5 Things Not to Miss in Doha
From a discussion with Robert De Niro to a chance to catch up with global Oscar contenders, the Qatar film event offers something for everyone (even zombie lovers!)
The fourth annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival, held Nov. 17 to Nov. 24 in Qatar's capital, promises to take a giant leap forward this year. DTFF 2012 will showcase more than 87 films from across the globe under categories including an Arab Film Competition, Made in Qatar and Contemporary World Cinema. And thanks to a partnership between the Doha Film Institute and New York's Tribeca Enterprises, the fest's program will be even more diverse, with Hollywood titles like Ben Affleck's Argo screening alongside homegrown ones as part of the event's mandate to be "community centered."
"Tribeca provides DFI with an international platform to export and expose Arab films to international audiences," says Abdulaziz Al-Khater, a Qatari businessman and CEO of the Doha Film Institute. "Similarly, DFI provides a platform here in Doha for Tribeca to showcase international films before Arab audiences." Here's a look at five not-to-miss events at this year's DTFF.
1. A High-Profile Opening Gala
DTFF's opening film, Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, should provide plenty of debate among the international and local media at its Middle Eastern debut. Partially funded by the Doha Film Institute and based on Mohsin Hamid's novel, the film tells the pre- and post-9/11 story of a young Pakistani man chasing corporate success on Wall Street in the era of globalization. Riz Ahmed stars alongside Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland. "One of DFI's mandates is to co-produce and co-finance films that highlight strong artistic caliber and reflect and respect cultural sensitivities and interests," says Al-Khater. "Our involvement came about through our ongoing relationship with Mira Nair, but The Reluctant Fundamentalist happens to be a global film that is both topical and personal at the same time."
2. Qatar's First Horror Film
This year the festival is hosting the world premiere of the first feature-length Qatari horror film, the zombie thriller Lockdown: Red Moon Escape, directed by Mohammed Al-Ibrahim and Ahmed Al Baker. To coincide with the screening, Doha will play host to the country's first "Zombie Run Experience," in which locals can pick a team, don zombie makeup and race across the city.
3. Foreign-Language Oscar Hopefuls
It is no coincidence that six of the festival's contemporary world cinema entries are in the race for a foreign-language Oscar nomination. But organizers tell THR that the inclusion of movies from as far afield as Russia, Norway and Kazakhstan signifies DTFF's ambitions to bring the world to Qatar. The Oscar hopefuls screening this year are: Kon-Tiki (Norway), Children of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Just the Wind (Hungary), The Deep (Iceland), Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe (Kazakhstan) and White Tiger (Russia). DTFF vice chair His Excellency Issa Bin Mohammed Al-Mohannadi says: "The films will appeal to the multicultural population of Doha, further reiterating our mandate to create a truly community-centered festival."
4. De Niro Discussing De Niro
This year's festival is planning to host 13 special industry events designed to explore the art of filmmaking from various perspectives, including distribution, narrative storytelling and the use of state-of-the-art technology. One of the most anticipated will be the "In Conversation with Robert De Niro" event Nov. 18. The usually tight-lipped actor, who once again is generating awards buzz for his performance in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook (which screens at DTFF on Nov. 19 and 23) will open up and discuss some of the highlights of his 40-plus-year career.
5. Made in Qatar Screenings
DTFF's Made in Qatar section will be the largest such showcase yet for the event and will guarantee festivalgoers a slice of Qatari life. The sidebar opens with Lyrics Revolt, a feature documentary directed by Shannon Farhoud, Ashlene Ramadan, Melanie Fridgant and Rana Khaled Al Khatib. The film got its start as a student project at Northwestern University in Qatar and explores the Arab Spring from the perspective of hip-hop artists from the Middle East. The screening will be followed by a hip-hop concert for the local community. Says Al-Khater: "The Made in Qatar program serves as a window into Qatar's culture for the global film industry and international audiences."