jess is the director of “Palestine Underground” (2018), an immersive music documentary following an underground network of DJs and producers in Ramallah, Jaffa and Haifa, battling apartheid and occupation. Commissioned by the music broadcasting platform Boiler Room, it was screened in festi-vals and club events around the world.

Jess has made several documentaries for BBC Three, including “Inside the Real Saudi Arabia: Why I Had to Leave” and “Stacey Dooley: Migrant Kids in Crisis.” Jess has directed four documentaries for Channel 4’s critically acclaimed current affairs series Unreported World, exploring topics as diverse as the resurgence of the Orthodox Church in Russia and environmental disaster in Borneo. Jess also directed four episodes of Viceland’s flagship series “States of Undress.”

Jess graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies. She has been a guest lecturer at University College London’s documentary master’s program and is a mentor for the One World Media Fellowship.

She is currently working on her first feature documentary, which deals with Islamic extremism and coming-of-age in Raqqa, Syria.

Languages Spoken:

French, Arabic, English

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