In an historic moment for Arab film-making and Middle Eastern creative talent, the world premiere of Arabian film epic, Black Gold, will open the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) 2011, to be held at Katara Cultural Village from October 25-29.
The movie, described as a unique and authentic insight into the region and one of the biggest cinematic projects ever undertaken in the Arab world, will set the agenda for the third annual festival.
Commenting on the importance of Black Gold to Qatar’s expanding creative industries, DFI Festival Board member Sheikh Jabor bin Yousuf al-Thani said the film was an important step in strengthening foundations for a sustainable film industry in Qatar.
From a business development perspective, the project gave local industry sectors a valuable opportunity to learn about film production from the ground-level up, he explained.
“We hope the exposure of the film before global audiences and industry professionals will pave the way for future co-productions that showcase Arab talent and creativity in the right spirits, and send a message to the world that there is a viable Arab film market here in Qatar, and throughout the Middle East, with engaged and interested audiences.”
Black Gold, co-produced by DFI and Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications, is directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and stars Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong and Liya Kebede.
A wealth of Arab and Qatari names, including home-grown talent Mohamed al-Ibrahim, were central to the making of the film and worked alongside international industry professionals, both in front of and behind the camera.
A star-studded cast is expected to attend the opening night premiere and walk the red carpet at DTFF 2011.
Amanda Palmer, executive director of the DFI, said: “Showing Black Gold as the opening film will be a real celebration of a truly home-grown project that we hope captivates audiences around the globe.
“The film will be released to Middle Eastern and international audiences via Warner Bros and Universal Pictures on November 23, and we can’t wait to showcase the Arab talent and creativity that has gone into this project, and to also illuminate a part of the world that everyone wants to understand more about.” She added: “The film epitomises the aims of DFI, from using Qatar as a filming location to nurturing regional talent, and is an important step for developing the local film industry. It is a project that Qatar should be really proud of and we really hope people will enjoy coming along to the festival to watch it.”
Set in 1930s Arabia, Black Gold tells the story of two warring Emirs, who make a truce that binds them through family and mutual respect of a no-man’s land that lies between their desert kingdoms. However, after oil is discovered in the barren sand of the ‘Yellow Belt’, the stage is set for control of the area and the riches it promises to yield.
The film, shot jointly in Qatar and Tunisia during the Tunisian revolutions, is both timely and relevant, poignantly charting the relationship between oil and Islam in Arabia, and the clash between culture, identity, modernity and tradition which continues to shape the region even today.
Tunisian-born Tarak Ben Ammar, who owns Quinta Communications, said: “This is a quintessential Arab tale, the kind of story that a lot of young people may have heard from older relatives, so part of the idea was to chart a slice of our history in a really modern, engaging way – through a major motion picture.”
“It is a great triumph for the DFI and Quinta Communications and the decision to open the Doha Tribeca Film Festival with it is great news for everyone involved.”
Black Gold’s director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, added: “The Qataris, and particularly our friends at the Doha Film Institute, have been remarkable in their efforts in working with us as partners on Black Gold. I love sharing knowledge and it’s been a privilege for me as a director to shoot in a place where no cameras have ever been.”
At DTFF 2011, Black Gold will be the first of more than 40 diverse films for festival-goers to enjoy. The festival, run by the DFI, is likely to draw a record-breaking audience of more than 50,000 people and will also host community events, including the hugely popular family day, as well as panels, networking sessions and educational film-making programmes.
This year, DFI also welcomes Ludmila Cvikova as the new head of International Programming. Cvikova joins the DTFF Programming team, following over a decade of programming for the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
In her long-running tenure as Programmer for IFFR Cvikova scouted talents and selected films from across the globe, including Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Turkey, Greece and the Balkan region.
In addition to her rich experience as a jury member for various international film festivals, Cvikova has also organised and curated a dynamic range of cultural events, programmes and retrospectives within the Netherlands and internationally.
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