Films, fun and a boisterous family day marked last month’s second Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
JUST like its inaugural edition, the recently-ended second Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) in the Qatari capital showcased big-budget Hollywood films alongside more modest international art-house fare.
A total of 51 films were presented. One of the last few films to be screened at the five-day festival was Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, starring Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba and Robert De Niro.
Prior to the screening, two of the film’s producers addressed the crowd. They said they were proud to participate at the festival, and that Machete has nudity and some profanities in it. Jokingly, one of them said – with the help of a translator, of course – that hopefully they don’t end up in jail as the film is shown uncensored. Their concern was not unfounded as this was the land where kissing scenes on TV are replaced with scenic shots.
Now, this huge leeway on censorship proved just how serious the Qatari government was about the film festival, which might be in its infancy but had made quite an impression at home and internationally.
From Oct 26 to 30, this city by the Persian Gulf celebrated all things concerning film. The minute one entered the home of the festival – a newly built cultural village called Katara – they were greeted with a seemingly never-ending line of giant portraits of all the talent participating in the festival, as captured by French photographer Brigitte Lacombe.
The brand new venue, which was constructed within a mere six months, was quite an awesome place to walk through. It has randomly located buildings, apparently styled like the traditional Qatari alley, built on dry land leading to the eastern coast of Doha.
The self-sufficient village also has an open-air theatre, where the opening and closing films for the festival were screened.
Amidst the whispering of the ocean on the right and a half-moon rising above the sea, the steel structure that framed the screen loomed large.
Despite the hot weather, the absorbing stories in Algerian film Outside The Law and Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader both held the audience’s attention.
At the centre of the village is a 5,000-seat coliseum-shaped amphitheatre covered with marble.
The red carpet – which happened on all five nights and attracted Hollywood stars like Salma Hayek, De Niro and Kevin Spacey, and international names like Alexander Siddig, Freida Pinto and Mallika Sherawat – led up to a grand movie theatre.
Most importantly, Katara also houses the Doha Film Institute (DFI), the force behind the film festival, that aims at developing professional talent and a film industry in Doha.
DTFF is a partnership between Tribeca Enterprises, founded by Jane Rosenthal, De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, which has been staging the celebrated Tribeca Film Festival in New York for the past eight years.
Its intent here is not dissimilar to its own, which is to “bring people from all walks of life, cultures and backgrounds together through the universal language of film”.
It hopes, with the long-term business partnership with Doha, to have
a “cross-cultural collaboration”.
Egyptian-American comedian/director Ahmed Ahmed commented: “Tribeca Film Festival was created after 9/11. It’s profound that they’ve extended this olive branch back to the Arab community with this collaboration in Doha.
“Some 300 Tribeca people have transplanted themselves to make this work. It’s so cool. At the opening night gala, I thought I was at the Oscars. I was touched. I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool, and the rest of the world has to know about this.’”
Anyone who attended the event would think that the whole world did arrive in Doha. Besides the gorgeous celebrities, the festival had 200 DFI staff members and 850 volunteers from all over the world besides the many film enthusiasts.
One such fan was Tilana, a dancer/actress from South Africa who aspires to become a scriptwriter. She spent her days attending the industrial talks and catching some of the movies.
The festival also brought together students, from as young as nine to 16, to participate in some of the events, including educational tours of Doha, and a Family Day on the fourth day of the festival.
The Katara Village was truly abuzz during the Family Day. Street performers, Cirque du Soleil members, Maori dancers and tabla players mingled with the crowd.
A volunteer from Italy commented: “Family Day was a great success. You could see children arriving from noon with their parents, and not much later as we anticipated. I was amazed to see this unicyclist high up in the air juggling bottles of fire.”
The CEO of Tribeca Enterprises, Geoffrey Gilmore, told Gulf Times, the local English daily, that the festival had exceeded his expectations. – By Mumtaj Begum
Special draw: Huge portraits of the talent, like Robert De Niro, participating in
the second Doha Tribeca Film Festival line the road leading up
to the Katara Village.
One of the breathtaking attractions at the family day.
A unicyclist towering over everybody else at the Family Day. (Pic left) The 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival offers great fun for both adults and children.
Star power: Salma Hayek attending the Opening Night Gala of the 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival.