Doha Film Institute concludes ‘Focus on Qatar 2016’ with insightful discussions & screening of documentaries by Qatari talents

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Mega Cervantes

Doha Film Institute concluded the second edition of ‘Focus on Qatar’ that was held from October 5 to 7 at the Museum of Islamic Art, which celebrated local filmmaking talent on the art of documentary. The special showcase of documentaries put the spotlight on homegrown talents that have contributed to the growth of film culture in Qatar.

The final day of the program was dedicated to the industry with two panel discussions. The first panel on ‘The State of Documentary in the Gulf’ included panelists Nujoom Alghanem, Emirati poet, scriptwriter and director; Jamel Dallali from Al Jazeera Documentary Channel; filmmaker Hafiz Ali Abdulla and DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi.

The panelists explored the current state of documentary filmmaking in the Gulf region. Fatma Al Remaihi described the role of DFI in supporting local filmmaking through year-round activities and training programs, in addition to extending financing support through the Qatari Film Fund that is dedicated to Qataris and through DFI’s Grants that is open to filmmakers from across the world. She also highlighted the Institute’s annual film events of Ajyal and Qumra, that provides local filmmakers with a platform to showcase their projects in addition to opportunities at international film festivals.

Jamel Dallali stressed on the importance of increased collaborations between creative organisations to support films from the region, so “we talk about our own stories rather than staying as consumers all the time.” He said that Al-Jazeera Documentary extends support to all documentaries not just for reporting or news based documentaries.

Talking about the challenges, Nujoom Alghanem said the domination of the television industry in documentary filmmaking makes them lose their creative and aesthetic style while concentrating on reporting. “Besides, some social traditions pose challenges for the filmmakers and the discontinuation of some regional funding opportunities was also a concern to achieve sustainable growth.”

Hafiz Ali Ali said that “financing is one of the main challenges for filmmakers.” On his experience in documentary filmmaking, Ali said that he started documentary filmmaking relying on his own sources then on any government entities. He urged for more support from the relevant ministries and government entities, to build on the existing base to create a sustainable film industry.

The second discussion on ‘Next Generation of Documentary Filmmakers’ was an open forum for local talents Hamida Issa and Rawda Al-Thani, to discuss their experiences throughout the filmmaking process including writing, directing and editing their films. The filmmakers showcased trailers of their works in progress and talked about their filmmaking journey, from inspiration and ideas to execution – highlighting their approach to the craft and the challenges they face.

‘Focus on Qatar’ 2016 started on 5th October with the screenings of documentaries by local filmmakers including: Bader (Qatar, USA, Syria/2012) directed by Sara Al-Saadi, Maaria Assami and Latifa Al-Darwish; The Palm Tree (Qatar/2015) by Jassim Al-Rumaihi, which won the ‘Made in Qatar’ award for best documentary at Ajyal Youth Film Festival 2015; Inside Out (Qatar/2015) by Fahad Al-Obaidly and Salwa Al Khalifa; To My Mother (Qatar/2015) by Amina Ahmed Al Bloshi; The Notebook (Qatar/2015) by Amna Al-Binali; and Mubarak Al Malik (Qatar/2016) by Aisha R. Al Muhannadi.

Celebrating the contribution of the team at Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel in driving the documentary landscape in the region, ‘Focus on Qatar’ had a special ‘Al-Jazeera Documentary Network Showcase.’ It presented a special screening of the acclaimed feature documentary, Cities of Anxiety by Mohamed Hashem, which examines the intrinsic role cities play in defining the soul of its inhabitants in times of change and uncertainty, focusing on key cities of Beirut, Baghdad and Cairo.