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And the Winners Are…Third Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha Announces

And the Winners Are...Third Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha Announces

Doha, Qatar is taking the lead in bringing children’s films to the public with 80 features and shorts from 20 countries among which Russia, U.S., Spain, Germany, Lebanon, France and Brazil took prizes. The winners of Ajyal, chosen by children’s juries were honored at a colorful closing ceremony.

In Competition this year were some fine examples of children’s films, an area not widely discussed in our “sophisticated” international film business world, and yet an area you would suppose most cineastes would find extremely important for their own children’s growth. This contradiction –between the lack of conversation about children’s films in the international film business and the importance of youth’s audience share and the personal, ultimate importance in our future civilization — was apparent to me as I discovered a world previously unexplored by me myself and not widely covered in trade press.

For full details on all films, read here.

And the winners were:

Paper Planes (Australia; 2014) directed by Robert Connolly, Australian Film Academy Winner for Best Film and Best Original Screenplay is an endearing Australian movie about an 11 year old boy who must come up with funds to enter a world paper plane championship competition. Winner in the Mohaq (New Moon) section of jurors aged 8 to 12 who watched four feature-length films and one program of short films.

Scarecrow (The Philippines, 2015), so new that it Is not even listed in IMDb, directed by multi award winning Zig Madamba Dulay is a deeply moving Tagalog film on the life of a widowed, illiterate woman in a rural Philippine province. Judged Winner of Best Film in the Hilal (Half Moon) section of jurors aged 13 to 17 who evaluated five feature films and a program of shorts.

Walls” (Spain; 2015) is a creatively constructed Spanish doc that takes a compelling look on lives on either side of the world’s border walls.

When the Berlin Wall fell the end of History was proclaimed, we shelved the idea of separation walls as part of the past. Reality is exactly the opposite. Never in the history of humanity have we built so many walls. There have never been so many fences, barbed wire, ditches and walls. There are miles of kilometres, in the most far off and different parts of the world.

This film narrates real stories of people who live on both sides of very different walls. The one that divides South Africa and Zimbabwe, the separation wall between the United States and Mexico, the fence that in Melilla is used as a border between Spain and Morocco.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Basque directors Pablo Iraburu and Migueltxo Molina have travelled the world making and showing their documentaries for 20 years. This non-judgemental, simple statement about walls and exclusion humanizes those seeking to breach walls whose stories we read or ignore everyday. “That wall is my obstacle. My kids are on the other side,” says Caren Hernández who treks miles along the wall to find an opening in order to leave Mexico. ”Wars and walls are the same thing,” says Meza Weza from Zimbabwe seeking to cross into South Africa. ”We would have to build a new big and tall wall. And I would electrify it” says the border guard Izak Nel in South Africa. ”We try to keep them out. We can’t let them in, it’s the law,” Jaime Mimún of Spain. A review has been published recently at the Latin version of The Washington Post entitled “Which Side of the Wall Are You On?

That jurors aged 18 to 21 judged this the Best Film in the Bader section of the five feature films and two programs of short films they saw proves its power in creating compassion. We hope we will see this film nominated for the upcoming Goyas in Spain and that it instills compassion in all who see it…and that many get the chance to see it. and

In the Made in Qatar section, the observational documentary “ The Palm Tree”, charting the life story of a palm tree, and the short fiction work “Asfoora” won the top awards.

In the Bariq section where parents with their children below the age of eight judged films, the Parent’s Choice Award went to the six minute short The Law of the Jungle” by Pascale Hecquet (Belgium). Vimeo

Fatma Al Remaihi, Festival Director and CEO of the Doha Film Institute, said: “I would like to commend our Ajyal Jurors for the dedication and enthusiasm they have brought to the task of determining the competition winners this year – their enthusiasm and insight is an inspiration to us all. I congratulate all of our 2015 winners and sincerely thank all of the filmmakers who have joined us in Doha this week for sharing their stories and creative talents. Their presence has brought a depth and richness to the experience of our audiences and jurors that will live on in their hearts and minds long into the future.”

The 2015 Ajyal Youth Film Festival Competition Winners are:


Best Feature Film

Paper Planes by Robert Connolly (Australia)

Special Mention

“Celestial Camel (Nebesnyy verblyud) by Yury Feting (Russia)

Best Short Film

“The Red Thunder” by Alvaro Ron (Spain, USA)


Best Feature Film

“Scarecrow” (Bambanti) by Zig Madamba Dulay (The Philippines)

Special Mention

“Landfill Harmonic” by Graham Townsley and Brad Allgood (USA)

Best Short Film

“wHole” by Robert Banning and Verena Klinger (Germany)

Special Mention

“That Day in September” by Karim Jaafar (Lebanon)


Best Feature Film

“Walls (Muros)” by Pablo Iraburu and Migueltxo Molina (Spain)

Special Mention

“The Second Mother” (Que Horas Ela Volta?) by Anna Muylaert (Brazil)

Best Short Film

“By Mutual Agreement” by Rémy Cayuela (France)


Parent’s Choice Award

“The Law of the Jungle” by Pascale Hecquet (Belgium)

The competition line-up at Ajyal 2015 comprised feature films from 20 countries and a series of short film programs. More than 500 young people watched and analyzed the dynamic program of films under the three competitive sections.

The Jury included a delegation of 24 international jurors who travelled to Doha for the event from 12 countries including Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Serbia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Made in Qatar

‘Made in Qatar’ included 17 films by Qatari filmmakers and those who call Qatar home. The films highlight the support of the Doha Film Institute in honing their skills.

Presented with the support of Tarsheed, the Made in Qatar films are evaluated by a jury comprising: Ahd, an actor (“Wadjda”) and filmmaker from Saudi Arabia; Marcel Ghanem, a multi-award winning current affairs journalist from Lebanon; and Bassam Al Ibrahim, a Qatari producer of several award-winning films.

The winners were:

Documentary Category

  • Best Documentary Film: “ The Palm Tree” by Jassim Al-Rumaihi
  • Jury Award: “ Heart of the House” by Gabrielle Sol
  • Special Mention: “The Notebook” by Amna Al-Binali

Narrative Category

  • Best Narrative Film: “ Asfoora” by Mayar Hamdan
  • Jury Award: “ Man of the House” by Khalifa AlMarri

The directors who are showcasing their films in the Made in Qatar program underline the success of the Institute’s founding mission – to supporting the next generation in filmmaking talent.

Sana Al-Ansari, the young director of “If Only They Knew” (Qatar, 2014), for example, was a young juror of the festival for two consecutive years. Turning director, therefore, was a logical progression that was supported by the Doha Film Institute.

Inspired by the movies she had watched as a juror, she wanted to make a film that would resonate with the Qatari community. The result was “If Only They Knew that addresses the issue of reckless driving. “Ask anyone, and they would all know of somebody who has been the victim of reckless driving. My own film was sparked by a similar incident in which a young man lost his life,” says Sana.

She says the team at the Doha Film Institute supported her in fine-tuning the script as well as in editing the footage she shot over two-and-a-half days. A Communications student at Northwestern University, she hopes that her film, which has already won the award for Best National Picture at Northwestern’s Thimun Film Festival and screened at ROTA’s EMPOWER Conference, will strengthen awareness on a social issue and lead to positive change.

Jassim Al Rumaihi is another talent supported by the Doha Film Institute. He had screened his first short, co-directed when he was still a student, at the festival five years ago. It went on to win an award in the ‘Made in Qatar’ segment.

Now, working as a reporter at Al Jazeera News channel, he says that in making his second short, “The Palm Tree”, produced by the Doha Film Institute, he approached it with greater professionalism with “no room for mistakes that I could make when I was a student.”

With support from the Institute, including cinematography by Thomas Hines, he has ventured into making what he describes as a “poetic/observational documentary.” Without dialogues or other sound props, his film charts the life-cycle of a palm tree. Jassim depicts the story of the palm tree from various angles – right from its seedling stage to how the dates are marketed.

“The palm tree is very majestic; it is part of our heritage. It features in the logo of many Arab nations and yet you see its value diminishing in popular perception and is not so celebrated,” says Jassim. He shot the film over five days, and thanks the Doha Film Institute for the support he has received along the journey.

He has now secured funding for a documentary on Arabian horses. “I do not go into a generic documentary; it is about one specific horse,” much like how he has narrowed down the subject of the ubiquitous palm trees into one 14 minute short.

Jassim says that since he made his first short five years ago, the filmmaking scene in Qatar has changed. “Now there is better technology, better experience and international skills in filmmaking. I think the efforts of the Doha Film Institute have paid off well.”

Amina Ahmed Al Bloshi, director of “To My Mother” highlights a story that she hopes will resonate with every woman in the Arab world. The film, made with the support of the Doha Film Institute, is about the value of education, underlined by the true story of Amina’s mother, who decided to start her education at the age of 40.

“She cried when she watched the film,” says Amina, “and told me that she had several photographs of hers as a child but never felt its value until she saw herself on screen and how people reacted to it.” For Amina, therefore the movie is a visual tribute that she passes on to the next generation. But more importantly, it is about telling all women anywhere in the world who were denied the opportunity to study for whatever reason that “it is never too late to learn.”

Amina says that unlike old days, there is ample opportunity to pursue education today in Qatar. “The doors are open and there is so much support from the government. Regardless of your nationality or age, if you have missed the chance to learn, do it now –not for a job but for the value it brings to your life.”

Writer-producer Ali Ali’s film Charlie further illustrates how film can make positive change. His eponymous protagonist is imaginative and precocious but was struggling in school and falling behind his peers. He was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia. His family, after watching the Bollywood movie “Tare Zameen Par”, almost followed the film’s message to the core to make a positive impact on Charlie. Ali’s documentary shows how Charlie and his family cope with the challenge. Ali says it is a “happy film,” and although he does not want to convey any direct message, he believes it will make audiences think.

And if you need further evidence on how film not only helps one to find one’s inner voice, here is “Light Sounds”, written and directed by Karem Kamal. Inspired by the lives of two janitors at a mosque in Qatar, he wrote a powerful script that talks about how every face might hide an unrecognised talent. Producer Rasha Mkachar, who found the story endearing, says when they did a casting call to make the film, no one turned up. They couldn’t use the real protagonists for technical reasons. And that is how two staff at the Doha Film Institute, Roshan Sanjeewa and Sampath Dasanyaka, turned actors, thus proving in real life and reel life that there is more to people in everyday life than meets the eye.

Seventeen films are being screened in the ‘Made in Qatar’ programme featuring home-grown series of films highlighting the talent of Qatari filmmakers and those who call Qatar home.

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