The Network of Arab Alternative Screens (NAAS), also known as the Network of Arab Arthouse Screens (NAAS), was established through a series of meetings between 2007 and 2009 among programmers and directors of alternative cinema screens across the Arab region. These meetings assessed the opportunities, difficulties, and needs of the sector and put forth the idea of a network as a sustainable entity. Some common needs included facilitating the circulation of films, sharing packaged film programs, building a network for distributing Arab films, and subtitling.
To overcome the isolation that each screen faced, they banded together to create NAAS, a structure to share knowledge and expertise as well as tools for development and fundraising.
Attending the first foundational meeting, were Yto Barrada, Bouchra Khalili, Hania Mroué, Mohammed Khedr, Emad Mabrouk, Mona Mokhtar, Orwa Nyrabia, Vincent Melili, Dalia Habash, Raed Asfour, and Nacim Kheddouci.
In 2009, the New York-based arts nonprofit ArteEast officially began to incubate NAAS, providing strategic guidance, promoting the network, and assisting with professional training. Prior, ArteEast had been accompanying the network informally since its initial meeting in 2007. Its role as incubator concluded in 2017.
Initial members of the network included Metropolis Cinema (Beirut, Lebanon), Al Balad Theater (Amman, Jordan), Cinémathèque de Tanger (Tangier, Morocco), Yabous Cultural Centre (Jerusalem, Palestine), and Dox Box (Damascus, Syria).
In 2013, new members joined the network through a formal application process. These members were CineMadart (Tunis, Tunisia), Sudan Film Factory (Khartoum, Sudan), and Cimatheque (Cairo, Egypt). Zawya (Cairo, Egypt) became a member in 2015, and Wekalet Behna (Alexandria, Egypt) as well as FilmLab Palestine (Ramallah, Palestine) also joined the network the following year.
In 2016, the organization changed its name from the Network of Arab Arthouse Screens to the Network of Arab Alternative Screens, or “شبكة الشاشات العربية المستقلة” to “شبكة الشاشات العربية البديلة,” and it was officially registered as a non-profit organization in Beirut, Lebanon. It elected its first administrative board, composed of Rasha Salti, Stefanie Schulte-Strathaus, Jinane Dagher, Nayla Geagea, and Rania Rafei.
That same year, Mohammad Shawky Hassan, who had overseen the development of the organization since 2011, concluded his term as Executive Director, and Jowe Harfouche assumed leadership of NAAS.
In 2018, a new administrative board was elected and together with the steering committee assumed the role of the principal governing body of the network.