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Doha Film Institute Steps Up Documentaries and TV Series Grants

The Doha Film Institute, which is at Cannes as a co-financier of Elia Suleiman’s competition entry “It Must Be Heaven,” has announced the 37 projects receiving its Spring Grants, roughly half of them to be directed by women.

The latest batch of mostly Arabic fare set to tap into support from the DFI, a key driver for Middle East filmmakers, will comprise a slew of documentaries and two TV series, which “reflects the type of content currently in demand from streamers,” said DFI director of financing Hanaa Issa.

TV series represent a new strand of funding for the DFI, initiated with the previous grants cycle. The standout TV project is “Faraya,” a series presented by emerging Lebanese helmers Nadim Tabet (“One of These Days”) and Mounia Akl (“Beirut, I Love You”). It’s about “an inexperienced police officer investigating the death of a cleaning lady at a high-end ski Lebanese resort whose poor judgment triggers a series of violent events,” according to the synopsis. The production company is Beirut-based Abbout Productions.

DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi said plenty of submissions for TV projects have been coming in, prompting “a debate within our funding committee about how much should be allocated for TV series versus film,” adding that they will not set quotas for film and TV and that their philosophy of “quality and merit” will stay the same.

Issa noted that Netflix, MUBI, Amazon and Vimeo all attended the DFI’s Qumra workshop this year, adding that she hoped streamers would get involved in their TV projects during next year’s edition.

She also said that the volume of documentaries at this grants session – roughly half of the feature-length works – makes for congenial content for streamers, just like TV series. The docs include “Fouledh,” by young Tunisian directors Mehdi Hmili and Abdallah Chamekh (pictured), about working conditions in Tunisia’s biggest steel mill.

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