With an extended, family-friendly format and a palpable shift toward honoring its own, the fourth annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival ended Saturday with less glitz than previous years, but no shortage of gumption.
For the first time since its 2009 bow, DTFF jumped from five to eight days, half of which were marked by kid-centric programming, including the closing night animated fantasy, “Rise of the Guardians 3D.” In another first, the action was spread across several venues throughout this desert city, home to about 80 percent of Qatar’s citizens. Notably, opening night and several major screenings were moved to Souq Waqif, an ancient trading spot that remains at the heart of Doha commerce and community.
Despite creating some traffic headaches, the multiple locations meant that every corner of Doha, a city where modern skyscrapers loom above salt flats, was touched by the fest.
After a flurry of speculation, previous topper Amanda Palmer ankled the Doha Film Institute in July, prompting execs at the year-round cultural and educational arm of the fest to push this year’s event back a month while finding new leadership. Following a massive reshuffle, in October they tapped financier Abdulaziz Al-Khater, a Doha native dead set on elevating the local filmmaking industry, as DFI chief executive officer.
“Our goal, and the whole reason DTFF exists, is to help promote local artists and filmmakers and to help promote a local film industry in Qatar and within the wider Middle East and North Africa,” he told Variety.
“If we’re going to do a festival, and we’re going to invite talent from abroad, it needs to make sense for that goal. We’re not going to bring people just for the sake of bringing people because it looks good or because they photograph well going down the red carpet … while they do give DTFF that sort of international platform, I think it’s very important for DTFF to be a Qatari festival.”
The big winners this year were Merzak Allouache’s “The Repentant,” which took best narrative film; Joana Hadjithomas’s and Khalil Joreige’s “Lebanese Rocket Society,” which won best documentary feature; and “Bader,” by Sara Al-Saadi, Maaria Assami and Latifa Al-Darwish, which snagged the “Made in Qatar” development award from the largest crop of local entries yet.
“We’re not a baby festival anymore,” he said. “Maybe the first year you survive, maybe the second year you’re trying to set up an agenda and follow that agenda, maybe the third year you’re trying to grow. But in the fourth year, you can’t say you’re a baby festival anymore.”
By showcasing its own and pulling back somewhat from Hollywood, he said, the fest had finally come into its own. “There’s a sense of seriousness at this festival, a sense of purpose that is gratifying,” he said.
The complete list of winners:
• Best Narrative Feature Film
“The Repentant” (Algeria, France), directed by Merzak Allouache
• Best Narrative Filmmaker
Nabil Ayouch for “Horses of God” (Morocco)
• Best Performance
Winner: Ahmed Hafiane for “Professor” (Tunisia, France, Qatar)
• Special Mention:
“Goodbye Morocco” (France, Belgium), directed by Nadir Moknèche
For documentary narrative:
• Best Documentary Feature Film
“Lebanese Rocket Society” (Lebanon, France, Qatar), directed by Joana Hadjithomas
and Khalil Joreige
• Best Documentary Filmmaker
Hanan Abdalla for “In The Shadow of a Man” (Egypt)
• Special Mention
Damien Ounouri for “Fidai”
The winners in the short film segment are:
• Best Short Film
“The Forgotten” (Syria, Qatar), directed by Ehab Tarabieh
• Development Award
“Sanctity” (Saudi Arabia), directed by Ahd
• Special Mention
“A Day in 1959” (Lebanon), directed by Nadim Tabet
In the “Made in Qatar” segment:
• Made in Qatar Development Award
“Bader,” directed by Sara Al-Saadi, Maaria Assami, Latifa Al-Darwish
• Special Mention
“Lyrics Revolt” by Shannon Farhoud, Ashlene Ramadan, Melanie Fridgant, Rana
Khaled Al Khatib