The inaugural edition of Doha’s new Qumra film industry event begins tomorrow at the city’s Katara Drama Theatre.
Among the leading lights of cinema flying in to share their wisdom are the Oscar-winning writer and director Danis Tanovic, A Separation star Leila Hatami and Abderrahmane Sissako, the director of this year's Oscar-nominated Timbuktu.
Qumra was intended to debut last year, following the demise of the Doha Tribeca Festival, but the organisers – the Doha Film Institute – chose to postpone the event, a decision that DFI’s chief executive Fatma Al Remaihi says was definitely the correct one.
“We didn’t think we had a ready-enough product to share with the world last year,” she says. “Now we’re in a much more confident state with a much more confident programme and we’re all working really well together. I’m really glad we decided to postpone and make sure we have a product of real value for everyone.”
While many may have expected Qumra to serve as the “new Tribeca”, the event is very different from its predecessor, with a much stronger focus on the practical business of filmmaking.
The event’s key strand is a number of one-on-one sessions and workshops with visiting masters, assigned as mentors to regional filmmakers who have projects at various stages of development and production.
“This is not a replacement for Tribeca,” Al Remaihi says. “When the Tribeca contract finished we wanted something that really fit in with the film institute’s objectives for the region. We realised that the missing link was a more professional industry environment where filmmakers can gain experience in all types of cinema, and Qumra came out of that need.
“There are so many things we want to achieve – to establish Qatar as an incubator for cinema, to give emerging filmmakers and writers all the opportunities we can give from the huge network we’ve obtained over the past few years.
“We wanted a practical side where people actually come and work on their films, not just go to red carpets and screenings. We want the filmmakers to own the event, make connections and hopefully keep working with the professionals they’re assigned to work with long afterwards.”
Twenty-five films from across the Middle East have been selected for mentoring and the filmmakers will receive one-on-one sessions and tuition from their assigned master. There’s also plenty for those who haven’t been selected to work with a master, however. Accreditation for Qumra is open to anyone working in the media, from journalists and educators to filmmakers and TV crews. While the one-on-one sessions will be open only to the filmmakers involved, other masterclasses and networking sessions will be open to all accredited visitors.
There’s plenty to keep the wider public engaged, too. Each of the masters will bring a film to Doha for a screening and Q&A session, and DFI will also be curating screenings of a selection of films from the more-than-200 it has co-funded or given grants to over the last few years.
Tickets for the screenings are already on sale, online or at the Doha Film Institute Katara Drama Theatre Ticket Outlet.
• For screening times, prices, ticket packages, ratings, box office hours and further information, visit dohafilminstitute.com/qumra