Gael Garcia Bernal Tapped As Master For Doha Film Institute’s Inaugural Qumra Event

Telluride Film Festival Gael Garcia Bernal
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Mexican multihyphenate Gael Garcia Bernal will be among masters at the inaugural edition of the Doha Film Institute’s Qumra event dedicated to fostering first and second works from around the world for which 31 projects have now been picked.

Bernal joins a prestigious roster of previously announced “Qumra Masters” comprising Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako (“Timbuktu”); Iranian actor Leila Hatami (“A Separation”) Romanian auteur Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”); and Bosnian writer/director Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”).

Besides being a movie star, Bernal is also a director and an indie producer. Palestinian auteur Elia Suleiman, who is Qumra’s artistic advisor, praised him as “the culmination of all of our needs in one person.” “Gael is humble, interesting, clever. As a producer, he’s interested in the young generation just like we are,” Suleiman enthused.

Qumra, which is set for March 6-11 in Doha, is a new concept event blending creative workshop and festival elements, mixing master classes with industry networking sessions and screenings.

The 31 projects have been picked either among DFI grant recipients or Qatari projects otherwise supported by the DFI. Most are from the Arab world, though several have U.S. elements.

Take Saudi director Faiza Ambah’s “A Reverence for Spiders,” about a New York-based Imam who helps a dying Christian teen convert to Islam and plunges into a shattering scandal. Or Brooklyn-born Susan Youssef’s “Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf,” about a Lebanese-American teen in Arkansas contending with her father being in jail on dubious terrorism charges. These are among the 19 projects in development. The others are in more advanced stages.

Attending directors and producers will be networking in one-on-ones, script consultations, pitching sessions, rough-cut screenings and feedback sessions. There will be exclusive presentations of 20-minute final cut screenings for fest programmers, sales agents and distributors.

Prominent industryites already on board include Wild Bunch chief Vincent Maraval, Toronto fest director Cameron Bailey, Cannes Directors Fortnight Managing Director Christophe Leparc, and Eurimages topper Roberto Olla.

DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi said Qumra is “closely bound to the year-round initiatives of the Doha Film Institute,” with the concrete goal of getting projects to their next stage.

She specified that under its new course the DFI will “continue doing co-financing on international projects that fit our criteria of stories we think need to be told.”

For a complete list of selected Qumra projects click here.

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