Interview: Fatma Al Remaihi
Given increasing competition to develop regional film centres, what sort of incentives are available to filmmakers to attract them to Qatar?
FATMA AL REMAIHI: Our focus in Qatar has been to develop a grassroots movement at a cultural level – building an understanding and appreciation of film culture, and working with young filmmakers to foster their skills, connecting them to the international industry in meaningful ways, providing mentorship and a platform to share their work. Organisations like DFI and many of the local production companies are active participants in growing the film movement and industry in Qatar, and we have made tremendous progress in the last few years.
Perhaps neighbouring countries have different objectives and strategies than ours, so it is not easy to compare. And perhaps it is not necessary to make these kinds of comparisons, as we are all working towards empowering storytelling from this part of the world and reaching broad universal audiences.
How do you gauge the success the state has had thus far in creating film festivals that encourage filmmaking among the local population?
AL REMAIHI: At DFI we are always growing and adapting to the needs of our community, and I believe that our current festivals and events format is the most effective way to have a meaningful impact on the local community. We are focused on two distinctive areas. Firstly, through the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, we are nurturing our young people, developing their creativity and inspiring them through cinema so that we contribute to the next generation of film-lovers and filmmakers.
Secondly, through our new industry event, Qumra, we bring together Qatari filmmakers with other regional and international filmmakers and connect them with industry specialists and a group of cinematic masters to provide intensive development for their projects. This format was designed as a direct response to the needs of filmmakers and audiences that we saw evolving over the years since our institute was established, and it forms what we refer to as an ecosystem of support – building a film culture as well as offering practical support for aspiring filmmakers to develop their cinematic language. The ability to speak in one’s own voice is important.
In regards to financing local talent, what are some notable achievements from Qatar in 2015?
AL REMAIHI: We recently embarked on an exciting new phase in partnership with Qatari filmmakers in the newly formed Qatari Film Fund. Through this programme, we have funded nine short films and four Qatari feature films. They are all in varying stages of development, and we are working closely with the filmmakers to connect them with the support they need in terms of mentorship, production advice and script consultancy.
The first one of these 13 films went into production and wrapped up shooting in Doha in October 2015. We now have three films in post production and are continuing to develop the other films. The other projects are progressing as well. Our commitment to financing local talent remains at the core of DFI’s mandate, and this will not change in 2016.
In what way has DFI’s educational component helped create a robust local industry?
AL REMAIHI: Since 2011, 143 short films and documentaries have been produced through the institute’s education programmes, and we have presented more than 120 workshops, labs, master classes and education projects. These range from topics like screenwriting, acting, cinematography, documentary filmmaking and more. We also work with a number of high-profile international partners to help develop the local film industry in Qatar.
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