Cinema: Qatar invests on 7th art, from ground up

Brings in top world filmmakers to teach new generation

16 July, 20:12

(ANSAMed) - DOHA, JULY 16 - Films by three young Qatari directors are being screened at the ongoing Giffoni Film Festival in Italy, and they have been getting ample coverage in Qatar, a country with no film industry, no film school and a lot of censorship. Nevertheless the country has decided to invest in film and young filmmakers through the Doha Film Institute (DFI), which selected Hassan Tariq, Dana al Dosari and Talal al Ansari to compete at the Giffoni Fest, and this is being treated as a huge step forward in Qatar, where little quality film is shown and where censorship limits the cinematic fare to action films, comedies and Bollywood extravaganzas. In 2009, DFI launched the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) in partnership with New York's Tribeca Enterprises, even getting Antonio Banderas, star of Desert Prince, a film shot in the Qatari dunes, to walk down its red carpet. But in spite of the occasional foreign stars, the festival was a flop because the Qatari population did not participate. So DFI changed its strategy, and decided to invest in creating cinema culture from the ground up: this means nurturing local talent, for example, by bringing in teachers like Christian Routh, a former head of selection at the European Script Fund who was pivotal in the making of films like Orlando, Breaking The Waves, and Elizabeth, and Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, director of the award-winning film West Beirut and former Quentin Tarantino camera assistant.

''In Europe we have too much talent and too little money; also too many productions and too little public'' said Routh, who is now heading up two film schools at EU Media in Spain.

''In the Gulf there is the opposite problem: there is a lot of money, but not enough producers, actors and directors.'' Qatar, he said, has another advantage: new stories to tell.

''The world is tired of American films, and there is an appetite for stories that come from other parts of the world,'' said Routh. According to Gulf Film Development Manager Mahdi Ali Ali, DFI now has a twofold ambition: to educate and foster a new generation of Qatari directors, actors, and screenwriters; and ''to bring the great Hollywood directors to Doha,'' Ali Ali said. (ANSAMed).


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