It is that time of year when stars land on Qatar from the skies and present their talents in the second round of Doha's Tribeca Film Festival. The city's streets have been decorated with pictures of the participating artists taken by the reputable French photographer Brigitte Lacombe. Under the banner "Film is Life", from the 26th to the 30th of October, Doha was the recipient of a big dose of cinematic art by world renowned talents, and this year the festival falls under the auspices of the Doha Film Institute (DFI). It was established earlier this year to become the driving force behind the lovers of the cinema industry, offering them a helping hand with counsel and film production in partnership with the most important and suitable global institutions.

Last year the festival's functions were hosted at both the Museum of Islamic Art and Souk Waqif, but this year the festival settled in its permanent home, the Cultural Village (Katara). It is another architectural masterpiece adorning Doha, equipped with the top-notch technology while preserving the Qatari architecture. The opera house became the scene for film screenings and the Village was draped in red carpet in preparation for the arrival of stars from both east and west.

A special area was set aside enabling fans to greet their favorite artists who, in fact, stopped to give autographs and to pose for pictures before heading to meet correspondents from global broadcast stations. Among the attendees, we mention Robert De Niro, Kevin Spacey, Salma Hayek Pinault, Adel Imam, Freida Pinto. Following the inaugural ceremony there was an open-air screening of the film "Outside the Law" by the French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb.

The festival focused on the Arabic film this year, and it received a good share of support. So, to promote and showcase Arab art, it was assigned three of the five festival prizes, and they are: Best Arab Film, Best Arab Filmmaker, and Best Arab Short. Salma Hayek Pinault said "it is time the world listened to the voice of Arabic cinema. And it is a new beginning". She was also pleased with the remarkable presence of women in Arab film production, and she wished the Arab cinema industry could be more open.

The beauty of the festival is in the variety of international films being presented to the public, which heightens their senses and opens new horizons. The cinema is not only Hollywood; masterpieces from international film makers do not lack the quality produced by Hollywood, which is the reason the Doha Tribeca Film Festival was careful in including them in the film schedule, as is the case in Festival De Cannes and Berlin International Film Festival. Doha was the stage for the Middle East premiere of a number of films.

We mention among them the short Qatari film "Champs-Elysées, I love you" by director Mahdi Ali, "Fiasco" which is nominated for Best Arab Short Film, "Bhutto" which is a narration of Benazir Bhutto’s life story. "Boy" now top grossing New Zealand film of all time, "Miral" by Academy Award nominated director Julian Schnabel, and World premieres: "Grandma, A Thousand Times" by Mahmoud Kaabour, "Hawi" by Ibrahim El Batout, "Man Without a Cellphone" by Sameh Zoabi, and "The Mountain" by Ghassan Salhab, and others from the most influential directors from Iran, France, Argentina, and more. In addition to Hollywood’s latest productions of course, such as “Machete” by Robert De Niro, "Paranormal Activity 2", and "Casino Jack" starring Kevin Spacey.

This year the Egyptian Actress Yousra presides over the competition jury, and joining her will be Academy Award nominated actress, producer and director Salma Hayek Pinault, English actor, writer, and director Nick Moran, Indian director Bhavna Talwar, and Bosnian screenwriter and film director of the Academy Award winning No Man’s Land, Danis Tanovic. And to encourage viewer interest in exploring other peoples' cultures,  many films were screened free of charge in the open theater for the public, inviting them to vote for the Audience Award for Best Film.

The festival does not only showcase films; a "Family Day" was designated for the occasion of enjoying amazing activities such as handicrafts and animated films. The huge amphitheater was the scene of live performances from international groups such as the break-dancing group "B-boys". There were also performances of martial arts and of story-telling for the children who participated in a judging panel that was headed by the Indian Master Kishan, the youngest director in the world according to the Guinness World Records. The children voted for their favorite film and prizes were awarded.

The adults also had their share of the festival's side events; and what a share it was! The "Doha Talks" included numerous workshops and seminars. Among them, we mention The Art of Collaboration: Mira Nair's Maisha Film Lab, Travelling to Capture the World of Film: A Dialogue with Brigitte Lacombe,  From “Lord of the Rings” to “Avatar” and Beyond: An Interactive Workshop with Weta Digital's Matt Aitken, Nitin Sawhney: Conversation with the Composer, and "Little Fockers": Development and Evolution of the "Meet the Parents" Franchise, which the participants were fortunate to make direct contact with the geniuses behind the work and to get to know what goes on behind the scenes in the multi-billion dollar cinema industry.

What is also wonderful is the DFI website www.dohafilminstitute.com over which the inaugural events were broadcast to those who could not personally attend and to those outside of Qatar. There were also interactions through Facebook and Twitter with the public in answering their questions, and a special application was designed for the BlackBerry that included the film schedule and anything new with the festival. Also, we should not forget the young volunteers from Qatar and 30 other countries around the world. The total number of those who volunteered and participated in organizing reached 200, so thank you to all those who contributed their time and effort.

We wish the festival further prosperity in the coming years, and we hope for added participation by local film enthusiasts, especially that the Doha Film Institute has dedicated all efforts to assisting those who wish to deliver their message to the world and to building a permanent cinema industry in Qatar.

Please check out www.dohafilminstitute.com for DTFF full list of winners, behind the scenes videos, images, and much more.

– Fahad Al-Maawda

Images: DTFF

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