On February 25th, 2020, the Qatar-America Institute (QAI), in partnership with the Doha Film Institute (DFI), hosted a film screening at the Tribeca Film Center in New York City. The event celebrated DFI’s work in championing emerging filmmaking talent in Qatar and the MENA region. The event saw a screening of the Short Cuts to Qatar program, a series of seven short films made by Qatar-based filmmakers. Several of the films screened were recipients of support from DFI’s grants program, which provides development, production, and postproduction funding to domestic and international filmmakers.
The genres of the films ranged from animation to documentary. They displayed the creative talent of young filmmakers as they grappled, through their art, portraying the everyday lives, struggles, and triumphs of the Middle East’s youth-dominated societies.
The following films were part of the screening: Maha’ Mel (Ships) by Dhabya Al-Muhannadi; The Unlucky Hamster by Abdulaziz Khashabi; I Am Not My Father by Naif Hassan Al-Malki; Voyager by Khalifa Al-Marri; Nasser Goes to Space by Mohammed Al-Mahmeed; Revive the Lira’s Glory by Alessandra El Chanti; Socotra by Ching Siew Hua.
Following the screening, QAI hosted a brief discussion with Alessandra El Chanti, who directed the short film “Revive the Lira’s Glory.” The film, centered around the work of a Lebanese artist, Ibrahim Sultani, captured the nature of both the economic and sectarian crisis gripping Lebanon. Sultani, rather than focusing on contemporary political figures, paints portraits of Lebanese icons on banknotes.
El Chanti, who pursued her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University in Qatar, is currently a candidate for the Masters of Fine Arts at Northwestern’s Illinois campus. As a student trained and submerged in the universal language of film, El Chanti embodies the educational and cultural exchange that QAI takes as its mission to highlight and celebrate.
Professor Nurhaizatul Jamil, Assistant Professor in Global South Studies and the co-director of the Social Media Lab at The Pratt Institute, moderated the Q&A session with El Chanti and the audience. At Pratt, Professor Jamil teaches classes on Women in the Muslim world, Middle Eastern communities and cultures, decolonizing methodologies, and fashion and sustainability studies. Her current research examines the entanglements between modest fashion and sustainability within Muslim communities.
Several of the films screened appeared in the 2019 edition of the Ajyal Film Festival, DFI’s marquee annual film festival. ‘Ajyal,’ Arabic for ‘generations,’ brings people of all ages together through screenings and events that inspire creative interaction and stimulate cinematic dialogue. QAI was honored to help bring a flavor of Ajyal to New York City, showcasing DFI’s efforts to encourage the growth of storytelling through the medium of film in the region and the world. As a complement to Ajyal’s drive to promote filmmaking talent, DFI also spearheads a mentorship program for aspiring filmmakers, known as Qumra.
Qumra is an annual initiative that offers mentorship and practical development experience, via its Qumra Master Classes, for filmmakers from Qatar and around the world. Internationally accredited professionals in the film industry teach the Qumra Master Classes. Qumra 2019 ran for five days, from March 15th to March 20th. The program included an array of public screenings and events. The featured selections were films produced by Qumra Masters and by the recipients of DFI’s grants programs.
The New York screening of the Short Cuts to Qatar program was made possible by the generous support of the Qatar National Tourism Council, which is curating Qatar as the Middle East’s destination of choice for leisure and business travelers.
Since its founding in 2010, DFI has been dedicated to film appreciation, education, and building a dynamic film industry in Qatar that focuses on nurturing regional storytellers while being entirely global in its scope.
QAI is an independent Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that hosts an open space to convene people, facilitate cross-cultural exchanges, and develop educational research on the strategic and cultural ties between the United States and the State of Qatar.