Qumra Doha Film Festival Cancels First Edition

Abdulaziz Al Khater - P 2012

The event, mounted and backed by Qatar's Doha Film Institute, will delay its debut until 2015 to concentrate on ramping up local activity in the region.

The inaugural Qumra Doha Film Festival -- backed and mounted by the Doha Film Institute under the creative supervision of Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman and scheduled to take place in March this year -- has been postponed until 2015.

A statement from the Doha Film Institute said the shock cancelation of the event's first outing was to enable the Qatari organization to focus its efforts on local grassroots cultural cinema activities.

The Qumra Doha Film Festival was set to bring emerging directors and their work from around the globe to the event in Qatar and had planned an international competition section for its inaugural outing.

The sudden cancelation surprised some industry observers with insiders saying it will put the spotlight firmly on DFI CEO Abdulaziz Al Khater's role at the organization.

Al Khater and the DFI oversaw the debut of the Ajyal Youth Film Festival at the end of 2013, a festival that aimed to celebrate local filmmaking endeavors and attract big local audiences.

EARLIER: Qumra Doha Film Festival Shapes Up for 2014 Dates

In a statement Saturday (Jan. 11), a DFI spokesperson said: "Following the success of the inaugural Ajyal Youth Film Festival by the Doha Film Institute, which was marked by unprecedented community involvement in film appreciation and education, the institute is realigning its objectives for 2014."

Cancelling Qumra, the second more outward and international-looking event, is a part of the change up for the DFI.

"To focus on our primary mandate, we have decided to reschedule the Qumra Doha Film Festival, our earlier announced second film festival initiative, to 2015," the statement read. "This will enable us to channel our resources to deliver on our primary objectives, create more platforms for Qatari and regional talent to sharpen their skills, and provide increased educational and financing opportunities. These, in turn, will contribute to added value for our film festival initiatives and put the global spotlight on our talent."

The DFI said it remains "committed" to serve as "the definitive platform in this region to create a dynamic local film industry."

The statement noted: "We will also expand the remit of our various platforms and programs to further foster film education, financing and appreciation, especially among talented young filmmakers. Our expanded film grants program, educational initiatives and the Ajyal Youth Film Festival are fully aligned with our primary mandate of supporting global storytelling, nurturing upcoming talent and enhancing public appreciation of cinema."

Doha faces stiff competition from the Dubai International Film Festival in UAE and rival Abu Dhabi Film Festival for local regional eyeballs as the trio jostle for prominence.