Mira Nair’s “Amelia” will open the inaugural Doha Tribeca Film Festival in the Middle Eastern capital of Qatar next month. The Fox Searchlight release recalls legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, starring two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank and Golden Globe winner Richard Gere. The new fest is part of a long-term partnership between the Qatar Museums Authority and Tribeca Enterprises, which oversees April’s annual Tribeca Film Festival. Thirty-two films will screen at the first festival, with 12 coming from the Middle East and additional titles from the international festival circuit. The DTFF will run from October 29 to November 1, 2009 in Doha, Qatar.
Festival activities will be centered at the internationally-acclaimed, I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art, an architectural homage to modernity and history that underscores what organizers describe as, “the unique character of Doha.” In addition, open-air screenings around the city will include a showing of the 1969 Egyptian film, “The Mummy (Al-Momia).” This classic, a restored print presented by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, will be shown outdoors at the Souq Waqif, a traditional Middle Eastern bazaar in the heart of Doha.
The film program is highlighted by such titles as “Cairo Time,” starring Patricia Clarkson, “A Serious Man,” the new film from Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen, and “The Informant!” from director Steven Soderbergh, a Warner Bros. release starring Matt Damon.
“We wanted the program to be a partnership, so as we develped the program, it became obvious that [work] from the Middle East should be a core,” Geoff Gilmore, Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises told indieWIRE indieWIRE. “This [festival] isn’t founded on red carpet and celebrities. It’s about developing a film culture and an industry, so showcasing regional work is something that was important.”
Gilmore continued to say that he sees an emergence of Arab filmmaking as part of an “Arab Diaspora” of filmmakers. It can be seen in co-productions such as “Son of Babylon,” which will screen during the event. “They’re full fleshed co-productions, but they’re sensibility and storytelling are Arab. “We want to showcase a range of work from a new generation, which underscores our mission – not just starting a film festival, but working on a longterm project to establish a film industry.”
Gilmore said the idea of establishing an event in Doha came via an intern in Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal’s office who happened to be a member of Qatar’s royal family. He said that aside from oil money, the small Gulf State has gained worldwide notice for being the home of Arab news network Al Jazeera in addition to its I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art. “This third project fits in with their ambitions,” said Gilmore. “These things, I believe, have made Doha a gateway to the Middle East.”
Festival organizers also announced that in its first year, 31 of the 33 films in the lineup will be eligible for two audience-based awards each carrying unrestricted cash prizes amounting to $50,000 (USD). Audience award winners will be announced at DTFF’s closing night ceremony on November 1st. During the ceremony, the festival will also announce a screenplay development and filmmaker grant program to “develop and support filmmakers year-round in the region.”
DTFF’s full slate with descriptions provided by the event continue on page 2:
“About Elly” (Darbareye Elly), directed and written by Asghar Farhadi. (Iran) – Qatar Premiere. Sepideh (Golshifteh Farahani) plans a weekend getaway with friends and invites her son’s kindergarten teacher, Elly (Taraneh Alidousti) to join, but a well-intentioned game of romance quickly turns tragic when she disappears. Saving face overtakes telling the truth as fear and guilt ensnare the group in mystery and lies. Winner of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival’s Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature. In Persian with English and Arabic subtitles.
“Amelia,” directed by Mira Nair, written by Ronald Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan. (USA) – Special Screening. From acclaimed director Mira Nair comes the thrilling story of Amelia Earhart, the woman who changed the face of aviation forever. Amelia chronicles Earhart (Two-time Academy Award(R) winner Hilary Swank) from her childhood roots in rural Kansas, through her early days as an adventurous student of the most respected male aviators, and to her rise to fame and subsequently heartbreaking disappearance on her world-renowned mission around the world in 1937. Golden Globe(R) winner Richard Gere stars as Earhart’s husband, promoter and publishing magnate George P. Putnam and Ewan McGregor stars as her long time friend and lover, pilot Gene Vidal. In English with Arabic subtitles. Fox Searchlight.
“Assila,” directed by Thamer Al Zedi, written by Fedina Lydia and Itiqal Al Tair. (Hungary, UAE, Lebanon, Egypt) – World Premiere. Iraqi filmmaker Al-Zedi creates a stunning and artistic world to take families on an animated journey into the life of beautiful mare, Assila. Abandoned as a filly and facing death, Assila finds happiness when rescued by village children. When her new life is threatened years later, Assila is forced to run the most challenging race of her life. With themes of family, loyalty, love and courage, Assila is an inspirational story for the whole family. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“Big River Man,” directed by John Maringouin. (USA/UK) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Martin Strel – overweight and over 50 – attempts the world’s longest, most dangerous swim: 3,375 miles down the Amazon battling gangs, isolated tribes, crocodiles, toxic waste, lethal whirlpools, and toothy piranhas. Plus, he does all this while guzzling two bottles of wine a day while under the watchful gaze of filmmaker John Maringouin. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“Bright Star,” directed and written by Jane Campion. (UK/Australia) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Truly a transcendent work, Bright Star chronicles the final years of poet John Keats and the one love affair of his life. While avoiding the usual cliches of period dramas, filmmaker Jane Campion brilliantly realizes the 19th century world’s distinction between passion and sex. Abbie Cornish’s portrayal of Keat’s love, Fanny Brawne, is particularly exquisite. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“Buried Secrets” (Dowaha), directed and written by Raja Amari. (Tunisia/Switzerland/France) – Qatar Premiere. Living ‘below stairs’ in an abandoned estate is a strict Tunisian woman and her two daughters, happily hidden from the world until a free-spirited couple and their children move into the house. Filmmaker Raja Amari takes a camera and intrudes on characters who are intruding on each other in a way that proves no secret can stay buried. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“Cairo Time,” directed and written by Ruba Nadda. (Canada/Ireland) – Middle Eastern Premiere. In a poignant story about a woman, her missing husband, and his best friend, Ruba Nadda directs powerful yet restrained performances from Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. While awaiting her husband’s return, Juliette (Clarkson) and Tareq (Siddig) fall into a friendship that says what words never can, and that forever changes their world. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“Capitalism: A Love Story,” directed by Michael Moore. (USA) – Qatar Premiere. Once again, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore turns his critical, richly engaging, and deeply satirical storytelling on the world, and particularly America’s, crisis. In a film about the failures of capitalism, Moore analyzes what he calls “the biggest robbery in the history of the United States.” In English with Arabic subtitles.
“Coco Before Chanel” (Coco avant Chanel), directed by Anne Fontaine, written by Camille Fontaine. (France) – Middle Eastern Premiere. From humble beginnings to the pinnacle of fashion and style, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel always followed her heart. Here, filmmaker Anne Fontaine directs Audrey Tautou in a graceful embodiment of the reluctant courtesan and budding genius who would become one of the greatest style icons of all time. Benoit Poelvoorde, as the doting heir Etienne Balsan, and Alessandro Nivola, his British colleague, round out the dynamic cast. In French with English and Arabic subtitles.
“An Education,” directed by Lone Scherfig, written by Nick Hornby. (UK) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Rebellion and repression are percolating through the world of pre-Beatles England just as 16 year old Jenny meets a much older suitor/teacher. As Jenny learns the ways of the world — of smoke and art and music not her mother’s — she confronts the classic coming of age questions in a film that perfectly blends realism and poetry. Recipient of the audience award at Sundance International Film Festival. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“The Greatest,” directed and written by Shana Feste. (USA) – Middle Eastern Premiere. In The Greatest, director Shana Feste literally opens a door to welcome you home to a family of grief. When the Brewer’s son suddenly and unexpectedly dies, his mother, father, and brother all spiral into their own particular neurosis. Until, that is, the dead son’s girlfriend shows up and everything changes. Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan star as mother and father Brewer. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“Harry Brown,” directed by Daniel Barber and written by Gary Young. (UK) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Michael Caine portrays ex-marine Harry Brown, a lonely widower with only one friend in the world. When that friend is killed by the neighborhood gang, Harry takes matters into his own hands to find those responsible. Director Daniel Barber’s camera takes us deep into the dank streets and decaying crack houses of modern day London, while also taking us deep into the minds of men. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“The Informant!,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Scott Z. Burns and Kurt Eichenwald. (USA) – Qatar Premiere. Steven Soderbergh’s latest opus tracks the playful, quirky and self-conscious journey of corporate executive turned government spy Mark Whitacre, played by delightful Matt Damon. As eccentric and true to period as we have come to expect of Soderbergh’s films, The Informant! captures imagination and attention. In English with Arabic subtitles. Warner Bros.
“Kobe Doin’ Work,” directed by Spike Lee. (USA) – International Premiere. With unprecedented access and utilizing 30 cameras, Spike Lee brings the audience onto the court with superstar Kobe Bryant as his Lakers battle the Spurs in a game with major playoff implications. Through pre-game prep, fast breaks, team huddles, and post-game interviews, it’s just another day at the office for one of the NBA’s best. In English with Arabic subtitles. An ESPN Films presentation.
“London River,” directed by Rachid Bouchareb, written by Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle, and Zoe Galeron. (UK/France/Algeria ) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Taking its cue from any culture clash, London River bridges the worlds of two parents of the suspected victims in the aftermath of the July 2005 bombings. British Elisabeth (Brenda Blethyn) is initially wary of French African Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyate), but the two soon find a connection that brings them together despite it all. In English and French with English and Arabic subtitles.
“The Mummy” (Al-Momia), directed by Shadi Abdel Salam. (Egypt) – Qatar Premiere. The Mummy is a film about history rich with questions of heritage, ancestry and respect. The film discusses survival versus death and carries a kind of sadness about our mortality and morality. Filmed in 1969, this important Egyptian film has been painstakingly and beautifully restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. In Arabic with English subtitles.
Restored in 2008 by The World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture from the original sound and camera negative preserved by the Egyptian Film Centre.
“No One Knows About Persian Cats” (Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh), directed by Bahman Ghobadi, written by Bahman Ghobadi, Roxana Saberi, and Hossein M. Abkenar. (Iran) – Qatar Premiere. Director Bahman Ghobadi penetrates Tehran’s underground music movement as he follows two teens on their attempt to form a new band. At times critical and at times beautiful, No One Knows About Persian Cats is a love/hate letter to Tehran itself. In Persian with English and Arabic subtitles.
“One-Zero” (Wahed-Sefr), directed by Kamla Abu Zekry, written by Mariam Na’oum. (Egypt) Qatar Premiere. It is the final game in the Africa Cup and Egypt is playing Cameroon. The frenzied streets of Cairo are silent as everyone gathers to watch it. Eight lives cross paths at their boiling points and for a brief moment in time they find respite. Kamla Abu Zekry brings the character of Egypt alive and the issues of class, religion and gender to light in her multifarious story of contemporary Egypt. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“Only When I Dance,” directed by Beadie Finzi. (Brazil/UK) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Two teenage ballet dancers from the working-class favelas of Rio are determined to dance their way to a better life, but to do so they must grow up against harsh prejudice, doubt and some of the best dancers in the world. This inspiring documentary trails their path to beat the odds and follow their dream of making it in the elite world of professional ballet. In Portuguese, English and French with English and Arabic subtitles.
“Pomegranates and Myrrh” (Al Mor wa al Rumman), directed and written by Najwa Najjar. (Palestine) – Qatar Premiere. In a beautiful feature debut, filmmaker Najwa Najjar creates a love triangle between talented dancer, Kamar “Caramel,” the man of her dreams and newlywed husband, Zaid, and her handsome choreographer, Kais. Through examining the bittersweet reality of life under conflict in Pomegranates and Myrrh, Najjar illustrates her own stand against the occupation. Yasmine Al Massri, Ashraf Farah, and Ali Suleiman star. In Arabic, English and Hebrew with English subtitles
“Racing Dreams,” directed by Marshall Curry. (USA) – Middle Eastern Premiere. What Little League is to baseball, go-karting is to auto racing. Oscar(R)-nominated director Marshall Curry (Street Fight) follows the exhilarating and emotional journeys of three top racers competing for the national championship. Three adolescents and their families must discover if they have the talent and dedication–and sponsorship dollars–to one day become NASCAR superstars. Winner of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Documentary Feature Award. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“Red Cliff” (Chi bi) directed by John Woo. (China/Japan/South Korea/Taiwan/USA) – Qatar Premiere. An epic struggle of the effects of war on individual relationships and fueled by striking performances and grand battle scenes, John Woo’s Red Cliff lives up to the expectations of being the most expensive Asian film ever produced. Staring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, and Chang Chen among others. In Mandarin with English and Arabic subtitles.
“Road, Movie,” directed and written by Dev Benegal. (India/USA) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Not interested at the prospect of overtaking his family’s hair oil business, young Vishnu jumps at the chance to drive across India. Along the way, he meets a beautiful woman, a young runaway, and a wandering old entertainer. When they are stopped by corrupt cops, they discover a secret that changes their entire journey. From the producers of In the Bedroom and Lost in Translation. In Hindi with English and Arabic subtitles.
“Samson and Delilah,” directed and written by Warwick Thornton. (Australia) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Warwick Thornton’s impressive debut is a feature about survival and being saved, much as Thornton credits cinema as ‘saving’ him. An unconventional love story, Samson and Delilah follows aboriginal petrol-sniffing Samson (Rowan McNamara) and indigenous Delilah (Marissa Gibson) on their road to the other side. In English and Warlpiri with Arabic subtitles.
Scheherazade: Tell Me a Story (Ehky ya Scheherazade), directed by Yousry Nasrallah, written by Wahid Hamed. (Egypt) – Qatar Premiere. Tell me the story of women from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Weave their challenges together, and show me the fabric of the relationship between men and women. Showcase a master storyteller, and you’ll see one unforgettable ‘night’ of cinema exploring the contemporary condition of women in Cairo. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“The September Issue,” directed by R.J. Cutler. (USA) – Qatar Premiere. Documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler takes us behind the fashion, the runways, and the style into the secretive world of high fashion magazine Vogue’s iconic editor Anna Wintour. Through unprecedented access at a truly fascinating institution, Cutler both perpetuates and unravels one of the world’s best dressed myths. In English with Arabic subtitles.
“A Serious Man,” directed and written by Joel and Ethan Coen. (USA) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Just, fair, and all around do-gooder Larry Gopnick really only wants a little council and a little wisdom from his Rabbi. Instead, he’s assailed by a freeloading brother, a disenchanted wife, a blackmailing student, and a dire suburb. Joel and Ethan Coen bring together a superb cast from the Yiddish theatre for a perfectly witted chronicle of the (un)fairness of it all. In English with Arabic subtitles. Focus Features
“Sin Nombre,” Cary Joji Fukunaga. (USA/Mexico) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Good-girl Sayra of Honduras meets teen gang members Smiley and Casper of Mexico on a US-bound freight train as each is striving to claim a better life. Hugging rooftops and escaping from neighborhoods riddled with violence, these three young heros are caught up in a film of chase and romance. In Spanish with English and Arabic subtitles. Focus Features.
“Son of Babylon” (Ibn Babil), directed by Mohamed Al-Daradji, written by Jennifer Norridge and Mohamed Al-Daradji. (Iraq/UK/Netherlands/France/Palestine/UAE/Qatar) – Qatar Premiere. On a journey to find her son, an elderly mother (Shazada Hussein) sets out on the 500 km journey across Iraq. As filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji follows her across a post Saddam Hussein country, he shows us a war torn world filled with the bitterness of merely surviving and the desperation/hope for a shared future. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“South of the Border,” directed by Oliver Stone. (USA) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Oliver Stone set out to determine whether Venezuela President Hugo Chavez was really the “anti-American” force the media claimed he was. What ended up, however, is a film where Stone sits down with seven South American presidents and documents larger sentiments and trends between the United States and its ‘South of the Border’ neighbors. In English, Spanish and Portuguese with English and Arabic subtitles.
“Team Qatar,” directed by Liz Mermin. (UK) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Equal parts competition movie and cultural examination, Team Qatar follows the first Qatari national debate team and their springy English coach as they train in Doha, London, and New York in preparation for the world championship in DC. Will this vibrant multicultural team handle the pressure and succeed on the world stage? In English with Arabic subtitles.
“The Time That Remains,” directed and written by Elia Suleiman. (UK/Italy/Belgium/France) – Qatar Premiere. Nazareth-born filmmaker Elia Suleiman turns the camera toward his own family in a film that he directs, produces, and stars in. From moments of true hilarity to the heartache of being an exile in your own land, “The Time That Remains” travels across 50 years of Palestinian history, while never letting us leave home. In Hebrew and Arabic with English and Arabic subtitles.
“Turtle: An Incredible Journey,” directed by Nick Stringer, written by Melanie Finn. (UK/Austria/Germany) – Middle Eastern Premiere. Filmmaker Nick Stringer has captured the essence of struggle as he follows one loggerhead turtle from birth on a Florida beach, into the ocean, and toward the Arctic. The loggerhead turtle’s 25-year journey is one of the most treacherous and amazing migrations in nature, and Stringer has made an extraordinarily beautiful and suspense-filled film. Narrated by Miranda Richardson. In English with Arabic subtitles.