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Arab filmmakers tell stories of hope and intense drama
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 02 - 11 - 2012

A scene from “Asham: A Man Called Hope,” about a street peddler whose optimism about a better future encapsulates the hopes of Egypt. Films in competition at the 4th Doha Tribeca Film Festival reflect the impact of Arab Spring on a new generation of filmmakers. — Courtesy photo

DOHA, Qatar — The 4th Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) — the annual cultural event organized by Doha Film Institute (DFI), to be held from November 17 to 24 — presents established and emerging faces of Arab cinema in its Arab Film Competition lineup.
The Arab Film Competition this year makes a marked evolution in the cinematic sensibilities and approaches of the region's filmmakers, representing Egypt, Qatar, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Through their films marked by a distinctive cinematic style, they address issues that were seldom tackled before, such as freedom of political expression, family and love stories set amidst strife, and the searing tales of fighters in post-revolution nations.
The Arab Film Competition, the centerpiece of DTFF, has a total of 27 films including seven documentaries, seven narrative features and 13 shorts from 10 Arab countries including first-time entries to the competition from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Arab Film Competition for narrative features and documentaries has five world premieres and two international premieres; the Arab Short Film Competition has eight world and international premieres.
The films that make their world premiere in the Arab Film Competition include the feature films “Asham: A Man Called Hope,” “Playground Chronicles,” “Die Welt,” “Goodbye Morocco,” and the documentary “O My Body!” The world premieres in the short film competition section include “Ismail,” “Sanctity,” “The Forgotten,” “The Wall,” “Bidoon,” and “Tariq.”
The most fascinating aspect of this year's Arab Film Competition selection is their thematic brilliance and attention to cinematic detailing. Bringing together works by renowned auteurs as well as high-caliber debutants, the selection is a clear statement on how Arab cinema has evolved, particularly after the events of the Arab Spring,” said Issa Bin Mohammed Al-Mohannadi, DTFF Vice Chair.
“The Arab film competition serves as a stepping-stone for regional filmmakers to showcase their creativity to the global community and complements our efforts to support the development of a credible regional film industry,” he added.
Auteurs competing for top honors include Merzak Allouache, Tahani Rached, Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige, Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud, Nabil Ayouch and Nadir Moknèche. Representing the emerging face of Arab cinema, directors such as Hanan Abdalla, Maggie M. Morgan, Karim Alexander Pitstra, Brahim Fritah, Tamara Stepanyan and Damien Ounouri will share the spotlight with established names. Their films present two uniquely different perspectives from the region, highlighting classical works and innovative approaches with several subject matters.
DTFF's Arab Film Competition also highlights the strong inroads being made by Arab female filmmakers with 10 films — more than one-third of the total selection — portraying the struggles, aspirations, achievements and hopes of women across the region. To evaluate the impact of the Arab Spring on the region's cinema, DTFF will also host a panel discussion on “Emerging Cinema of Change.”
Today's filmmakers are more confident, approaching subject matters that were rarely explored earlier, and present them in compelling styles that highlight the strong creative standards of the region's talent,” said Chief Arab Programmer Hania Mroue.

She works closely with Chadi Zeneddine, resident filmmaker and programmer, to curate the program for the Arab Film Competition.
With total prize money of over US$440,000, the best feature narrative and documentary will each receive prize money of US$100,000. An award of US$50,000 will be awarded to the best directors in both categories. A Best Performance Award of US$15,000 will be presented in the Feature Narrative competition. The Best Short film will receive US$10,000 and a development prize of up to US$10,000.
With an expanded Festival format this year, DTFF 2012 will showcase over 87 films from across the globe under distinctly themed categories including Arab Film Competition, Made in Qatar, Contemporary World Cinema and Special Screenings.
This year, DTFF provides audiences a comprehensive and enriching cultural experience with new screening venues in Doha. Indoor and outdoor screenings will take place at Katara Cultural Village, Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA), and Souq Waqif. — SG


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