The second Doha Tribeca Film Festival will be bookended by two very different movies about the damaging fallout from colonialism in Africa. The event will open with the controversial drama Outside the Law, about Algeria's struggle for independence from France, and close with The First Grader, a heart-warming tale about a former Kenyan guerrilla who chooses to begin school life at the age of 84. Hundreds protested against Outside the Law, by the French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, when it competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in May. The film, which takes an unflinching look at atrocities committed by French forces against Algerians, will open the Qatari festival on October 26.
Taking place between 1945 and 1962, the epic story focuses on three Algerian brothers who have survived the Sétif massacre in their homeland and are now living in France. Starring Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem and Sami Bouajila, the film is the follow-up to Bouchareb's 2006 Days of Glory. When it was screened at Cannes, a French politician called the movie revisionist and "anti-French" before asking why public funding had been given to help make it.
The First Grader, the latest film by the British director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl), will close the event on October 30. The drama tells the true story of an elderly Kenyan farmer and former Mau Mau rebel who fights for his right to receive the education he could never afford as a younger man. The film was screened at the Toronto and Telluride festivals earlier this month and stars Naomie Harris and Oliver Litondo.
Ten films will take part in the newly added Arab Film Competition, four of which will be world premieres: Grandma, A Thousand Times by Mahmoud Kaabour, Hawi by Ibrahim el Batout, Man Without a Cellphone by Sameh Zoabi and The Mountain by Ghassan Salhab. Prizes will be awarded for Best Arab Film, Best Arab Short Film and Best Arab Filmmaker, while two audience awards - one for Best Narrative Film and the other for Best Documentary Film - will also be given. The winners of each category will receive a share of the Dh1.5 million prize fund.
Amanda Palmer, the executive director of the Doha Film Institute said the competition will aim to "stimulate the growth of filmmaking in the region" and "discover new storytellers and cinematic gems that have the potential to earn global acclaim". The programming team was led by Palmer and this year expanded to include two Arab programmers: the Oscar-nominated Palestinian filmmaker Scandar Copti and the Lebanese programmer Hania Mroue.
Other high-profile highlights of the programme include: François Ozon's star-studded French farce Potiche; the Jewish-American filmmaker Julian Schnabel's Miral (about Palestinian orphans in 1948 Jerusalem); Stephen Frears's English countryside drama Tamara Drewe; and Abbas Kiarostami's Cannes favourite Certified Copy, starring Juliette Binoche. Let Me In, the US remake of a Swedish vampire movie, will also screen at the festival, alongside the British drama Made in Dagenham; the US public schools documentary Waiting for Superman; the acclaimed French-Canadian tale of discovery Incendies; and Bhutto, a biopic about Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani political leader and former prime minister who was assassinated in December 2007.
A second Cannes contender about France's difficult relationship with its former colony of Algeria will screen at the festival. Of Gods and Men is about a group of French monks living in a Roman Catholic monastery during Algeria's civil war in the 1990s. The festival will also include a special screening of the restored silent film, A Throw of Dice. The lavish 1922 movie, about a contest between two Indian kings to win the hand of a poor girl, features thousands of extras and exotic animals. The screening will be accompanied by an original score composed by the British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney.
Also screening are The Light Thief, a drama set in Kyrgyzstan; the Latin America documentary The Two Escobars; the Hollywood horse-racing film Secretariat; the Bosnian drama On the Path; Robert Redford's Abraham Lincoln assassination story The Conspirator; and the Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed's directorial debut, a documentary called Just Like Us. Geoffrey Gilmore, the chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises, said the festival's organisers had received more than 300 submissions from more than 50 countries.
"It's challenging to limit the slate to under 50 films, so this is a very thoughtfully curated line-up," he said.
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival runs from October 26-30. Tickets go on sale from October 13. For more details see www.dohafilminstitute.com.