DOHA Tribeca Film Festival 2010

by E. Nina Rothe

Doha Tribeca Film Festival may be the baby of the Middle East film festival circuit, but in less than a year since its creation it has already acquired the desirable reputation as THE festival to see and be seen. With its announcement at Cannes this past May of the Doha Film Institute – an organization dedicated to film appreciation, education, financing, production and building a long term sustainable film industry in Qatar – it is slated to become a forum for making films in the region and promoting them worldwide, instead of just showcasing them for a few days and be done. For those who love cinema from the Middle East, the buzz about Doha TFF in the filmmaking industry has been deafening…

In the words of Qatar’s own H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who helped bring the initiative to her Emirate by the Persian Gulf “The Doha Film Institute’s goal is to build a sustainable film industry in Qatar with strong links to the international film community. Film can do more than just entertain; it can educate, inspire and unite communities and we want to nurture and support filmmakers as we continue to grow Qatar as a cultural hub for film.” And when your cultural partnerships include Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, Mira Nair’s Maisha Film Lab and New York’s Tribeca Enterprises, you know it won’t be long until the festival takes over as the single most important promoter of modern Arab filmmakers, as well as the host of one of the most prestigious events of the region. After all, sister festival Tribeca Film Festival in NYC has managed to leave so many others in the dust, in the nine short years since its inception.

This year also marks the debut of the Arab Film Competition at Doha TFF. In the words of Programmer Hania Mroue “Our first Arab Film Competition demonstrates the creativeness of Arab filmmakers and the larger filmmaking community from the Arab Diaspora, who continue to pursue their passion and create films that touch human hearts. We have a powerful program of movies from the Arab world and as a programmer, I am excited to see first-time filmmakers competing alongside seasoned auteur.” She continued, “DTFF 2010 brings together a compelling collection of features and shorts that highlight the richness of Arab talent and creativity.”

The festival’s opening night film will be the action flick Outside the Law, by French-Algerian award-winning filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, a thriller set against the backdrop of the Algerian struggle for independence from France following WWII. The closing night film, will be Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader, an inspirational story of an elderly Kenyan man from a farming community who enrolls in a local school to learn to read.

Other highlights will include Julian Schnabel’s highly anticipated Miral, starring Freida Pinto and the superbly talented Hiam Abbass, Kyrgyz filmmaker Aktan Abdykalykov’s The Light Thief, Iranian legend Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy – which is the first film he shot outside of Iran and in my own neck of the woods, Tuscany, nonetheless! – and our favorite Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed’s directorial debut, the documentary Just Like Us.

Although Geoffrey Gilmore, Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises, said “It’s challenging to limit the slate to under 50 films, so this is a very thoughtfully curated lineup” Doha TFF 2010 is still chock-full of great finds, with yet another chance to view the documentary Bhutto, as well as the thought-provoking Budrus by Julia Bacha and a few brilliant Lebanese films like Bahij Hojeij’s Here Comes the Rain and Ghassan Salhab’s The Mountain. And the fashionistas among us won’t be disappointed when NY Fashion Week staple, Lebanese-born designer Reem Acra will speak at TEDxDoha on October 29th.

I’ll leave you with the wise words of DFI Executive Director Amanda Palmer, since no one could have said it any better “We are proud that our efforts to stimulate the growth of filmmaking in the region is being met with such enthusiasm and are confident our local and international guests will be able to discover new storytellers and cinematic gems that have the potential to earn global acclaim.” See you at the movies… in Qatar!



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