The third annual Ajyal Youth Film Festival presented by the Doha Film Institute (November 29 to December 5) showcases feature films from 20 countries and a series of short film programs in Katara, Qatar.
Fatma Al Remaihi, Festival Director and CEO of the Doha Film Institute, says: “By providing young people with access to international cinema, filmmakers
from around the world, and the space to discuss their ideas and develop critical thinking, Ajyal empowers the youngest members of our community and
develops their understanding of the world around them.”
Academy Award nominated director, Hany Abu-Assad and Arab Idol champion Mohammed Assaf, whose life story “The Idol” is based on, will attend the Opening Night and will participate in a special ‘In
Conversation’ session about bringing Assaf’s life story to the big screen and highlight the power of combining music and cinema and the challenges facing
Arab artists today.
Aside from the daily public screenings of local and international films other events are the popular “Made in Qatar”; SONY Cinema Under the Stars; Family
Doha Giffoni Youth Media Summit
; special events and exhibitions; the Sandbox interactive digital playground; school screenings; and the Ajyal Competition, where hundreds of young jurors
between the ages of 8 and 21 will watch and discuss shorts and features and decide on the winning films. competition line-up.
The popular “Made in Qatar” section features 17 films — nine narrative shorts and eight documentaries by local talent.
More than 500 young people from the ages of 8 to 21 make up the Ajyal Competition Jury which will watch and analyze a dynamic program of films in three
competitive sections followed by discussions and events including panels, workshops and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.
Each of the three Ajyal Juries are made of 24 international jurors from 12 countries including Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Italy,
Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Serbia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The jury awards a Best Film prize to their favorite short and feature-length film, for
a total of six awards. The directors of the winning films are awarded funding toward their next film, so jurors are empowered to support and promote future
content that is relevant and important to them in a proactive way.
Mohaq means ‘New Moon’ in Arabic, and these are Ajyal’s youngest jurors, aged 8 to 12. These jurors will watch one program of short films and four
feature-length films, marking the first year that competitive feature films are included in this category. They are: “Celestial Camel” (Russia) by Yury Feting about a young sheepherder living in the desolate
Kalmyk Steppe, who sets off on an epic journey after his father is forced to sell the family’s beloved camel calf; “The Greatest House in the World” (Guatemala, Mexico) by Ana V. Bojórquez and Lucía Carreras – a film about the never-ending circle of life told through the story of a young girl in the isolated highlands of
Guatemala; “Paper Planes“(Australia) by Robert Connolly – a tale of friendship, creativity and
the bonds of family which centers around an 11-year-old boy with an exceptional talent for creating paper airplanes; and “Phantom Boy“ by Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol (France, Belgium) an
animated film about an 11-year-old boy whose illness allows him to have out-of-body experiences and mysterious powers.
Ajyal’s jurors aged 13 to 17 are the Hilal jury – the term means ‘Crescent Moon’ in Arabic. Five feature films and a program of shorts make up this
jury’s film selection. The feature films competing in this section are: “Lamb“ (France, Ethiopia, Germany, Norway, Qatar) by Yared Zeleke, a portrait of a young Ethiopian boy trying to find his way
in the world; “Landfill Harmonic“ (U.S.) directed by Brad Allgood and Graham
Townsley and recent audience award winning documentary at Napa Valley Film Festival, that tracks the astounding rise of a Paraguayan youth orchestra whose members live next to one of South America’s largest landfills and make their instruments from recycled materials; “Mina Walking“ (Canada, Afghanistan), a multiple award winning
documentary by Yosef Baraki, a powerful tale of a 12-year-old girl in war-torn Afghanistan struggling to make ends meet for her family; “Scarecrow “ (The Philippines) by Zig Madamba Dulay which
explores the complicated relationship of social injustice and familial expectations through the story of a young mother in a rural town; and ” Wolf Totem“ (China, France) by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution 1967, it is the story of a two young Chinese students who are sent on a research assignment
with the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia and become fascinated by the wolves that roam the plains.
The most mature of Ajyal’s juries, Bader (Arabic for ‘Full Moon’) jurors are aged 18 to 21 and will select their favorite films from five features and two
programs of short films. The feature films vying for top honors in this section are: “An“ (Japan, France, Germany) by Naomi Kawase is a drama about a lonely baker whose life is reinvigorated when he hires an elderly
woman with a special culinary skill; “The Second Mother “ (Brazil’s submission for Oscar nomination) by Anna Muylaert which is an exploration of the bond between mothers and their
children told through the story of a housekeeper in Sao Paulo (Read review and interview with director Anna Muylaert here); “Taxi“ (Iran), winner of FIPRESCI and Golden Bear Awards in Berlin 2015, by Jafar Panahi in which the celebrated Iranian director
places himself in the driver’s seat of a cab, taking fares to their destinations in a wonderful portrait of contemporary Iran; “Very Big Shot“ (Lebanon, Qatar), a bold and insightful dark comedy by
Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya that skewers political corruption and the media circus that goes with it; and “Walls” (Spain) – a documentary by Pablo Iraburu and Migueltxo Molina that follows several subjects on both sides of three contemporary
international borders, demonstrating that the people on each side of the barriers are not as different as they may believe.
In addition to the three competitive sections, the Festival’s youngest audiences under the age of 8 years will also vote for their favorite film with the
help of their parents who will determine the Parents’ Choice Award in the Bariq program. Bariq films are selected to satisfy the excitement and curiosity
of young children and are suitable for the whole family. This year’s program features a collection of eight short films and will also include a special
outdoor cine-concert on the Katara esplanade by the Festival Tout-Petits Cinéma from Paris, with four films accompanied by live music by pianist Anthony
Boulc’h and saxophonist Fanch Minous.
A senior jury of three eminent figures from the local and regional industry will determine the winners of the competitive section comprising feature films
from 20 countries and a series of short film program
with two awards being presented for Best Short Narrative Film and Best Short Documentary Film. The 2015 jury members are film producer Bassam Al Ibrahim (Qatar), who is the CEO of Innovation Films and co-founder of
ILoveQatar.net; film actress, director and producer, Ahd (Saudi Arabia), internationally renowned for her performance in Haifaa al-Mansour’s ” Wadjda;” and respected veteran journalist and media personality, Marcel Ghanem (Lebanon).
Fatma Al Remaihi said: “It has been another productive and inspiring year for filmmaking in Qatar and this year’s Made in Qatar selection
indicates the rapid growth and diversity that we are witnessing in the Qatari film industry.”
The films in the 2015 Ajyal Youth Film Festival Made in Qatar section are:
Made in Qatar Program 1, Wednesday 2nd December
“To My Mother“
by Amina Al Bloshi
by Karem Kamel
by Najla Al Khulaifi, Dana Al Mesnad and Nayla Al Thani
“The Palm Tree”
by Jassim Al-Rumaihi
by Abdulla al Mulla
“If They Only Knew“
by Sana Al-Ansari
“Heart of the House”
by Gabrielle Sol
by Amna Albinali
Made in Qatar Program 2, Friday 4th December
by Ali Ali
by Mostafa Sheshtawy
by Mayar Hamdan
“Good as New”
by Jaser Alagha
“I Choose Islam”
by Noor Al-Tamimi, Silma Suba and Zac J. Hollo
by Zainab Ayon
by Yassine Ouahrani
“Man of the House”
by Khalifa AlMarri
by Khalid Salim
will be the world premiere of animated feature film “Bilal” (UAE/2015), a new animated feature
film made with funding from the Doha Film Institute and produced by Dubai-based Barajoun Studios. Involving creative talents from 22 countries, “Bilal ” by Directors Ayman Jamal and Khurram Alavi is an inspiring adventure story of faith, hope and self-discovery. Inspired by the real-life story of
Bilal Bin Rabah, the film’s cutting edge animation technology, impeccable research and high production values will resonate with audiences across
generations. The cast and crew of the film will be in attendance for the premiere including the directors of the film and cast members Andre Robinson
(“Despicable Me 2“) and Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje (“Lost”, “The Bourne Identity”, “Game of Thrones“) who voice the young and adult Bilal
The Ajyal Family Weekend will feature the regional premiere of Marking the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Ajyal 2015 will present in a
regional first, an inclusive cinema experience specially ‘transadapted’ to suit audiences with different abilities, a special screening of Al Rayyan
Productions animated short “Hero and the Message” (Qatar/2012). Guests will be able to view the film through sound alone, with special subtitles for people
who have difficulty understanding speech. This inclusive version of the film has been developed with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and
is the result of a collaboration between the Doha Film Institute and the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Hamad Bin Khalifa University who are
spearheading the development of transadapted content in the Gulf region.
Fatma Al Remaihi, “Since our first edition, animated films have formed a core part of the Ajyal program and I am delighted that this year, we will premiere
three incredibly diverse examples of the artform… from three corners of the globe.”
“Bilal” (UAE/2015) In a dreamlike vision, mysterious dark riders mounted on demonic black horses bear down upon a village. Nearby, little Bilal dreams of
being a great warrior as he gallops along on his hobbyhorse. The riders come closer – are they real? Or are they just a figment of the youngster’s
extraordinary imagination? Suddenly, Bilal’s dream becomes a nightmare. The men on horseback kill his mother and take him captive along with Ghufaira, his
sister, and they are soon sold as slaves to Umayya, the wealthiest merchant in all of Arabia. Bilal never forgets this terrible day, which haunts his sleep
for years to come. But the echoes of his mother’s gentle voice stay with him, a constant reminder that to break free of the chains that enslave him, he
must forge his own destiny.
“The Good Dinosaur” (USA/2015), the latest feature from the award-winning Pixar Animation Studios and the team behind beloved Pixar classics “Finding Nemo” and “Inside Out“ and will feature a special ‘kids red carpet’ for all families and young people from the community to participate and to be transported to a world where dinosaurs walk the Earth.
Directed by Peter Sohn, the film screens on December 4th and presents an alternate history where the asteroids that wiped out these ancient
reptiles never hit our planet.
“Hero and the Message“ (Qatar/2012) tells the fantastic tale of a Qatari brother and sister who travel back in time to witness the
founding events of the State of Qatar. Produced by Al Rayyan Productions, the top-notch animated short directed by Pawel Borowski was created to celebrate
Qatar’s National Day in 2012, and screens on December 3rd.
“When Marnie Was There”
(Japan/2014), screening on December 4is one of the final anime sensations from Ghibli Studios and is based on the novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the film is about a young girl Anna who explores a long- abandoned
villa and meets a mysterious blonde girl only she can see.