Magazine article Screen International

Doha Film Institute Pushes on with Youth-Focused Ajyal Festival amid Gulf Crisis

Magazine article Screen International

Doha Film Institute Pushes on with Youth-Focused Ajyal Festival amid Gulf Crisis

Article excerpt

The Breadwinner to open fifth edition.

Irish director Nora Twomey’s animated feature The Breadwinner will open the fifth edition of Qatar’s Ajyal Youth Film Festival this year, organisers the Doha Film Institute (DFI) announced on Monday (Nov 13).

The Breadwinner

Executive-produced by Angelina Jolie, the tale of a young girl’s efforts to save her father from an Afghan jail world premiered earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival. Read Screen’s review.

Running Nov 29 - Dec 4 in Doha’s Katara Cultural Village, the fifth edition of Ajyal will showcase 103 films from 43 countries this year.

The festival is coming together amid the ongoing political and economic blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on charges that the Gulf state funds terrorism organisations.

The sanctions, which began in June, have severely restricted travel and trade in and out of Qatar via land, sea and air. The tiny Gulf state has denied the accusations.

DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi told a press conference in Doha on Monday that Ajyal would remain true to its founding ethos that film is not only a form of entertainment but also a medium that can bring about social change and transformation, especially among younger generations.

“Films have the unique power to transcend borders. They expand our horizons, nourish our souls, reinvigorate our intellect and enable us to form meaningful, lasting human bonds,” said Al Remaihi.

“Above all, films provide a communality across all divides, and the stories they present provide us with a shared experience. This transformational power of cinema inspired the inception of Ajyal Youth Film Festival five years ago.”

Referring specifically to the blockade, she noted that this year’s Ajyal would feature a special multimedia exhibition, entitled LeBlockade, gathering together films, digital artworks and installations made by Qatari citizens in response to the sanctions.

“Their works also highlight the importance of film as a powerful medium that raises awareness, clears misconceptions and counters the phenomena of fake news,” she said.

Main line-up

A total of 20 features will play at the festival this year with highlights including the MENA region premiere of Looking For Oum Kulthum, a portrait of the legendary Egyptian singer by New York-based Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, and the Qatari premiere of feature animation Loving Vincent.

Highlights of the shorts programme include 16 new local films - backed by the Qatari Film Fund - which will screen in the Made in Qatar sidebar. …

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