Originally from Vermont, Tom Hayes has been making films since he was a kid, winning the Kentucky Educational Television Young Peoples Film Competition when he was 15. As a young man he worked as a deck hand, shipping out of New York on cargo ships. While seafaring started as a strategy to pay for film school, trips into third and fourth world ports became a profound formative experience. Tom received a B.G.S. degree with Emphasis in Cinema and Philosophy from Ohio University in 1977.
Since then Hayes has been running his own film production company, producing long form documentaries and providing production services on hundreds of commercial projects. His personal documentary work has, for the last two decades, focused on issues of identity.
I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian. As a full-blooded American “ethnic mutt,” I am often asked why I have spent so many years documenting the human rights situation of Palestinian people. My engagement grew out of work that I did in the Cambodian refugee camps back in the early eighties. When I finished that work, I stumbled on the granddaddy of all refugee groups, the Palestinian refugees. I wound up making a documentary titled Native Sons: Palestinians in Exile. Since then, as the situation of Palestinians both inside and outside of Palestine has deteriorated, I have been unable to look away, and have kept my shoulder to the stone, bearing witness to, and recording their plight.