The third annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival came to a confused, and somewhat irritable, conclusion Saturday evening with a closing ceremony marked by the absence of any mention of the festival’s Arab film competitions.
Though several figures from New York’s Tribeca Film Festival were in Doha for the event, the luminaries of DTFF’s partner association who have attended its last two awards ceremonies – including the event’s godfather Robert De Niro – were absent from this year’s closing festivities. De Niro & Co. were also nowhere to be seen at the afternoon ceremony for the Arab film competition winners, which had been quietly improvised for Saturday afternoon – without officially notifying the press.
This was vexing to the Arab filmmaking community. Though it is not unusual for festivals with sprawling competitions to hive off some prizes for earlier (often less formal) ceremonies, it is customary to do this with secondary awards – short film prizes, the FIPRESCI prize and so forth. To relegate the feature-length fiction and documentary films to this status – without bothering to tell the press about it – was akin to asking the guests of honor to eat supper in the kitchen because there was no room at the dining room table.
The prize for Best Narrative Film in the Arab Film Competition (worth $100,000) went to “Normal,” written and directed by Algerian auteur Merzak Allouache. Set in contemporary Algiers, the film examines the conversation between a film director and his scriptwriter, then the filmmakers and their Algerian cast, about how best to complete a film they’d started two years before that had been intended to be about corruption in Algeria but which later lost its way.
The decision provoked some grumbling. Though some cineastes appreciated aspects of this film, which had its world premiere at DTFF and was completed with support from the Doha Film Institute, it was felt Allouache had been awarded for being the most respected Arab filmmaker in this competition rather than for having made the best film.
Consensus had it that the best film in the narrative completion was “Omar Killed Me” (Omar M’a Tuer), the second feature of Franco-Maghribi writer-director Roschdy Zem. The film dramatizes the true-to-life story of Omar Raddad (Sami Bouajila), who was accused of the brutal 1991 murder of 65-year-old Ghislaine Marchal (Liliane Nataf), a rich widow who employed Raddad as her gardener. Though the case was highly dubious, French justice convicted Raddad of the murder, sentencing him to 17 years in prison.
In fact the DTFF jury did give Zem the prize for Best Director in the Narrative Film completion (worth $50,000) and also gave Bouajila the $15,000 prize for Best Performance.
“This is one of the best festivals to raise the profile of youth cinema, which will create our future,” remarked Syrian auteur and jury president of the Arab Narrative Film Competition Mohammed Malas. “It was not an easy task to select the winners, but ‘Omar Killed Me’ is a genuinely humanitarian story that unravels the justice system in France with distinguished cinematic language. ‘Normal’ expresses bravely what is going on in the region – the suppression of people’s expression and the state of confusion – with liberty, courage and warmth.”
The $100,000 prize for Best Documentary Film went to France-based Egyptian-born filmmaker Namir Abdel Messeeh for his debut feature-length film, “The Virgin, The Copts and Me,” which had its world premiere at DTFF. The film documents the filmmaker’s investigation of the phenomenon of the Virgin Mary’s Egyptian apparition. The appearance has been recorded on videotape and, while his mother, and millions of other Copts, attests to seeing the Virgin on the screen, he sees nothing.
Another prize, for Best Documentary Filmmaker (worth $50,000) went to Lebanon’s Rania Stephan for “The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni.” A clever study-fictionalization of the iconic Egyptian film star’s life, based on excerpts taken from VHS recordings of her decades-long film oeuvre, the film premiered at the Sharjah Biennial earlier this year, where it took the top prize. Since then it has been lauded with prizes at the FID Marseilles festival and, now, DTFF.
The ($10,000) Best Arab Short Film prize went to “Where Are You?” (Wenak?) by Abdulaziz Al-Nujaym, from Saudi Arabia. Honorable Mention in the same category went to “My Father Is Still a Communist – Intimate Secrets To Be Published” – like Staphan’s film a Sharjah Art Foundation commission – by Lebanon’s Ahmad Ghossein. The award earned Ghossein $10,000 in development services from DFI.
Mohamad Rezwan al-Islam and Jassim al-Romaihi took home a DFI Engraved iPad for their film, “A Falcon A Revolution,” (Asaqar Wa Asawra), which won in the “Made in Qatar” programing segment.
At Saturday evening’s gala closing ceremonies at the Katara Open Air Theater, DTFF handed out its final two prizes – the audience awards, for which all festival films were eligible. This year audience awards were presented for Best Feature length Doc and Best Narrative Feature.
The Audience prize for Best Narrative Feature went to Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki for her feature “Where Do We Go Now?” a musical-comedy fantasia about sectarianism in a post-war village in a country much like Lebanon.
Since its debut at Cannes Un Certain Regard program, Labaki’s film has taken numerous audience prizes, most significantly the one at the Toronto International Film Festival, which ensured the film’s international distribution and gave it a real chance at the foreign film competition of this year’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards.
The Audience Award for Best Doc went to Morgan Spurlock’s “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope,” which examines the fans who make the annual pilgrimage to San Diego’s Comic-Con, a convention which began as a fringe comic book meet-up in 1970 and is now the pop cultural event of the year.
Hollywood, Bollywood and Arab stars walking the red carpet at the Katara Opera House. From film makers, event organizers and actors all the way from Dubai to LA, Ahlan! was front row to catch a glimpse of the glamour that marked the opening festival.
Guests arrived at the red carpet en route to the movie theatre for the premiere flick Outside The Law (Hors-la-loi). But the star of the night on the red carpet was Salma Hayek. The fourty-four year-old was as beautiful on the red carpet as she is on the big screen. Wearing a stunning black and gold Alexander McQueen dress, her hair swept up, and diamond drop earrings, the A-Lister was scooped off the red carpet and escorted to a private viewing platform above guests at the movie theatre where she sat with film directors to watch the first flick of the film festival. So what did she think of the opening night so far? “Very, very impressive.”
Salma is in town as a jury member for the DTFF and it’s a position she will gladly step away from the camera for. “I really like it,” she said when asked of her role on the board. Salma will be joined by Roberto Di Nero later in the week for panel discussions.
After the film wrapped for the night, VIP's were invited to Doha's newly opened The Pearl where they partied on into the early hours.
Top 10 Doha Tribeca Film Festival Movies
1. Black Gold
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Liya Kebede, Akin Gazi, Jan Uddin
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Synopsis: Black Gold is set to be one the biggest films ever made in the Arab world. It is the opening night film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and Antonio Banderas and cast are flying in to celebrate the Middle East premiere.
The historic epic tells the story of two rival Emirs (Banderas and Strong) in the Arabian Peninsula of the 1930s and their battle over oil. If you recognise the story line, that’s because it is an adaptation of Hans Ruesch's classic novel, The Great Thirst. You may also recognise the backdrop, especially if you’re visiting Qatar for the DTFF – the film was shot in Qatar and Tunisia.
2. The Help
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Tate Taylor
Synopsis: We adore Emma Stone and predict a sell-out to see this corker. Set in 1960s Mississippi, Southern society girl, Skeeter (Stone), returns from college determined to become a writer. Her controversial decision to interview the black women who have spent their lives waiting on her privileged society friends turns her world upside down. Existing friendships flounder, while new ones flourish amid the changing times in a story that explores oppression and politics. Stone is simply brilliant.
3. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn in 3D
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook
Director: Steven Spielberg
Synopsis: Tintin (Bell) is a young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure, and into the path of the nefarious Red Rackham (Craig). Based on the series of books the Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, the film is produced by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy.
Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures Present “The Adventures of Tintin” directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish. Starring Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”, “Defiance”) as Tintin, the young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure, and Daniel Craig (“Quantum of Solace”, “Defiance”) as the nefarious Red Rackham.
Based on the series of books the Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, the film is produced by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy.
4. The Lady
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Ragett, Jonathan Woodhouse
Director: Luc Besson
Synopsis: The true story of Aung San Suu Kyi, the woman at the core of Burma’s democracy movement, and her husband, Michael Aris. An epic love story about how an extraordinary couple and family sacrifice their happiness at great human cost for a higher cause, “The Lady” is a story of devotion and human understanding set against a background of political turmoil which continues even today.
5. Bollywood – The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Starring: Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Shammi Kapoor
Directors: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Jeff Zimbalist
Synopsis: A film celebrating the spectacular world of Hindi cinema, featuring archival clips and interviews with Indian superstars including Anil Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. It is a tribute to a genre that established Mumbai as an international filmmaking hub and has significantly shaped the global perception of one of the largest and youngest democracies in the world.
6. Cat in Boots in 3D (Puss in Boots in 3D)
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris
Director: Chris Miller
Synopsis: Long before Puss ever met Shrek, our suave and furry feline hero goes on a swashbuckling ride, as he teams up with mastermind Humpty Dumpty and the street-savvy Kitty Softpaws to steal the famed Goose that lays the Golden Eggs. It’s the adventure of nine lifetimes!
7. The Hunter
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Synopsis: Based on the acclaimed novel by Julia Leigh, “The Hunter” is a powerful psychological drama that tells the story of Martin (Dafoe), a mercenary sent from Europe by a mysterious biotech company into Australia’s Tasmanian wilderness. His mission – to hunt for the last remaining Tasmanian tiger.
8. Sarah Palin - You Betcha!
Directors: Nick Broomfield, Joan Churchill
Synopsis: Nick Broomfield’s quest for the real Sarah Palin involves battling the icy snows of Alaska in mid-winter as he interviews the friends, family, and Republican colleagues who gave their heart, soul and belief, to the charismatic ex-hockey mum-turned-American politician. But it’s not all clear sailing. People are frightened to talk in the devout evangelical community of Wasilla, which is strangely also the crystal meth capital of Alaska.
9. The Woman in the Fifth
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig, Samir Guesmi, Mamadou Minté, Jean-Louis Cassarino
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Synopsis: American writer Tom Ricks (Hawke) comes to Paris, desperate to put his life back together and win back the love of his estranged wife and daughter. Things don’t go according to plan and when he gets involved with a beautiful and mysterious widow (Thomas), an obscure force seems to take control of his life.
10. Boxing With Her (Banet El Boxe)
Starring: Amal Touati, Rim Jouini, Houda Rahali, Marwa Rahali, Imed Zayani, Hamadi Chergui, Yosra Ouled Taleb
Directors: Latifa Robbana Doghri, Salem Trabelsi
Synopsis: This revealing documentary explores the world of female boxing in Tunisia, a society where the body of a woman is considered a sacred place for procreation. Through interviews with women boxers, the film asks why a female body in the pugilistic arena is so confronting, even taboo, in Arab society.
INFO: Tickets for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival are on sale now. Tickets cost QAR30/QAR20 with student discount for regular screenings; QAR 50/QAR35 with student discount for premium screening. To buy tickets log on to www.dohafilminstitute.com/filmfestival or visit DFI City Center Lounge at City Center Mall, DFI Villaggio Lounge (opposite Virgin Megastore) in Villagio Mall, or the main ticket office in Building 26, Katara Cultural Village.
Get ready for five action-packed days of cinema and celebrities at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Here’s our pick of what to see and do. Ready, film buffs?
1. How To Buy Tickets
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival runs from 25 to 29 October and is taking place across five theatres around the city: the Katara Opera House, the DFI Cinemas, Katara Open Air Theatre, City Centre Cinemas and the Katara Screening Hall. For more information or to book tickets visit dohafilminstitute.com/filmfestival. Tickets to most movie screenings cost Dhs30 for regular screenings, Dhs50 for premium screenings and Dhs30 for the special talks and masterclasses hosted by Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Good news for students: if you present your ID card you’ll get discounts on movie tickets.
2. Getting to Doha
Qatar Airways have been named the official airline of the 3rd annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Return flights from Dubai to Doha start at Dhs780. To book flights with Qatar Airways visit qatarairways.com.
3. Check out Robert De Niro’s Film Festival
In 2002 Robert De Niro together with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff launched the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. In 2009 the Doha Tribeca Film Festival was established and during the past two years it has managed to successfully bring together the best of Arab and international cinema. During the 2011 festival there will be at 50 films on show highlighting the best in Arab, Hollywood, Bollywood and international films and the talent behind them. Last year the festival attracted a whopping 13,000 attendees and this year they’re looking to break the record.
4. A-list Faces at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival
Last year, the hottest faces at the film festival were Kevin Spacey, Robert De Niro, Freida Pinto and Salma Hayek. In 2011, stars said to be hitting Doha’s red carpet include Antonio Banderas, Leona Lewis and Freida Pinto. Keep your eyes peeled!
5. World Premeire
The opening night film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival is Black Gold, an adaption of Hans Ruesch’s novel The Great Thirst, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The feature film is the story follows two desert tribes in Arabia and their rivalry, sparked over oil in the 1930s. The film, which stars Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto, was shot in Tunisia and Qatar and has been labelled one of the “largest cinematic projects ever undertaken in the Arab world”. The premium screening is taking place at 8pm, 25 October at Katara Open Air Theatre 9, northeast corner of the esplanade, Doha. Tickets cost Dhs50. The regular screening is at 8.30pm, 25 October at Katara Opera House, Al Istiqlal Street, West Bay, Doha. Tickets cost Dhs30.
6. Bollywood and Hollywood Comes to Doha
From India to LA there are a handful of hot new international movies on the Doha line-up. From Hollywood there will be a special screening for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn in 3D at 2.30pm, 28 October, Katara Opera House 2. Cat in Boots in 3D starring Antonio Banderas will be screening at 7pm, 28 October, 2011, Katara Opera House 1 and 5pm, 29 October, 2011, Katara Opera House 2. The Help starring Emma Stone is at 8pm, 27 October, Katara Opera House 2 and 5pm, 29 October, City Centre Cinemas 1. From India, Bollywood – The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is also on the schedule for 8pm, 26 October, Katara Open Air Theatre 9.
7. Homegrown Movie Writers
Think you’ve got what it takes to write the next blockbuste? Next month, the Maisha Lab is coming to Doha to teach budding writers how to make a movie. The week-long screenwriters workshop will teach students to innovate, create and adapt their ideas for the big screen. What’s more, participants in the class will get one-on-one mentoring sessions, group training and private time to write. To apply for the class you need to submit a seven to 10 page script. Check out the DTFF films for inspiration and then get writing your masterpiece.
INFO: Entry is by accepted manuscript only. 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 6.30pm, 18 to 25 November, 2011. Katara, Doha. For more information visit www.dohafilminstitute.com/education/maisha-film-labs/maisha-scriptwriting-lab-doha.
8. Don’t Miss
The Harrer Harrer exhibition is a special addition to the 2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival. In a series of video installations 50 stories from nine Arab cities will be unveiled during the festival in a bid to showcase the life of those around the region. Overall 140 participants took part in the documentary process to bring together a collection of one-minute films. Check out the Harrer Harrer exhibition at 3pm, 26 October, 2011, Katara Building 5.
9. Doha Talks
Ever wanted to know how directors make it big in Hollywood? Well, Luc Besson and Morgan S are set to spill all during their Doha Talks session. Spurlock, the Academy Award-nominated director of Super-Size Me and Freakonomics, and world-famous Besson, director of Leon and The Lady, will be at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival to share their secrets with movie lovers.