DOHA, Qatar – The inaugural Ajyal Youth Film Festival presented by the Doha Film Institute came to a close on Saturday evening with a ceremony that made up in cheer what it lacked in celebrity.
Fest, which took a page from the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy and featured an all-youth jury of local kids and teens from 8 to 21, wrapped up after five family-centered days in this rapidly expanding Gulf city with a pyrotechnic-packed event honoring the winners of the Doha Film Experience in-competition segments.
The youth jury was divided into three age categories – Mohaq (ages 8-12), Hilal (ages 13-17) and Bader (ages 18-21). In total the jury watched 42 films, with winners receiving $15,000 each for Best Feature Filmmakers as deemed by Hilal and Bader (18-21) groups; and $5,000 each for best filmmaker from each category.
Cash comes from the Ajyal Film Fund, a subsidiary of the Doha Film Institute. The winner of the Made in Qatar award, which is meant to boost homegrown talent out of Doha and this year pitted eight short films against each other, was also presented.
The Ajyal Youth Film Festival debuted this year in the slot previously held by the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, which was retired in 2012 four years when the relationship between DFI and the Tribeca Film Institute came to a close. Ajyal, a smaller fest with less pomp and significantly sharper local focus, is just what Doha – a city with huge aspirations but a still-sputtering local industry – needs, said Fest Director Fatma Al Remaihi.
“Ajyal has addressed a clear need in this part of the world in creating a platform for young audiences to discover new facets of cinema, engage in new types of conversations and expand their imagination,” she said. “We will continue to build on the bonds that have been formed through the festival and support our youth and talent to pursue their dreams.”
The fest, which opened with the dreamy Japanese animated pic “The Wind Rises,” closed with a screening of the Japanese anime film “Garden of Words,” sealing the week’s Focus on Anime section. In the course of the week-long celebration of Japanese animation, which has a passionate following in the Arabian Gulf, die-hard fans of the art form competed in a Otaku costume competition, displayed massive personal collections of dolls and action figures, and took part in workshops on comic-book making, make-up, and more.
Otaku-costumed kids competing for the honor of best outfit tred the red carpet on the final night and families packed a special Japanese art exhibition at Doha’s Katara Cultural Village, the nerve center for the week’s activities.
The winners of the inaugural Ajyal Youth Film Festival were:
Doha Film Experience
• Mohaq: Best Short Filmmaker – Little Kyota Neon Hood, directed by Satsuki Okawa
• Hilal: Best Short Filmmaker – The Invention, directed by Giovanni Granada
• Hilal: Best Feature Filmmaker – Regret, directed by David Schram
• Bader: Best Short Filmmaker – Men’s Barber Shop, directed by Meshal Alhulail
• Bader: Best Feature Filmmaker – The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, directed by George Tillman Jr.
Made in Qatar
Made in Qatar Award – My Hero, directed by Nora Al-Subai (pictured)