The Doha Film Institute’s Ajyal Youth Festival has unveiled a solid lineup with an accent on social themes comprising twenty-one feature films, almost half of which by young directors, including U.S. director Joe Piscatella’s “#chicagoGirl:The Social Network Takes On a Dictator,” about how a teen in Chicago plays a role in the Syrian resistance with a laptop in her bedroom.
As previously announced the opener will be the world preem of “Speed Sisters,” a docu about the first female race-car driving team in the Middle East. That pic, developed with support from the Sundance Institute and also Doha Film Institute’s grants, plus several international film funds and hundreds of crowdfunding backers, is the debut feature of Lebanese-Canadian director Amber Fares.
Other titles set to screen at Ajyal include Austrian social drama “Macondo,” by Sudabeh Mortezai; Danish tween superhero pic “Antboy,” by Ask Hasselbalch; Jordanian Bedouin epic “Theeb,” by Naji Abu Nowar; Brazilian animated parable “The Boy and the World,” by Ale Abreu; Sundance sensation “Whiplash,” by Damien Chazelle; and the Middle East preem of “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet,” the animation portmanteau pic based on works by Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran, with producer Salma Hayek, director Roger Allers and segment directors Joan Graetz and Mohammed Saeed Harib in tow.
The second edition of Ajyal, which is conceptually similar to Italy’s Giffoni youth fest, will run Dec. 1-6 with 450 kids and adolescents, ranging in ages from 8 to 21 as jurors.
“From the beginning, when we put the concept together, we knew that we were not just a kids festival and always thought it was intended to serve a broader age range,” said Fatma Al Remaihi, who is Ajyal fest director and acting CEO of the Doha Film Institute.
She went on to note that youth is the biggest demographic in Doha and also in the MENA region.
Besides “Speed Sisters,” several other films at the fest, including “Theeb” and “The Prophet” were supported by the Doha Film Institute which is an important driver in fostering filmmaking in the region. The DFI has plans to bolster that role with the upcoming first edition of its Qumra Doha Film Festival dedicated to supporting emerging talent which will take place in Doha in March 2015.
Al Remaihi said more details on the Qumra event, including the format and concept, will be announced during the Ajyal fest.