A vibrant roster of films supported by the Doha Film Institute has gained international acclaim with two movies – Theeb and Mustang – clinching the coveted Academy Award 2016 nominations.
Underlining the inroads being made by Arab cinema globally, backed by the support and nurturing directors receive from the Institute, several movies have gained the spotlight at international film festivals including Berlin and Rotterdam, among others.
Fatma Al Remaihi, CEO of Doha Film Institute, said: “One of our founding objectives has been to nurture the next generation of talent in Arab cinema, and we are delighted that our committed efforts are bringing tangible results. The emphasis that we place on identifying and nurturing top quality cinema from the region has resulted in an increasing number of films, supported by the Institute, gaining recognition in international platforms. The growing acceptance of these films marks a new golden age of Arabic cinema and we are honoured to be driving this positive change.”
She added: “The recognition that films supported by the Doha Film Institute gain globally serves as the inspiration for emerging filmmakers and builds confidence in them that we can develop truly world-class cinema. We will continue to foster a culture of appreciation for artistic cinema that challenges the stereotypes of mainstream films, identify new talents, support their projects and deliver them strong platforms for reaching out to the international community through our year-round educational, financing and training initiatives.”
Supported by the Doha Film Institute Grants Programme, Theeb (Jordan/UAE/UK/Qatar 2014), directed by Naji Abu Nowar, brings pride to the Arab world winning the nomination for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the Academy Awards.
Theeb has also won two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations. While the film got nominated for ‘Best Film Not in the English Language,’ the film’s director Abu Nowar and producer Robert Lloyd won the award for ‘Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer’, making it the first Arab film ever to win this illustrious achievement.
A recipient of the Fall Grant 2014 from the Doha Film Institute, Mustang by Deniz Gamze Erguven, another nominee for the 'Best Foreign Language Film’, has generated a lot of buzz at film festivals across the globe and won top honours at Palm Springs, Cannes, Chicago and Stockholm Film Festivals among others. It has also received an overwhelming 9 nominations at the 2016 French Caesars.
The nominations for Theeb and Mustang follow a similar recognition for Timbuktu last year. Also supported by the Doha Film Institute, Timbuktu directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, a Qumra master, won a nomination, competing with Theeb this year at BAFTA in the ‘Best Film Not in the English Language’ category. It went on to win 7 Caesars last year.
In other Oscar nods, DFI grantee Basil Khalil, director of A Gaza Weekend, has won a nomination in the Live Action Short Film Category for his latest film Ave Maria competing against 144 submitted films from across the globe. Both titles have received funding support from the Institute.
With over 250 films supported by the Doha Film Institute since 2010, it has a global alumnus of filmmakers from all over the world, who have earned the appreciation of the global film community due to their unique voices and approach to storytelling. In a relatively short period of time, Qatar has effectively positioned itself as a supporter of quality projects, investing in talent beyond its borders to nurture the culture of cinema. A number of films that were recipients of the Doha Film Institute Grants have been chosen for international film festivals this year.
At the 2016 Rotterdam International Film Festival, , three DFI supported films shone in the spotlight: Mountain directed by João Salaviza; The Last Land (by Pablo Lamar; and The Garbage Helicopter by Jonas Selberg Augustsén. The Garbage Helicopter is being screened simultaneously in over 40 screens across Europe and Canada.
DFI had a strong presence at the recent 2016 Berlin International Film Festival with six grantee titles screening in the official festival sections including five world premieres. City of Jade by Midi Z from Myanmar (Fall 2014 Grantee), The Black Frost by Argentinian filmmaker Maximiliano Schonfeld (Fall 2015 Grantee), The Wounded Angel by Emir Baigazin, Blue Bicycle by Turkish helmer Ümit Köreken (Fall 2015 Grantee) and Hedi by Mohamed Ben Attia from Tunisia (Fall 2013 Grantee) made their world premieres in the Festival’s coveted sections of Forum, Panorama, Generation KPlus and the main competition respectively.
Hedi, the first Arab contender in 20 years in the official competition, walked away with top honours including Best First Feature Award for Director Ben Attia and the Silver Bear for Best Actor. Past grant recipient Mahdi Fleifel’s latest short A Man Returned won the Silver Bear Jury Prize in the Short Film competition and has received direct nomination to the 2016 European Film Awards.
In addition to the above, Janitou by Mohamed El Amine Hattou from Algeria (Fall 2015 Grantee) was shortlisted for the Robert Bosch pitch and 2016 Ajyal crowd pleaser Very Big Shot made its presence felt with two market screenings for global sales agents and distributors.
The Doha Film Institute continues to build Arab voices in world cinema through a full-year calendar of initiatives. This has helped build a talent pool of Arab film professionals, who narrate the stories from the region thus presenting to the world a true showcase of the society and the diverse facets of life in the region.
One of the key initiatives of the Doha Film Institute in developing Arab voices is fostering an understanding and appreciation of positive cinema among children and youth. This is reflected in the Ajyal Jurors, whereby youth aged 8 to 21, drawn from across the world, celebrate world cinema through dialogue and discussion, challenging their thought process and helping shape perceptions about issues affecting today’s youth.
The Institute has also been facilitating the interaction of these young jurors with visiting talents, who share their views on cinema. After one such interaction, Salma Hayek Pinault, the producer of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, co-funded by the Doha Film Institute, observed: ““This is a way to hear their voices, to know what is going through their heads. It was fascinating for all of us to be able to interact with them.”
“This is the time to unlock the true potential of Arab cinema,” said Fatma Al Remaihi. “We will partner with like-minded entities in the region in our goal of celebrating our cinema and taking it to the rest of the world. The Doha Film Institute will continue to step up our role as a facilitator of outstanding cinema from the Arab world. With such remarkable talents in our midst, we have been able to make significant strides but the journey is ongoing .”
Over the years, the Doha Film Institute has placed the highest priority to develop the skills of aspiring Qatari filmmakers. Today, an impressive number of Qatari talents are gaining international recognition with their projects showcased in international film events. Since the introduction of Made in Qatar in 2011 at the third DTFF, the Institute has screened 65 short films and 3 feature films; about 40 of these are directed or co-directed by Qatari nationals.
Fatma Al Remaihi added, “At the very core of DFI’s film financing mandate is to contribute to World Cinema and ensure that great stories continue to be told. Our support to international films is part of an ongoing multifold strategy to build creative industries in this region, as well as establish international film networks and relationships that benefit our creative communities. This is also a transformative experience that will further enhance the skills of our local filmmakers and support the continued advancement of homegrown talents.”
The ‘Made in Qatar’ commitment is further catalysed through the Qatar Film Fund announced by the Institute in 2015, which is dedicated to supporting short and feature filmmaking by Qatari directors. The fund is committed to the development of up to four feature films, and the development, production and post-production of up to eight short films annually. Feature films developed through the fund are eligible for financial support for production, and one film will be selected for production funding in the following year.
To date, the Institute has supported nine short films and four Qatari feature films which are all in development. Nora Al Subai’s short film Al-Jawhara will be the first of the 13 films to go in to the postproduction stage, which just finished shooting in December 2015.
The Institute recently joined hands with the Qatar Tourism Authority to curate a crowd sourced film that captures Qatar at a time of rapid change and development. A film for Qatar through the eyes of its people on change, diversity and hope, Dari Qatar will bring communities of Qatar together for a cinematic tribute to the Nation.
Until September 2016, members of the Qatari community can capture their stories; submit their videos and participate in a once in a lifetime opportunity to offer their tribute to their home Qatar and show the world how Qatar is changing.
Doha Film Institute’s screening initiatives provide cultural and creative discoveries for audiences in Doha all-year long. The regular screening series ‘Hekayat Khaleejiya: Stories from the Gulf’ showcases works by regional filmmakers. The Institute also actively initiates partnerships with local organisations to present a selection of Made in Qatar films at many high profile local community events in Doha such as the National Day.
Since 2011, the Doha Film Institute has been supporting the participation of Qatari filmmakers in the Cannes Producers Network / Producers Workshop, while a selection of Made in Qatar films are presented at leading film events including Cannes Short Film Corner, Clermont Ferrand, Giffoni, Sarajevo and Berlin amongst others. The Institute supported three Qatari filmmakers to attend the industry conference at the Toronto International Film Festival while nine local filmmakers – nine of them Qatari nationals – were provided the opportunity to work on international feature films including acclaimed director Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a co-financed project. Further, two Qatari students were hosted at the La Femis Summer University, the French national film school.
At the forefront in leading Arab cinema to new horizons, the Doha Film Institute also promotes it on social media, and encourages people to share their experiences using #SupportArabCinema, a regional initiative launched by Image Nation.
“Cinema plays a formative role in today’s society and extends its influential reach to more than just a cultural phenomenon, providing an inspiration point that has the power to shape history. Ever since its conception, moving pictures have proven to be far more than just a simple tool for entertainment. They not only tell stories but also help shape opinions, change perspectives and challenge notions to raise awareness or initiate positive change. The Arab world is going through a critical period of its history and its crucial for these voices and stories to be heard, to have an understanding of the challenges and realities of our lives and our culture.”, concluded Al Remaihi.
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