Documenting Change in the Middle East
In his tireless pursuit of the story, Driss Sekkat ’06 has risen from a journalism major and college intern at CNN to award-winning documentary filmmaker, for which he was presented the 2016 Ohio Wesleyan University Young Alumni Award.
Sekkat credits his professors with helping prepare him for his career in international media production. “OWU was incredible in every way. We had such a great journalism department with Professor (Trace) Regan and Professor (Jim) Underwood and Professor (Paul) Kostyu. I owe everything to them,” Sekkat says.
Sekkat created and produced four seasons of Street Pulse, an investigative documentary series, for Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN). A 2015 feature on the people who live in cemeteries in Cairo, Egypt, because they cannot afford housing won the Bronze Award at the New York Festival. The program also won the 2014 Council on International Nontheatrical Events (CINE) Special Jury Award and the 2013 CINE Golden Eagle.
“I’d say (I’m most proud of) Street Pulse because it was able to compete against huge names like HBO and Showtime. I was working with a really small team,” Sekkat says. “We were able to prove to ourselves we could do it.”
Sekkat, who is currently based in Miami, gravitates toward gritty material that puts him close to his subjects, often working internationally. “I like creating formats around human-oriented stories,” he says. “That’s my passion.”
Sekkat recently wrapped up work on Invisible Enemy, a trilogy on radicalization filmed in Morocco for MBN. His resume also includes projects about life in post-revolution Egypt, including two seasons each of the shows Rayheen Ala Feen and Our Neighborhood. “(The hardest part is) to separate yourself from your emotions,” Sekkat says about his projects. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to create that separation so it doesn’t affect your editorial judgment.”
Sekkat previously worked for ESPN to launch the first international version of SportsCenter, for CNN on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, and as head of programming development for MBN. He now works as vice president of business development for the United States, Middle East, and North Africa branch of never.no, a social media platform that helps networks engage with their audience.
While at Ohio Wesleyan, Sekkat wrote for the student newspaper, The Transcript, and ran the OWU radio station, WSLN, and television station. He also played on the varsity golf team.
Mentors, including OWU graduates Byron Pitts ’82 and the late William Headline ’54, have inspired Sekkat throughout his career. Headline was also a member of Phi Gamma Delta, the fraternity Sekkat joined at OWU. “Every time we win an award and every time we wrap up production, I think of OWU because you can’t forget where you come from,” he says.
Story by A.L. Davies ’19