Jean-Jacques Annaud lauds Arab spring

DOHA — The third edition of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival kicked off with a bang on Tuesday with the world preem of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Arabian epic “Black Gold.”

The $55 million-budget pic, co-produced by Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications and the Doha Film Institute, was a fitting start to the five-day fest as it reps the first major international co-production for DFI and Qatar.

Stars Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong and Frieda Pinto graced the red carpet at the glitzy opening night ceremony at the Katara Cultural Village, while auds packed into the open air cinema overlooking Doha’s West Bay lagoon.

Fest jury member Rob Lowe, Omar Sharif and Akin Gazi all hit the red carpet however, Antonio Banderas, who also toplines “Black Gold,” was absent from the event (thesp is due to arrive in Doha on Thursday night).

After a late start, which saw auds waiting in the heat — mild for Qatar — for more than an hour and a half, DFI chief exec Amanda Palmer introduced the filmmakers of “Black Gold,” Tunisian-born producer Ben Ammar and French helmer Annaud to unveil the pic.

Ben Ammar gave a passionate speech about the birth of the pic, which was shot in Tunisia and Qatar’s desert and follows the story of the rivalry of two young emirs against the backdrop of 1930s Arab states at the peak of the oil boom.

He dedicated the pic “to the young women and men who have had the courage with non violence” to be part of the Arab spring revolution, and to those who had sacrificed their lives for Tunisian democracy.

Ben Ammar added that when he and Annaud set out to make the pic last year, “we wanted to make a film about Islam as we know it as a peaceful, wonderful culture.”

He added: “Six years ago, before I even knew we were making the picture, I met a young Princess, Sheikha Mayassa (DTFF founder), who had a vision to put her country on the film map with the Doha Film Festival. This film is proof of that.”

After the pic, guests were chauffeured to the city’s Intercontinental Hotel for a swanky after party packed with international and regional industryites and thesps.

DTFF, which wraps on Saturday, will screen an array of international and Arab pics, including Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now?” and Luc Besson’s “The Lady,” which closes the fest.

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