Khalifa Al-Thani is a Qatari filmmaker who is exploring his voice in the world of film, contemporary art and media, and continues to advance his skills. He has worked in films as well as curated multimedia art exhibition, the most recent one was “Outbreak”, which was part of the Ajyal Film Festival 2020. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York, majoring in Film and Video and his work emphasises the interdisciplinary exploration of Qatari identity.
Khalifa, who is part of the Film Training and Development team at the Doha Film Institute, has directed, written and produced several films, most notably "A Tale of a Song" with Al Jazeera Documentary and "The Fabricator". (Khalifa Al Thani)
Along with being a fabulous filmmaker who likes to experiments with nationalist documentaries, he is also a visual artist and has ventured into curatorial works, like "Arc" which took place during the Ajyal Film Festival and the "Triumph", in collaboration with Fatma Al-Ghanim, which was displayed at the Markhiya Gallery (Doha Fire Station) last year.
In this exclusive with Khalifa, we get to know more about the man behind the camera:
Khalifa: Probably during 2017 when we at DFI started writing up script ideas, creative ideas after the political siege. The creative community showed strength, resilience and it was reflected in our work. I did three short films within 5 months; the passion for film was at a peak.
Khalifa: The word successful is subjective. I have a long way to go. However, seeing my work be praised by the people that mean the most to me, was a turning point and pushed me to grow.
Khalifa: I’ve tapped into all genres. All of them were shorts. I have also written three feature-length films. The genres I now lean towards are period, drama and thriller.
Video credit: Qatar America Institute for Culture
Khalifa: In the last 10 years, I’ve grown an immense appreciation to independent films, mostly one’s from the MENA region, films that discuss socially neglected topics and other issues that we are familiar with. I of-course also enjoying watching Hollywood films, psychological thrillers and horrors.
Khalifa: I will start the pre-production of my short film "Border", I was supposed to film it around March of last year, but due to COVID-19, we had to postpone filming, I’m excited to jump back to production.
Khalifa: My country, its rich history, family, friends, and everyday life experiences. I can’t narrow it down to one or two. There are sources of inspiration all around.
Khalifa: I would say, favourite actors, are Anthony Hopkins, Liam Neeson, most recently John David Washington and Joaquin Phoenix. Actresses Frances McDormand, Maggie Smith, Glenn Close and recently added to the list Anya-Taylor Joy. Filmmakers Rob Marshall, Francis Ford Coppola, M.Night Shyamalan and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. I couldn’t list one.
Khalifa: I don’t like dairy.
Khalifa: Watch films, try to be active, write stories and prior to COVID-19, exploring a new country.
Khalifa: I would like it to be something that could benefit others.
Khalifa: My message to people is to be true to your work. It needs to reflect who you are.
Khalifa: Continue writing, continue working on set, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, put your work out there, and to think of how you find your voice within your work. Also, to work with other filmmakers, to learn from each other and support one another.
Khalifa: My family, co-workers and friends. I learn from the people that are the closest to me.
Khalifa: Many mistakes, especially freshman year of college, but isn’t that what school is for?
Khalifa: Transferring from Business school to Film school. It was a big leap of faith.
Khalifa: Create with passion.
Khalifa: I wouldn’t start all over again. I trust the path I’m in is right for me and where I need to be.
Khalifa: Curious. Impatient. Passionate. Determined. Adaptable.
Khalifa: That you get to work with great people who share the same passion as you do.
Khalifa: Not be afraid of hearing criticism. Go on set. Watch films. Stay true to your craft. Speak your mind.
Khalifa: Cinematography, it’s the toughest for me at least.
Khalifa: My family and friends.
Khalifa: Making friends within the industry, meeting people that are like-minded and learning from them. It’s all teamwork.
Khalifa: Food would be Korean. Travel would be New York, Greece and Japan. Hobbies I’d say drawing, watching films and travelling.
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