Shelley Saywell

director | producer | writer


is a producer, director and writer of documentary films.  Her films have won numerous international awards including an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.  They have been broadcast in more than 30 countries and selected to screen at film festivals worldwide.  Saywell has been honoured with the Creative Excellence Award from Women in Film and Television, and UNESCO’s Gandhi Silver Medal for promoting the culture of peace.

Saywell spent part of her childhood in Asia where she developed a lifelong passion for seeing the world and understanding it as a connected, global village. Encouraged by her professor father and social worker mother she developed a social conscience at a young age.

Her first job was as a volunteer with The American Friends Society, living and working with underprivileged youth New Bedford Mass.  At University she studied Theatre Arts as well as the Humanities.  She began her career as a researcher on the seminal television series Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War.  She went on to direct her first feature documentary The Greenpeace Years with the National Film Board of Canada.   

Saywell’s body of work include 20 independently produced documentaries on social justice and conflict.  From her film about the napalm girl in the iconic photograph, to the trafficking of small arms around the world, she has looked at the way in which conflict has shaped our times.  From Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and elsewhere, she has shone a spotlight on the fight for international justice, particularly focusing on violence against women and children.   In Rape a Crime of War, she follows victims of mass rape in Bosnia to the Hague where their brave testimony made history.   Her feature documentary A Child’s Century of War looks at how wars increasingly target children.  A Child Century of War went on to make the short list (ten feature documentaries) for the 2001 Academy Awards.

She has twice won Hot Doc’s prestigious Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award, for her films Martyr Street and In the Name of the Family,  as well as Canadian Audience Favourite for her 2015 premiere of Lowdown Tracks.   

Saywell is the author of Women in War and contributing editor to Ourselves Among Others.  She has written for various publications.