The Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2010 – An Event To Remember

‘Let’s be courageous with stories and talk about issues that matter’ – Burhan Qurbani

This statement comes from an emerging German director Burhan Qurbani whose film ‘Shahada’ was winner for original story and representation in this year 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

Indeed, film-making in itself is courageous for the fate of film remains unknown until it’s released. Films are a form of art. They are produced not only for entertaining purposes, but also, for telling a story and to reach out to people with messages and hope. Film become the catalyst for change, especially, when human stories and issues are the subject. When reality comes on the screens, it makes the audience question a broad range of subjects and their own ideals and morals.

Film festivals’ purpose is to encourage and showcase such films in order to give boost not only to the filmmakers, actors and the industry, but also, to educate the audience on the scope of issues that surround us in our daily lives. This year, The Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2010 brought a wide and diverse range of films to the Qatar audience. For five days, Qatar was gripped with films that ranged from family drama, comedy,horror, documentaries and real life stories.

Katara Open Air Theatre - Picture by DFI
Katara Open Air Theatre – Picture by DFI

The festival launched the opening of Katara – The Cultural Village of Qatar with an opening night screening of Emmy award winner film “Outside The Law” by the French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb.  The open air theater with a 7.1 Dolby sound system vowed the audiences with a range of films.

Algerian-French Director Rachid Bouchareb, Salma Hayek Pinault, legendary Egyptian Actress Yosra, Danis Tanovic, Geoffrey Gilmore, acclaimed director Mira Nair, DFI Executive Amanda Palmer, Indian Director Bhavna Talwar, Indian Director Ram Gopal Verma, famous actors Kevin Spacey and Robert De Niro, Freida Pinto, Director Justin Chadwick, American Egyptian comedic director Ahmed Ahmed, famous Egyptian Actor Adel Imam and many more graced the red carpet and captivated their fans.

International films screened for the event were Paranormal Activity 2, Machete, Let Me In, Bhutto, Rakht Charitra, Stone and Casino Jack among many others.

Rachid Bouchareb - Director of 'Outside The Law'
Rachid Bouchareb – Director of ‘Outside The Law’ Picture by Doha Film InstituteGeoffery Gilmore - Picture by Doha Film Institute

For the very first time, I enrolled in this biggest event as a volunteer and as a reporter for Newzglobe covering the entire event. I got the glimpse behind the mechanics and the work that goes into making the festivals of this size and nature so big. From organizing the accommodation for the VVIPs, Guests, Press and others to ensuring everything is running smoothly in the production departments, the general audience and the press communication, the festival becomes a big mill churning out more surprises for everyone involved.

The reward of volunteering for such festival was the vouchers received that could be exchanged for the tickets of any films or panel discussion. This was a great opportunity as I received the exposure to the Arab Cinema. Though Arabic is not my language and being a fan of Hollywood movies, I have never even heard nor seen good Arabic films. Yet, I was blown away by the enormous talent and potential of the Arabic cinema. The stories presented showed that film has a universal language and no matter which part of the world you belong to, you always, always for dead certain have stories to tell and share that resonate with others.

‘Outside The Law’, ‘The First Grader’ , ‘Miral’ captured the audiences for its explored the costs of wars and conflicts on human lives. The Arab documentary ‘Grandma, A Thousand Times’ followed the life of the director’s grandmother who deals with loneliness as all her children are married and gone and wonders what will happen to her when she dies.  In one way or another, all of us despite the differences in culture, religion, geography or race can find ourselves with people or know people who go through this stage. Another Arabic film ‘A Man Without a Cellphone’ tells the story of a group of young men in Palestine , who despite such hardships, enjoy their lives by talking to girls and trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances. Ahmed Ahmed documentary ‘Just Like US’ explored the cultural and political taboos through comedy by taking the audience on a journey from New York, Beirut, Riyadh, Dubai and back to New York.

And this was not all!!  Burhan Qurbani, the German director of the film ‘Shahada’ was also here for the screening of his film in Doha, Qatar.

Burhan Qurbani - Picture by Sean Gallup Getty Images
Burhan Qurbani – Picture by Sean Gallup Getty Images

I had the great chance not only to see this film , but also, got the opportunity to interview this talented emerging director for Newzglobe. The film took me by surprise for it dealt with issues that in multiple ways we all go through in our lives.  I was grateful that finally someone told story of how Muslims in the West are grappling with their identity, religion and the Western ways post 9/11. The film follows the story of three Muslim protagonists who struggle to find a way of living with their religious beliefs and with the Western system. The challenges each character goes through shows that no society regardless of religion, race, caste, or creed is immune from such issues and every society has its own demons to fight.

The interview was an eye-opener for I was simply stunned by the director’s soft manner and sensitivity to human issues. I was in awe of his courage to show that every society has its own issues and one cannot pinpoint one specific society for being cruel or different.

Most importantly, in our daily lives, we are bombarded by media about stories of other religions and cultures. We are so heavily influenced that not even for once do we stop to think or even question the representation by the media.  It made me re-think how I represent my views on issues that affect me through reports and articles. It also made me realize that when one is passionate about something, a way always comes out for success.

No doubt, the second edition Doha Tribeca Film Festival is a hit. With a chance to cover the event live for an online magazine added with the duties of volunteer, it was a great educational and practical experience  in the field of films and journalism. For someone with specialties in economic development, this event was a roller coaster ride and I loved it!