Doha Tribeca fest the first step in upping profile

While the Gulf emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, both of which are a stone’s throwfrom Qatar, have already announced themselves on the international film scene with their own high-profile fests and– in the case of Abu Dhabi, a series of multimillion-dollar financing deals with U.S.-based production banners — Qatar has kept a lower film profile.

Doha is the capital of Qatar, which is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Qatar has recently mushroomed in size under the leadership of its highly ambitious Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, particularly in terms of educational projects. The emir’s wife, Sheikha Mouza, has supported the building of Education City, a project envisioned as a world-class center of learning.

Having already turned itself into a TV biz player thanks to Doha-based net Al-Jazeera, Qatari execs are turning their sights on makingthe tiny Gulf state into a film player.

Execs from the Qatar Foundation — which is headed by Sheikha Mouza — announced last year that they would fund the $25 million budgeted “Rumi — The Fire of Love,” an English-language biopic about Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and a founder of Sufism. Spiritual maven Deepak Chopra is on board as a script consultant.

The Doha Tribeca fest is likely to be only the latest step in a process that should eventually see the country emerge as a source of film financing for Middle Eastern and international film producers.

“Ultimately we will need to finance our young filmmakers but the precise mechanism of how has yet to be decided,” says Sheikha Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, chair of the Qatar Museums Authority Board of Trustees and daughter of the emir of Qatar, who help found the fest. “Once we launch the film festival, I can only assume that we will get a lot of interest from filmmakers. This is our first step. The rest will come in time.”

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