Magazine article Variety

Doha Film Institute Chooses FLASH FREEZE

Magazine article Variety

Doha Film Institute Chooses FLASH FREEZE

Article excerpt

With ties to the Tribeca fest in the rearview mirror, Doha Film Institute took time at December's Ajyal Youth Film Festival to outline its radically reconfigured plans for Qatar's evolving efforts to foster a local film industry.

The pragmatic new vision in the small petroleum-rich Persian Gulf peninsula is now to lose the glitz, learn from its misguided movie investments, and sever Hollywood ties that don't serve a specific strategic purpose.

Institute topper Fatma Al-Remaihi told Variety that the DFI and Participant Media recently dissolved the $100 million joint revolving-fund partnership they announced in 2013 at the Berlin fest, a partnership that did not spawn a single title among its planned five-year slate of 12-16 English-language films.

"They are a great company that has great vision, but I think we've decided together that we are in a time and place where we've been focusing on regional filmmakers and regional projects," the DFI topper said.

Al-Remaihi pointed out that she looks forward to possibly teaming up with Participant and other companies on single projects like Salma Hayek's "Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet," on which Participant and the institute collaborated outside the partnership. "The Prophet" had its Middle East premiere during Ajyal, with producer Hayek making an appearance on the red carpet, and with a delegation that included Emirati animator Mohammed Saeed Harib, who contributed a segment to the portmanteau pic. "For me, that film ticks off all the boxes," Al-Remaihi noted.

Roughly 450 children and adolescents, some from as far away as Australia, descended on Doha's Katara Cultural Village to serve as jurors at the Ajyal fest. As the youths immersed themselves in a rich mix of pics, including Damien Chazelle's Sundance sensation "Whiplash," which won a prize at Ajyal, Al-Remaihi, who is also the Ajyal chief, announced the configuration of the DFPs long-gestating Qumra event, which aims to foster first and second works from around the world within a framework that blends workshop and festival elements.

Established in 2010 as Qatar's yearround industry-building hub, the DFI has had its ups and downs in film financing, backing costly misfires by non-Arab directors, including Jean-Jacques Annaud's 2011 "Black Gold," and drawing criticism that it did not focus enough on breeding local talent.

Plans for Qumra had been first announced in May 2013, after the DFI severed ties with Tribeca and scrapped the star-studded Doha-TYibeca fest, saying it would create two events instead: Ajyal and Qumra. …

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