The Doha Film Institute has recruited a high-caliber roster of industry reps, including Toronto topper Cameron Bailey, Wild Bunch chief Vincent Maraval, and prominent British indie producer Mike Downey, for the imminent first edition of its Qumra event dedicated to fostering new Arab cinema which blends creative workshop, industry networking, and festival elements.
More than 100 industryites, some from leading European and Asian fests, including Cannes, Venice, Karlovy Vary, Locarno, Sarajevo and Busan are heading for Qumra, along with sales company execs from outfits including Elle Driver, Fortissimo Films, Memento Films, WIDE, and Danny Glover’s New York-based Louverture Films, repped by COO Joslyn Barnes. Also making the trek from New York will be Joana Vicente, head of the Independent Filmmmakers Project (IFP).
The innovative shindig is named after the Arabic word “qumra,” from which the word “camera” is believed to have originated.
As previously announced, Gael Garcia Bernal; 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”) are among “Qumra Masters” set to hold in-depth classes for young filmmakers.
Twenty-nine participating 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. 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. The idea is to be both an incubator and a springboard for these projects, mostly from the Arab world where filmmaking is not part of the culture. With Qumra Qatar is now basically aiming to become an Arab film industry driver in a new way.
“I am extremely encouraged by the support that has been shown by film professionals from all sectors of the industry for the first edition of Qumra,” enthused Doha Film Institute CEO, Fatma Al Remaihi in a statement. “Their immense generosity towards the new generation of filmmakers is invaluable and I am certain that the connections formed over the coming weeks will resonate far into the future for all of the participants,” she added.
The first edition of Qumra will run March 6-11 in Doha.