Following the international acclaim of two Doha Film Institute-funded films at the recent Venice Film Festival, the Institute has announced the recipients of its Spring 2014 grants that include 12 projects from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region out of a total of 21 projects from 14 countries.
Highlighting the steady strides made by the Qatari film industry, four projects by filmmakers in Qatar have been selected to receive grants. These include Parijat(Night-flowering Jasmine), a feature-length narrative by Qatari director Hend Fakhroo; the first-of-its-kind reality web series Dr. Hamood Show by Qatari production company, Innovation Films; Remembering Ada, _ another feature film by Qatar-based Jan Xavier Pacle; and the short documentary _Concrete Dreams: Some Roads Lead Home by Saba Karim Khan.
The other projects from the MENA region spring from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Of the total, seven projects are from OECD’s Development Assistance Committee list of countries (DAC) and two are from the rest of the world.
Fatma Al Remaihi, Acting CEO of the Doha Film Institute said: “After the success our grant recipients Theeb_* and Sivas_* met in Venice, we are really excited about this next round of projects, which reflect some compelling new voices in cinema. Our jurors were impressed by the range of stories and the diversity of the backgrounds of the filmmakers who submitted work.”
“We are also pleased to see so many strong narrative and documentary projects being submitted by women, whose projects really stood out in this round. A selection of 12 films from the region, including four from Qatar, further indicates the strong talent pool of filmmakers we have in the Arab world. We are committed to supporting them and taking their projects to the next level. These powerful projects are examples of the type of cinema our grants programme was set up to champion. We look forward to working with these filmmakers throughout the life cycle of these projects and beyond.”
The Doha Film Institute’s Spring 2014 Grants Programme focused on identifying new cinematic talent, particularly first- and second-time filmmakers. Now in its eighth session, the fund received 360 applications. The MENA region accounted for 160 of these; 108 came from DAC countries and 92 were from the rest of the world.
At 158 submissions, the number of feature narrative films in production seeking funding was higher than ever before, resulting in a large number of the selected projects – 10 in total – being narrative features in production, a notable increase over past grant sessions. Six feature documentaries and two short films (one narrative and one documentary) are also recipients of the grant. All chosen projects will receive funding for development, production or post-production.
The feature narrative projects from the MENA region that will be supported by this round of funding include: Days of Tyranny by Katia Jarjoura (Lebanon), about the life of a poet in hiding who is hunted down by security agents in war-torn Iraq; andMadmen’s Fort by Narimane Mari (Algeria), about colonialist ambitions in the Algerian Sahara in 1860.
The short narrative grantees include Waves ‘98 by Elie Dagher (Lebanon), about a boy whose mind opens to a whole new world as a result of a chance encounter. The feature documentary selections from MENA include Dream Away by Marouan Omara and Johanna Domke (Egypt), which takes viewers through different sites in Sharm El-Sheikh in an examination of the tourist trade there. Also from Egypt is We Have Never Been Kids by Mahmood Soliman, about a woman who tries to look after her four children before and after her divorce.
From My Syrian Room, _ by Hazem Alhamwi (Syria), is the director’s examination of the Syrian people’s destiny through personal memories and conversations with his compatriots. From Palestine are _Roshmia by Salim Abu Jabal on the lives of a couple living as refugees in Roshmia Valley; and Speed Sisters by Amber Fares, which documents the adventures of the first all-woman race-car driving team in the Middle East.
Female filmmakers are strongly represented in this funding round with ten women selected to receive funding including: Hend Fakhroo, Amber Fares, Johanna Domke, Natalia Garagiola, Katia Jarjoura, Saba Karim Khan Mariam Khatchvani, Narimane Mari, Gitanjali Rao and Mila Turajlic.
Hend Fakhroo said: “I am honoured to receive this development grant from the Doha Film Institute in support of my first feature-length narrative film. The support extended by the Institute to local talent is a driving force for us. It enables us to work on future projects with the confidence that we have the local support and platform that will allow us to nurture our projects.”
Mohammed Alhamadi, Innovation Films Board member and Executive Producer said: “We at Innovation Films are happy to have Doha Film Institute support our project Dr. Hamood Show and to see the Institute’s recognition of the growing culture and influence of New Media. Such support helped us in reaching the success we had after releasing the show online”
Both Fakhroo and Alhamadi have received professional development support from the Institute in the past to facilitate their participation in the Cannes Producers Workshop, a targeted programme for emerging filmmakers which takes place as part of the Cannes Film Festival’s industry platform, the Marché du Film.
Submissions for the current grants session opened September 25 and close October 15. While the fund is available to work by filmmakers from around the world, the Institute emphasises support for filmmakers from the MENA region, and certain categories of funding are reserved for MENA and Qatari filmmakers.
Filmmakers from the MENA region may apply for development, production or post-production funding for feature documentary, experimental and essay and narrative films. Short films will be considered for production and post-production funding only, with the exception of short films by Qatar-based filmmakers which are also eligible for development funding.
Applicants from the DAC countries may apply for narrative and documentary funding for production or post-production for feature-length projects. Rest of the world applicants are eligible for narrative and documentary funding for post-production only. Short films from outside the MENA region are not eligible.
For more information about eligibility and submission process for DFI’s grants programme, visit:
A full directory of past grant recipients is available to view online at:
Grantees for the Spring 2014 session are:
FEATURE NARRATIVE – DEVELOPMENT
PARIJAT: NIGHT–FLOWERING JASMINE by Hend Fakhroo (Qatar)
Synopsis: It is 1980. In a small Gulf state, 22-year-old Sahira clashes with her husband, Muhammad Husayn Asad. The reason? A bottle of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, sent from France. The voluptuous fragrance – an international success that is to this day considered the benchmark ‘oriental’ scent – represents a commercial and moral challenge to Muhammad, the cosmopolitan heir of a popular perfume business, and his widower father, a champion of traditional oud. At the same time that she gives birth to her first son, Sahira launches Parijat, a new scent that positions the house of Husayn Asad as the most fashionable brand in the Arab marketplace. But her business success is overshadowed by the tragic fate of a new friend, and she is soon reminded that she is herself headed for a fall as a result of a long-held secret.
FEATURE NARRATIVE – PRODUCTION
DAYS OF TYRANNY by Katia Jarjoura (Lebanon)
Synopsis: A village on the outskirts of the Iraqi desert, 1985. The Iran-Iraq war is raging all around, and Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime is spreading fear among the people. Deserters are executed; opponents tortured. Hunted down by security agents for desertion, Jawad, a poet, has shut himself away in a tiny cell adjacent to his sister Hana’s living room. A courageous wife and mother, Hana takes daily risks to feed Jawad via a tunnel that runs from the henhouse. Jawad’s whereabouts are kept secret, even from Hana’s cildren, who rely solely on her while their father Abbas is away at war. No one is to be trusted in this country where everyone spies on each other. Soon after a wounded Abbas returns unexpectedly from the frontline, tensions flare and the family’s already vulnerable situation becomes unbearable.
DEDE by Mariam Khatchvani (Georgia)
Synopsis: In the harsh, mountainous countryside of the Georgian region of Svaneti, a woman falls in love. She marries in defiance of both her family’s wishes and her clan’s code of honour. But her happiness is brief and the love of her life dies. Tradition dictates that she must marry the first man to offer her his hand…
FRENZY by Emin Alper (Turkey)
*Synopsis: * Istanbul is in the grip of political violence. Armed groups have taken control of the shantytowns. Forty-five-year-old Kadir is released after a 15-year prison term and wants to reunite with his younger brother Ahmet, his only surviving relative, who works for the municipality. Thanks to an acquaintance who is a high-ranking police officer, Kadir finds a job collecting garbage and examining it for evidence of bomb-making materials.
HUNTING SEASON by Natalia Garagiola (Argentina)
Synopsis: Nahuel has almost finished high school in Buenos Aires when his mother suddenly dies. Local law forces him to spend the last three months before he turns 18 with his father Ernesto, a respected hunter who lives in a small village near the mountains. The two have not seen each other in over a decade. As the journey begins and wilderness becomes his new environment, Nahuel is confronted with his ability to love and to kill.
MADMEN’S FORT by Narimane Mari (Algeria)
Synopsis: In 1860, the Algerian Sahara is coveted by the colonial powers of the time, who dream of it as rich land full of promise. Expeditions and ambitions of conquest, however, have all been destroyed by this uncharted and mysterious terrain. Nevertheless, there are men who rise above turf wars, and who believe in the power of this mystical land to establish a society that is of the ordinary. But greedy people circle like vultures, and are turning this utopian dream into a tragedy.
REMEMBERING ADA by Jan Pacle (Qatar)
*Synopsis: * The Philippines, 2050. Franz, a young executive and aspiring writer, finds a sketchbook at a coffee shop: page after page of drawings of a charming woman along with notes written in an unknown language. Franz’s interest in finding out the story behind his find – and hopefully making it his own – leads him to Ethan, the owner of the book.
Qatar, 2007. Ethan attends his brother’s wedding, where he meets Ada, the woman who will change the course of his life. They fall in love and venture on a winter romance. Being young and carefree, the couple forgets one major fact: they are not in their home country. Ultimately, they trigger a chain of events that separates them. Now, several decades later, it’s up to Franz to reunite them.
THE GARBAGE HELICOPTER by Jonas Selberg Augustsén (Sweden)
Synopsis: Somewhere in Sweden, a gigantic dumpster breaks loose from the heavy chain suspending it from a large helicopter. The dumpster hits the ground and garbage spews everywhere. Meanwhile, an aging Roma woman wakes up with a powerful longing. Her old wall clock has been at the clockmaker’s for over a year, and now she feels very strongly that it needs to come home. She calls one of her grandchildren, who solemnly promises to return the clock. Two days later, three Roma youths climb into a car and start the 1,030 kilometre trip to fulfil this promise. A strange journey along Sweden’s long, winding highways begins and proves to be rich in content despite its rather trivial purpose. The youths have more questions than answers about the country they travel through for the first time. And just what is a Garbage Helicopter?
THE LAST LAND by Pablo Lamar (Paraguay)
Synopsis: Evangelina and Amancio, an elderly couple, live out their lives on an isolated hill. Evangelina has been ailing for a very long time. On this particular night, Amancio quietly accompanies her, with words and with whispers – with silence – through the dark hours until the break of day; the moment of her death. Now utterly alone, Amancio takes charge of the various
TRUE LOVE STORY by Gitanjali Rao (India)
Synopsis: Bollywood is a cult in India. What is it that makes millions of people believe in it so strongly, follow it with such a passion and celebrate it with such fervour, when for most Indians, life is a struggle from one day to the next? This film is an attempt at demystifying what Bollywood means for young people in love on the streets of Bombay.
UNDER THE SHADOW by Babak Anvari (Iran)
Synopsis: Tehran, 1988. Shideh lives amid the chaos of the Iran-Iraq war. Accused of subversion and blacklisted from medical college, she is in a state of malaise. Furthermore, her husband is at war, leaving her alone to protect their young daughter, Dorsa. Shortly after a missile hits their apartment building but fails to explode, Dorsa falls ill and her behaviour becomes increasingly disturbed. Searching for answers, Shideh learns from a superstitious neighbour that the cursed, unexploded missile might have brought in djinns – malevolent spirits that travel on the wind. Convinced that a supernatural force within the building is attempting to possess Dorsa, Shideh finds she has no choice but to confront it if she is to save her daughter.
FEATURE NARRATIVE – POST–PRODUCTION
SIVAS by Kaan Müjdeci (Turkey)
Synopsis: Set in a bleak Anatolian village, ‘Sivas’ tells the story of 11-year-old Aslan and Sivas, a weathered fighting dog, who develop a strong relationship after the boy finds Sivas wounded and left to die. A school play of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ dominates the background, as Aslan is disappointed in losing the role of the prince to Osman, his rival in love. While Osman gets ahead in the race to win the hand of Ayşe, the village ‘princess’, Aslan tries to impress her with his new-found friend. Sivas, meanwhile, having found a new lease on life, wins one fight after another, strengthening Aslan’s hand against Osman. However, as Sivas’s success at the fighting ground attracts attention, roles change and Aslan finds himself in an unexpected crash course in adulthood – and leaving his princess behind.
SHORT NARRATIVE – PRODUCTION
WAVES ‘98 by Elie Dagher (Lebanon)
Synopsis: Disillusioned with his life in the suburbs of Beirut, Omar feels his teenage years are wasting away. One day, on his regular lunch break atop his school building, he spots something strange and beautiful sticking out from the grey landscape of the city. This giant discovery draws him in and opens his mind to a whole new world, leading him down a rocky path in search for home through surreal surroundings and self-reflection.
FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – DEVELOPMENT
DREAM AWAY by Marouan Omara, Johanna Domke (Egypt)
Synopsis: On the sun-soaked coastal strip that is one of the Middle East’s most popular holiday destinations, the glitziest of hotels can shroud the grubbiest of secrets. Sharm El-Sheikh is the paradisiacal destination of Egyptians and international tourists, all of whom flock to the resort city looking for real-life fantasy. The tourists are in search of beaches and nightlife, while the notably young Egyptians desperately seek work, or are attracted by the foreign cultures that inhabit the place. This generation of Egyptians stands in stark contrast with Western cultural norms – some read it as the independence they have dreamt of, while others find it offends their moral standards. ‘Dream Away’ follows a tourist group over the course of a day, taking the viewer to different sites in Sharm El-Sheikh to examine the subjects of the film.
FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – PRODUCTION
THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING by Mila Turajlic (Serbia)
Synopsis: In an apartment in Belgrade there is a door that has been locked for 65 years. This film seeks the key that will unlock that door. It combines a family memoir with a portrait of a country in turmoil to reveal a disillusioned revolutionary and her struggle with the ghosts that haunt Serbia’s past and present. From the vantage point of this apartment, which sits at a crossroads in the political centre of Belgrade, unique footage filmed over many years provides an intimate view of the events of recent history. More than a decade after Serbia’s democratic revolution, this film reflects on the price each generation pays for taking responsibility for the country it lives in.
FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – POST–PRODUCTION
FROM MY SYRIAN ROOM by Hazem Alhamwi (Syria)
Synopsis: How can one operate as a free, creative person when one has been channelled to remain a good citizen in the Assad regime? How can Syrians free themselves of the fear so deeply rooted in them from birth? Sharing his memories with his friends and with participants of the protests of 2011, Syrian painter and filmmaker Hazem Alhamwi tries to understand how Syrians have learned to live with distress and anxiety. Talking with his compatriots, Alhamwi tries to understand his people’s destiny. Through their personal memories, they expose the will to freedom of a whole country.
ROSHMIA by Salim Abu Jabal (Palestine)
Synopsis: Since 1956, when he became a refugee from downtown Haifa’s Wadi Alsaleeb neighbourhood, 80-year-old Yousef has lived with his wife Amna, a refugee from Yasoor, in a shack in Roshmia Valley. Life is quiet until the Municipality of Haifa plans to build a road across the valley to connect the Mediterranean to Mount Karmel – which will mean the couple’s shack will be demolished, forcing them to find a new home. Their sponsor, acting as middle man between them and the municipality, attempts to negotiate compensation for them, but this will lead to tension among the three individuals.
SPEED SISTERS by Amber Fares (Palestine)
Synopsis: The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race-car driving team in the Middle East. They’re bold. They’re fearless. And they’re tearing up tracks all over Palestine. Despite restrictions on movement, a motor racing scene has emerged in the West Bank, where races offer release from the pressure of life under military occupation. Spirited competition between cities brings out thousands of spectators, who line rooftops and barricades to snap photos of their favourite drivers. Brought together by a common desire to live life on their own terms, five determined women have joined dozens of male drivers to compete for titles and bragging rights, and to prove that women can compete head-on with men. Both intimate and action-filled, ‘Speed Sisters’ captures the drive to defy all odds, leaving in its trail shattered stereotypes about gender and the Arab world.
WE HAVE NEVER BEEN KIDS by Mahmood Soliman (Egypt)
Synopsis: An Egyptian woman is trying to look after her four children before and after her divorce from their father. However, over time circumstances around her gradually change on all levels.
SHORT DOCUMENTARY – PRODUCTION
CONCRETE DREAMS: SOME ROADS LEAD HOME by Saba Karim Khan (Qatar)
Synopsis: ‘Concrete Dreams: Some Roads Lead Home’ is the story of Pakistan’s battle against one of its most controversial, age-old issues: the rehabilitation of its street children. One-and-a-half million children live on the streets of Pakistan, with no proper access to shelter, clothing or sanitation. ‘Concrete Dreams: Some Roads Lead Home’ follows the stories of several outstandingly courageous street children and the challenges they face living from one day to the next. With the backdrop of the recent Street Child Football World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, the film showcases the lives of these brave, resilient young people as, through art, sports, music and vocational training, they learn to stand on their own feet, and find themselves respected by and included in society.
WEB SERIES – POST–PRODUCTION
DR. HAMOOD SHOW by Innovation (Qatar)
Synopsis: Starring Mohammed Al Dosari and Qatari wrestler Ali Al Naimi, ‘Dr. Hamood Show’ is a 15-episode comedy/reality web series, in which each 15-minute sheds light on some of the social issues common to Qatari youth and in the Arab world, using comedy and sarcasm.