The animation feature, which the actress developed and produced and which premiered at TIFF, is divided into eight chapters, each directed by a different filmmaker, with “The Lion King” co-director Roger Allers at the overall helm. Allers also penned the adaptation of Gibran’s collection of poetic essays.
Hayek and Allers, who are still seeking an American distributor for “The Prophet,” will be in attendance at Ajyal, which replaced the Doha Tribeca Film Festival after the four-year link with Tribeca came to an end in 2012. Under the aegis of the Doha Film Institute, the new iteration is a family-oriented festival which, says Festival Director Fatma Al Remaihi, “is about opening us up to the world and opening the world’s eyes to us. Our audiences only have access to these amazing stories during Ajya.”
A second Doha-based film festival for first and second-time filmmakers, Qumra, was also announced when the Tribeca partnership was dissolved; that is now belatedly scheduled to launch in March 2015, with finer details to be announced during Ajyal.
Other titles screening at Ajyal include: “Macondo” by Iranian-Austrian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai, which played in competition in Berlin; Zeresenay Mehari’s “Difret,” which traces the kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl on her way home from school, counts Angelina Jolie as an executive producer and is Ethiopia’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards; and “Theeb,” which won Jordanian filmmaker Naji Abu Nowar the Best Director prize in the Horizons section at Venice and charts the coming-of-age journey of a Bedouin boy during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.
Animated features and social-issue documentaries form the backbone of Ajyal’s programming, with the line-up also including Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata’s “The Tale Of Princess Kaguya,” Irish animated fantasy “Song Of The Sea”, Brazilian feature “The Boy And The World”, which took Film and Audience prizes at this year’s Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and “#chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes On A Dictator”, which documents the tale of a Syrian woman assisting her country’s anti-Assad revolution from her Chicago bedroom.
Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” is the only high-profile American film that will show, with the Doha Film Institute placing less emphasis on securing these titles for Ajyal than it did for Doha Tribeca. As Al Remaihi points out, though, “Whiplash” fits into the DFI’s remit to showcase films by emerging talent, which will be further bolstered by Qumra.