x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

For Ajyal and Qumra, the new Doha film festivals, cooperation is the aim

The Doha Film Institute is to launch two new film festivals following the termination of the partnership with Tribeca Enterprises.

The film director and actor Elia Suleiman has been appointed the first artistic adviser to the Doha Film Institute. AFP Photo / Ebrahim Adawi
The film director and actor Elia Suleiman has been appointed the first artistic adviser to the Doha Film Institute. AFP Photo / Ebrahim Adawi

The Doha Film Institute (DFI) is to launch two new film festivals following the termination of the partnership with Tribeca Enterprises. The new film festivals will take place in March and November.

The Ajyal Film Festival for the Young is a community-based event that will bring cinema and film-related activities to Doha to promote film appreciation among families and educators. Its first edition will take place in November this year.

The DFI’s head of programmes, Fatma Al Remaihi, has been appointed the festival director of the Ajyal Film Festival for the Young.

Films from first- and second-time filmmakers are the focus of the new Qumra Film Festival, Doha. The inaugural festival will take place in March next year and will include international competition sections for feature-length and short films.

The director, actor and writer Elia Suleiman has been appointed to the post of artistic adviser.

Speaking to The National at the Cannes Film Festival, Abdulaziz Al Khater, the head of DFI, said: “We conducted the Doha Tribeca Film Festival for four years. We got to a point where we said: ‘Is the festival really meeting the DFI agenda, which is to help filmmakers in the Middle East?’ and from those discussions came the concept of making the festival about emerging filmmakers, first- and second-time filmmakers.”

The changes are not a tacit admission that the partnership with Tribeca Enterprises failed. “The Tribeca partnership was extremely successful,” said Al Khater. “They helped us establish the film festival in the first place and they were extremely supportive in the four years that they partnered at the festival and they continue to be supportive. The changes happened because we had to refocus the festival. The festival needs to have its own identity.”

Al Khater argues that the introduction of the two new film festivals will lead to more cohesiveness among the festivals in Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “Having the Qumra Film Festival in March gives us a chance to work more with the other festivals in the region. Previously, the film festivals were all in a row so at a time we are preparing for our festival they are doing the same thing and we are too busy to talk to each other.

“I am certain that these changes will result in a greater collaboration with the Abu Dhabi and Dubai film festivals.”

He added: “It makes no sense to be in competition. I think the film world has a lot of different sides to it. Dubai has a very successful market and I think that is a direct benefit to what we are doing and I don’t want to duplicate that. I want to help them make a more successful market.”

Also announced at the Cannes Film Festival were changes to the DFI’s grants programme, so that international filmmakers would be eligible for grants. Submissions from international filmmakers will be by invitation only.

Al Khater explained: “An important aspect was to remove the closed-ness that we had both in our grants programme and the festival in terms of the Arab Film Competition and the Middle East and North African grants. Now we made both those international. By making it international, it will make it a lot more interesting in terms of the experience of the grantees.”

Speaking about his appointment to the DFI, Suleiman told The National: “Initially, I went to Doha to do a workshop and I used that opportunity to pitch for my new film. I met Abdulaziz and we started to talk and exchanged ideas and there was a lot of synchronicity.

“I said what I feel would be good for the world of cinema today, and I feel passionate about the young generation of visual poets and we have to hunt for these talents and find these people without boundaries of any form and create this interesting hub to exchange ideas with each other. I think it’s a stage of my life, it gives me pleasure to see talent in young people.”

artslife@thenational.ae

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