Next month Qatar will host a gathering that mingles freshman and sophomore filmmakers from the MENA region with feted, even venerated, cinema figures.
Qumra, the Doha Film Institute’s incubation platform, assembles filmmakers, most recipients of its development, production and postproduction grants. For a few days they’re thrust together with industry professionals, accomplished cinema mentors and, the star attraction, filmmaking masters counted among the elite of the cinema arts.
Past masters have included writer-directors Aleksandr Sokurov, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Abderrahmane Sissako, Lucrecia Martel and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, as well as producer Paulo Branco, actor-director-producer Gael Garcia Bernal, actor Tilda Swinton and costume designer Sandy Powell.
Hanaa Issa, the director of DFI’s funding and programs and deputy director of Qumra was on hand at Berlinale 69 with news of what to expect from the event’s fifth edition.
The “big reveal” concerned its roster of masters, namely that writer-director and Cannes laureate Alice Rohrwacher, whose most recent title, 2018’s “Happy as Lazzaro” took Cannes’ best screenplay prize, had joined, as had production designer Eugenio Caballero, whose titles include Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth” and, most recently, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” the darling of the 2019 awards season.
Rohrwacher and Caballero join an already starry contingent of filmmakers. The features of writer-director Kiyoshi Kurosawa have won multiple awards, including a few Cannes trophies. Pawel Pawlikowski won the best foreign language Oscar in 2015 for his fiction “Ida,” and his “Cold War” is presently in contention for a host of Academy Awards. A true giant of the audiovisual arts, Agnes Varda was an admired photographer before turning her eye to filmmaking in the mid-50s and starting a contemporary art career in the early 2000s. The grandmother of the French new wave, she’s been awarded an honorary Palme d’Or and an honorary Oscar.
“We are honored to welcome three true masters of cinema to be our 2019 Qumra Masters, and to share their wisdom, learning and insights with emerging filmmakers,” DFI CEO Fatma Hassan Alremaihi said after announcing Varda, Pawlikowski and Kurosawa’s confirmation. “The participation of these three living legends who have established remarkable identities in cinema will expand the possibilities of the medium for Qumra delegates.”
“We are excited to share the personal perspectives of these amazing artists with the filmmakers,” Issa remarked after confirming Rohrwacher and Caballero’s participation. “The Masters’ valuable insights will provide lasting inspiration to all the Qumra delegates.”
A selection of the masters’ works will be projected during Qumra and they will deliver public master classes and participate in mentoring sessions with DFI’s delegate filmmakers. These first- and second-time filmmakers will also participate in workshops and working sessions with industry professionals, authorities on scriptwriting, direction, postproduction, distribution, marketing and the like.
This year’s delegate list includes 36 projects from 19 countries, DFI said. Of this number, 23 are helmed by Qatari nationals and Qatar-based filmmakers, with the balance from the MENA region and beyond; 18 are in development, 18 in postproduction.
Lebanese filmmakers participating are working on feature-length nonfiction projects. In development, Farah Kassem’s “We Are Inside” recounts her return to her father’s house in Tripoli, where she bonded with him at an all-male poetry club. In postproduction, Reine Mitri’s “Children of The Famine” examines the 1915-18 disaster that saw some 200,000 people perish.
Among Qumra’s other feature-length projects, four are Qatari, nine from North Africa and six from beyond the Arab region. Two feature-length fictions by Palestinian-born filmmakers are in development – Larissa Sansour’s “In Vitro” and Maha Haj’s “Mediterranean Fever.”
Two feature-length docs by Syrian filmmakers are in postproduction – “The Cave” by Feras Fayyad, and “Republic of Silence” by Diana El Jeiroudi.