Doha Film Institute Unveils New ‘Qumra’ Event

DOHA – The Doha Film Institute has unveiled the configuration of its long-gestating Qumra event dedicated to fostering first and second works from around the world within an innovative framework blending creative workshop and festival elements.

At the core of the event will be in-depth master classes for young filmmakers to be held by top-notch global talents. Booked to date as “Qumra Masters” are Mauritanian maverick helmer Abderrahmane Sissako (“Timbuktu”); Romanian Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”); foreign-language film Oscar winner Danis Tanovic (“No Man’s Land”); and pluriprized Iranian actress Leila Hatami (“A Separation”).

The first edition, set to take place in Doha from March 6-11 2015, will
seek to serve as a creative laboratory/production springboard for directors and producers of up to 25 projects, some of them shorts, all of which already within the DFI fold. Selected projects will be either recipients of its grants program or of other DFI support programs such as its just-launched dedicated Qatari Film Fund. Though the DFI grants program has a regional focus, it is open to films from outside the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The same goes for Qumra.

Participating director-producer teams will get intensive shepherding via one-on-one meetings, workshops and mentoring sessions with selected industry execs and experts. This is the so-called Qumra Meetings component of the event. Some 60 international industryites are expected to attend, besides the participating teams.

“We want to make sure we match them with the right people who will make them progress, whether they be financiers, sales agents, script doctors; whatever the project needs,” said DFI acting CEO Fatma Al Remaihi (pictured).

The “festival” side of Qumra will consist of screenings selected in part by the Qumra Masters. Each pic will screen followed by an onstage Q&A. These screenings will be open to the public. There will be no red carpet.

Plans for Qumra were first announced in May 2013 after the DFI severed ties with Tribeca, scrapping the Doha-Tribeca fest, and said it would create two events. One is the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, which wrapped its second edition Saturday with the Middle East preem of “Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet,” with producer Salma Hayek on hand.

Though smaller in scope than originally touted – they’ve dropped the word “festival” from its moniker — Qumra could become an important incubator for Arab cinema by filling gaps and providing guidance and support in areas of the filmmaking process that other fests in the region don’t cover.

Qumra is led by the Doha Film Institute team but works closely with the Sarajevo Film Festival and its Cine Link co-production market for emerging helmers. Palestinian director Elia Suleiman (“Divine Intervention”) is artistic adviser. Fest circuit experts Paolo Bertolin and Violeta Bava, both advisers to Venice, are now on board as programming and industry advisers.

“It’s really something quite personal for me,” said Suleiman, commenting on the Qumra concept. “It comes from the fact that when I was young and I wanted help, nobody gave it to me. I knocked on so many doors, and I was looked at like I was crazy.”

The philosophy behind it “includes monetary support, advice, and ways of trying to inspire filmmakers about how to do things,” he added.

The Arabic word “qumra” is believed to be the origin of the word “camera.” It was used by Arab scientist, astronomer and mathematician Alhazen, whose work in optics laid out the principles of the camera obscura.

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