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More Than Half of Doha Film Institute’s New Grants Go to Women Arab Auteurs

The Doha Film Institute has announced the new batch of 29 film projects from 16 countries that will receive grants funding, which includes new works by France’s Sonia Kronlund, whose “Nothingwood” is screening in the Cannes Directors Fortnight, Tunisia’s Mohamed Ben Hattia (“Hedi”), Morocco’s Leila Kilani (“On the Edge”), and Palestine’s Annemarie Jacir (“When I Saw You”).

Significantly, more than half of the DFI Spring grants are going to films helmed by women directors with a large portion of coming-of-age stories centered around  female protagonists. Over 80% are the Arab world.

“It’s not deliberate in our part, but it’s fantastic to see how more [Arab] women are being empowered to do films than ever before,” commented DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi.

Two of the projects, “A Man on Fire,”  by Lebanon’s Ibrahim Harb, and “Days of Grace,”  (pictured) by Bahrain’s Saleh Nass, germinated from the 2016 DFI Producers Lab, which the DFI started last year.

The projects in various stages include 14 feature films, 8 feature-length documentaries, 2 feature-length experimental or essay films, and 5 shorts.

There are four projects respectively from Algeria and Egypt; three from Tunisia and two each from Lebanon, Iran; Morocco, and Palestine. Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Portugal, Somalia, Syria, France and Indonesia are all represented by one project.

With the 2017 Spring Grants cycle, the total number of projects supported by Doha Film Institute’s Grants programme now stands at over 340.

The recipients of the Spring Grants 2017 are:

Feature Documentary/Development 

  • A Man on Fire (Lebanon, Qatar) by Ibrahim Harb about a man on the pursuit for self-fulfillment within the civil defence department, placing savings lives in Lebanon’s geo-political context.

Feature Documentary/Production  

  • Immolations (Algeria, Canada, Qatar) by Meriem Achour Bouakkaz, an intimate encounter with people who have attempted to set themselves on fire as a cry of distress against the infinite difficulties of simply finding their place in the sun.
  • Nation’s Hope (Somalia, UAE, UK, USA, Sweden, Republic of the Congo, Qatar) by Hana Mire, covering a season in the lives of Somalia’s National Women’s basketball squad, as veteran coach Suad Galow leads the team of fearless young women against both rival teams and Al-Shabaab.
  • On the Crossbar (Tunisia, France, Qatar) by Sami Tlili about the Tunisian football team, whose improbable journey in 1978 intertwined with the worst crisis the country had known since its independence.
  • Mnemosyne (Egypt, Qatar) by Shaza Moharam, a feature experimental/essay that depicts Shaza returning to her hometown of Alexandria, with a quest to recover from her childhood amnesia, only to find that the city itself is losing its memory

Feature Documentary/Post-Production  

  • Amal (Egypt, Lebanon, France, Germany, Denmark, Qatar) by Mohamed Siam, about an angry Egyptian teenager, who seeks her place and identity in a male-dominated society
  • Nothingwood (France, Germany, Qatar) by Sonia Kronlund about Salim Shaheen, the most prolific and popular actor-director-producer in Afghanistan. Passionate about cinema, he tirelessly makes Z-grade movies in a country that has been at war for over 30 years.
  • The Normal Way (Tunisia, France, Qatar) by Erige Sehiri, in which five train drivers are torn between their loyalty to the old Tunisian railway company and the fresh personal aspirations they can finally express in the wake of the revolution, while on a road trip.
  • Tiny Souls (Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar) by Dina Naser, which portrays the changes in Marwa’s life, as she goes from childhood to adolescence within the walls of the Al Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, reflecting its effect on her reality and future.
  • You Come from Far Away (Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar) by Amal Ramsis, an experimental/essay; Imagine your father is a Palestinian who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Imagine you have a family, but were raised without parents.

Feature Narrative/Development 

  • Days of Grace (Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar) by Saleh Nass, about a young Syrian man, who has only a few days left in Beirut to find a way to avoid a dangerous journey back to a war zone.
  • Don’t Tell a Soul (Lebanon, UK, Qatar) by Nour Wazzi, in which Faris must uncover the truth, when a dead body turns up and his relatives go missing

Feature Narrative/Production 

  • Abou Leila (Algeria, France, Qatar) by Amin Sidi-Boumédiène about two childhood friends who travel through the Algerian desert looking for Abou Leila, a dangerous terrorist on the run.
  • Papicha (Algeria, France, Morocco, Qatar) by Mounia Meddour about Nedjma, who refuses to submit to fear during the Algerian Civil War by fulfilling her dream of putting on a fashion show.
  • Sofia (Morocco, France, Qatar) by Meryem Benm’Barek, which is set in Casablanca and charts the life of 22-year-old Sofia, the only daughter in a rather traditional family. While having dinner with her siblings, she discovers she is about to give birth.
  • The Translator (Syria, Jordan, France, Qatar) by Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf in which a political refugee returns illegally to Syria and risks everything to free his brother from the regime, as the Syrian Revolution begins.
  • Weldi (Tunisia, France, Belgium, Qatar) by Mohamed Ben Attia, about a father who is confronted by his own reality and has to question himself and his choices.

Feature Narrative/Post-Production 

  • Ava (Iran, Canada, Qatar) by Sadaf Foroughi about an Iranian seventeen-year-old girl who challenges the strict rules of her traditional upbringing and learns that her mother broke the rules as a young woman as well.
  • Disappearance (Iran, Qatar) by Ali Asgari about a young couple with just a few hours left to solve a severe problem, while their relationship is heading for a crisis.
  • Joint Possession (Morocco, France, Qatar) by Leila Kilani, in which Pharaonic real estate projects surround the Mansouria, a land-locked family estate that is up for sale and coveted by Amina and her heirs.
  • Our Madness (Portugal, Angola, France, Mozambique, Qatar) by João Viana in which a child helps a woman who seeks her husband all over Mozambique. When they finally find him, the child is killed.
  • The Blessed (Algeria, France, Belgium, Qatar) by Sofia Djama; set in Algiers, a few years after the civil war, it follows Amal and Samir, who have decided to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary at a restaurant, but the mood turns dark and becomes more volatile as the night wears on.
  • The Seen and Unseen (Indonesia, Netherlands, Australia, Qatar) by Kamila Andini about Tantra, who becomes very sick and falls into a deep sleep, forcing his twin Tantri to go beyond words to communicate with him.
  • Wajib (Palestine, UAE, France, Switzerland, Norway, Colombia, Qatar) by Annemarie Jacir about Shadi, who returns to his hometown to help his father hand-deliver his sister’s wedding invitations. As the estranged pair go house to house, the details of their fragile relationship come to a head.

Short Narrative/Production 

  • Inside Me (Egypt, Germany, Qatar) by Halla Tarek, about a young Egyptian girl, silenced by society, who goes on an adventure to discover her own voice fighting an evil monster.
  • Last Day at Home (Qatar) by Noor Al-Nasr, in which his last day at home becomes a boy’s first day of an adventure.
  • Night (Palestine, Jordan, Germany, Qatar) by Ahmad Saleh, in which a mother, who has been unable to sleep since the disappearance of her son, meets a storyteller whose tales can heal sleepless souls.
  • Soaring over Mayhem (Kuwait, Qatar) by Abdullah Al-Wazzan about two brothers, who struggle to survive as they arrive at manhood in the brutal terrain of war-torn Syria.
  • The Black Veil (Qatar) by A.J. Al Thani, where a woman attempts to finally escape, in order to gain freedom from the oppression she has been living under.




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