The Doha Film Institute’s Qumra event takes place against the backdrop of the FIFA World Cup fan hotspots


Three months ago, Doha’s new Downtown Msheireb district was the beating heart of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar as one of the main fan zones.

Ask any local on the street or in its cafes and shops how it was and their faces will light up as they share how crowded it was and the magical atmosphere.

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The pedestrian precinct, billed as the world’s first sustainable inner-city regeneration project, now serves as a backdrop for the Doha Film Institute’s annual Qumra Talent Incubator alongside the IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art (MIA).

The aim of the event, which started on Friday, is to present 44 film and series projects in different formats and stages of production. All projects are recipients of the DFI’s generous grant program

The focus is on filmmakers from the Middle East and North Africa, but there are also projects from further afield with professionals from around 50 countries present this year.

The press works in the former World Cup VIP suite reserved for David Beckham during the tournament, while workshops and one-on-ones take place at the nearby Al-Wadi Hotel, which has become a meeting place for fans thanks to two giant screens in its ballroom.

This year marks the first physical edition of Qumra since 2019, with the last three editions being postponed online due to the pandemic.

Optimism reigned supreme at the opening meet-and-greet as emerging filmmakers mingled with established names such as British director Lynne Ramsay, Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, documentary filmmaker Rithy Panh and the DFI’s royal patron. Sheikha Al Mayassa Al-Thani who is a driving force behind Doha’s arts and culture scene.

Among the directors with projects making the trip is China’s Jianjie Lin, who is flying in from Beijing with excerpts of his drama Short history of a family, what is mail; Belgium-based Congolese visual artist Precy Numbi with sci-fi fantasy drama Nguya (Co-director with Michiel Robberecht), Palestinian director Ziad Dagher with Thriller in the West Bank weedestin and resident filmmaker Meriem Mesraoua with drama The other women.

The relief that these encounters no longer took place on Zoom was palpable.

“It’s great to be back in person. They forget how different it is to meet face to face. It makes a big difference to have everyone back in Doha. That’s the key,” commented DFI CEO Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, who and her team have kept the event running online for the past three years.

“We had to do that, but it’s not the same,” she adds.

Ramsay is one of the six so-called Qumra Masters who, along with playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton, producer David Parfitt, dune costume designer Jacqueline West and directors Lynne Ramsay and Michael Winterbottom.

Qumra was first launched in 2014 after the DFI decided that the star-studded red carpet events in the early years of its existence were not hitting the mark in terms of promoting local and regional talent, although they helped to put it on the international map.

Over the past eight editions, the event has built a reputation as a venue that offers aspiring filmmakers the time and space to learn from film industry masters. Among the films that took part in the project phase is the Cannes Camera d’Or winner godsOutbreak of Un Certain Regard 2019 Papacha and groundbreaking Algerian costume drama The Last Queen.

DFI Artistic Director Suleiman, who is helping to curate the Qumra Masters, says the event aims to avoid “flashyness” and caters to the needs of the young filmmakers in attendance.

“If you start using flashiness as a facade to generate interest, you lose something, you always have to remember that there will be these young filmmakers,” he said meeting before the event.

“So if you have Winterbottom, he’s probably going to say a lot of stuff that might be interesting to these youngsters. That is always at the forefront of our considerations when we decide who to take with us.”

The missing image Documentary filmmaker Panh was a master in an early edition of Qumra and was so enthralled that he has returned every year since.

This year he is serving as one of the mentors alongside filmmakers Ghassan Salhab, Tala Hadid, Talak Derki and Annemarie Jacir.

Industry experts offering advice include sales representatives Gabor Greiner (Films Boutique) and Aranka Matits (Featurette), and producers Didar Domehri (land of the gods, Under the fig trees) and Dora Bouchoucha (south, Dear son).

We need to talk about Kevin And You We’re never really here Director Ramsay opens the master classes on Saturday.

meeting attends Qumra this year and will report.

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