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Doha TFF: Opening Night!

The 2009 Doha Tribeca Film Festival kicked off with a spectacular outdoor screening of Mira Nair's Amelia, attended by celebrities (Scorsese, Kingsley) and Qataris alike.

Doha TFF Opening Night
© 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Michael Buckner

Reports are in from the opening night of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, and by all accounts, it was a magical evening! More on that in a moment.

Doha TFF Martin Scorsese Jane Rosenthal Ben Kingsley
Martin Scorsese, Jane Rosenthal, Sir Ben Kingsley
© 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Michael Buckner

One thing we wanted to share about the days leading up to opening night: Martin Scorsese caused a stir with his arrival in Doha, and he was treated to a tour of the Museum of Islamic Art (the stunning headquarters of Doha TFF, featured to the left in the photo above) and of Al Jazeera, headquartered in Doha. TFF Executive Director Nancy Schafer reports, “When he walked into the newsroom, the whole Al Jazeera staff gasped and twittered in appreciation.”

Doha TFF Hiam Abbass Patricia Clarkson  Doha TFF Amanda Palmer
(L) Hiam Abbass, Patricia Clarkson   (R) Amanda Palmer
© 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Michael Buckner

But the biggest news is about the main event. Opening night included simultaneous screenings of Mira Nair’s Amelia, the biopic of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere—one inside the Museum and one outside on the spectacular grounds (free to the public). Schafer exclaims: “Opening Night was grand beyond our wildest expectations! The museum was spectacular, and the grounds with the outdoor screening even more so. The screen was nearly 80 feet, the largest screen any of the tech people had ever seen, and the stage was massive. By 7:00 pm there were 3000 people on the grounds (this morning the press is reporting 5000).”

Doha TFF Red Carpet MIA
Doha Tribeca Film Festival LED Red Carpet (Museum of Islamic Art in the background)
© 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Michael Buckner

Before the screening, celebrities began to arrive by special dhows (boats). Schafer explains, “I will say that arrivals by boat are much harder than they appear!” Schafer walked down the LED red carpet (!) with some of the celebrities in attendance, many from all over the Arabic world. “I first walked with Mona Wasif, a Syrian actress whom all the press was dying to talk to. I also had the pleasure of walking Mira Nair, who is lovely and charming and brought her whole family from India—more than 12 people at one count (they seemed to multiply through the evening!).”

Doha TFF Mira Nair  Doha TFF Jeffrey Wright
(L) Mira Nair   (R) Jeffrey Wright
© 2009 Getty Images, Credit: (L) Andrew H. Walker, (R) Michael Buckner

Up next, friend of Tribeca Jeffrey Wright shared the festival’s dual goals of encouraging people from the region to tell their stories and sharing culture through film. Other stars on the carpet included: Youssra, Miuccia Prada, Jean Jacques Annoud, Sir Ben Kingsley, Hiam Abbass, Khaled Abol Naga, TFF founders Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff Doha TFF Executive Director Amanda Palmer, and a nine-foot robot, among others. Schafer reports, “Everyone looked spectacular, including the robot!”

Doha TFF Four Seasons
Doha TFF Opening Night: View from the Four Seasons
© 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Michael Buckner

After the screening, the party moved to the Four Seasons, with 1200 people outside on the beach enjoying food and beverages. The party was divided into three themed sections: Dohawood (decked out in hundreds of rugs, with large huts for siting where local men gathered to sing and dance), Bollywood (flowing sheer fabric, an elephant statue and old movie reels and projector), and Hollywood (big dance floor and DJ). Schafer explains: “Some of our famous guests gathered in a private room, and one of my favorite moments was seeing Mira Nair, Marty Scorsese and Elia Sulieman all laughing loudly together.”

The evening ended with spectacular fireworks over the Gulf. It was a night to remember.

Today (Friday) is Family Day on the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art, including outdoor family screenings around town. We will report back tomorrow. Also, screening venues are up and running, with over 32 films to screen over the next three days. Want to know what's happening right now? Check out the Doha TFF Live Blog!

Stay tuned for more throughout the weekend…

Visit the Doha Tribeca Film Festival website for up-to-date news, photos, videos, and more.


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