Safa and reporter Ghaith Abdul Ahad posed as a Yemeni husband and wife to reach an Al Qaeda contact who would allow them access to Al Qaeda-controlled territory in southern Yemen.
They visited several towns being run under Sharia law by Al Qaeda. The tension in the towns is mirrored by the tension surrounding their visit. Every piece of filming is closely controlled.
In the town of Ja'ar, Safa and Ghaith were blind-folded and had to hand over their mobile phones before being allowed to film a group of detained government soldiers. The issues raised in the film - particularly the radicalizing effect of drone attacks - received wide-spread coverage after it was shown in the United States
The judges described the film as a brave and important piece of journalism which helped explain the rise of Al Qaeda in Yemen.
One said: "It challenges stereo-types and shows a completely new side of Al Qaeda. They were governing a city. That's not normally how we think of them. Small sequences of filming like the fluttering black Al Qaeda flag and the shops emptying as everyone goes to the mosque build to form a compelling narrative. It is fantastic story-telling."
Safa Al-Ahmad is a Saudi freelance journalist based in the Middle East. She has worked both for print and TV for major channels in the region. Her first job was as a news producer for Al Jazeera Arabic in the Washington DC bureau in 2000 where she witnessed Ehud Barak shoving Yasser Arafat through the door at Camp David and from then on was a news junkie. With the start of the second intifada she travelled to Palestine, then on to Lebanon, Bahrain, Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya among others. She witnessed most of the revolutions in the Arab world. 'Al Qaeda in Yemen' is her first self-shot film.