Leila Sansour is the founder and CEO of Open Bethlehem. She was born in Moscow to a Palestinian father and a Russian mother and grew up in the occupied West Bank. Leila Sansour studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, at Moscow State University and at Warwick University in the UK. She holds a Masters degree in philosophy.
She began a career in films and television, first at MBC and then as an independent producer, making films for British and Arab television, including fifteen episodes of the acclaimed Encounters in Exile documentary series for Al-Jazeera. She was the recipient of The Columbine award at The Moondance Film Festival in the US in 2004 and has produced a film called Global Coverage which was screened at the Cannes Film festival by invitation from The Quinzaine Realisateurs Film Program.
Leila is best known in the UK for her feature-length documentary, Jeremy Hardy versus the Israeli Army,which was filmed in Bethlehem during the 2002 siege and received four- and five-star reviews before its national release across cinemas in the UK and its tour in the US as part of Amnesty International's Roaming Film Festival.
She made the decision to return to her home city of Bethlehem in 2004 following Israel's construction of the wall to found an organization called Open Bethlehem - an international campaign to save the city and keep it open for the world. Open Bethlehem operates with a sense of duty to the wider region seeing itself as a voice and a showcase for challenges that face Palestine. As a result, Leila’s latest film, a feature documentary The Road to Bethlehem is a personal story shot over 5 momentous years in the life of Bethlehem revealing her own journey back home as well as an intimate portrait of her city under occupation. The film received the Enjaaz award and premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival.