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Doha TFF: The Conversation Continues

TFF Executive Director Nancy Schafer reflects on the success of the inaugural Doha Tribeca Film Festival, and the friendships (Marty and Mira!) and year-round filmmaking programs rising in its wake.

Doha TFF

Key industry, notable press, and local audiences all came together this past week to make the inaugural Doha Tribeca Film Festival—which drew notable directors like Mira Nair and Martin Scorsese—an unqualified success. I’m not just saying that because I work here, or because the hard work of the past few months has faded into the rosy glow of an event’s aftermath. I’m saying that because, even though there were glitches and bumps to stumble over, it was well done, with good films and happy participants.
From the City Center multiplex to I.M. Pei’s latest masterpiece (the Museum of Islamic Art), from the historic Souq Waqif to the Four Seasons, the Festival spanned the entire city to showcase the depth of culture found in Doha. Highlighted by quality cinema and sparkling events, an event of this magnitude was no easy feat (quick shout out to the amazing duo at the helm, Amanda Palmer and Maggie Kim!); it came with its own set of challenges, different than the ones we face in New York. However, seeing all of our hard work come to fruition reminded me so much of the first Tribeca Film Festival and the pride associated with that year.

Doha TFF
Executive Director of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival Amanda Palmer (L) and filmmaker Mira Nair speak onstage at DOHA TALKS. 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Michael Buckner

By this point, the origins of TFF are no mystery: downtown New York was in a time of need, and when we came in with a handful of noteworthy movies and curated events, the neighborhood clung to the Festival and claimed it as their own. Doha, while not having suffered the same devastation, also embraced its Festival with open arms. The response from locals and visitors alike was overwhelmingly positive, mirroring the same excitement and thirst for cinema we saw in New York only nine years ago. We couldn’t have asked for a more gracious host than the country and people of Qatar.
For those of you who know what we do at Tribeca in New York, there were a lot of similarities between the two events. Both stress the importance of community involvement—our festivals are open to everyone, and actively seek out new audiences for independent and international film. Also, both festivals use film as a medium for telling the stories of people all over the globe, opening up a cross-cultural dialogue. As Nair said in Doha, “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?” We set out to create a festival where people watched, discussed and bridged worlds through film, and I believe we did that. One of my favorite moments at the Festival was watching Nair, Scorsese and Palestinian director Elia Suleiman laughing so loudly at a story Mira told, which captivated the entire room. To see three dynamic and eloquent storytellers together in one spot encapsulated the feeling that spread throughout the Festival.

Doha TFF
Dancers perform onstage at "The Mummy" screening at the Souq Waqif. © 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Andrew H. Walker
Going beyond the successful four days of the event, we were delighted to announce future plans to continue our valued relationship with our friends in Doha. All cheesiness aside, it truly means a great deal to us (and me personally) to work with the staff in place in Qatar to create more programs to further enrich the cinematic culture and education of the Qatari community. We have planned two main programs to move forward outside of the Festival. First, a duo of labs to nurture filmmaking in Qatar—one to foster screenwriting, and the other directing—with both labs tasked to offer a hands-on forum for regional filmmakers to explore their storytelling skills. At the helm of these programs is Tribeca’s own Geoff Gilmore, who comes from years of experience leading such labs at Sundance.

As a second effort, we’ll be continuing the idea of bridging our two cities by embarking on a filmmaker exchange program. Five aspiring filmmakers from Doha will have the opportunity to travel to New York and work with established filmmakers and instructors, who will guide them through screenplay development and a portion of the production process.

Doha TFF
(L-R) Actress Yasmine Al Masri, CCO of Tribeca Enterprises Geoff Gilmore, Executive Director of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival Amanda Palmer, director Najwa Najjar, Tribeca Film Festival Co-founder Robert De Niro, Actress Hiam Abbass and actor Ashraf Farah attend the DTFF Closing Night Ceremony. © 2009 Getty Images, Credit: Andrew H. Walker
Doha TFF was created to advance education, cinematic ambition and community in Doha, and these year-round programs will certainly put into action the mission of the Festival, creating opportunities for the selected young filmmakers to reach new and higher levels of achievement. This notion of promoting film and its process is the thread that weaves together everything we’ve aimed to do, and where the future lies.

Whenever Maggie Kim, managing director of TFF and Doha TFF, took the stage during the Festival, the audience clapped loudly. She was so gracious in saying, “Thank you so much for having me here in Doha,” not only confirming that her mother raised her right, but also echoing the sentiments of all of us here in New York: We are honored to have been invited to Doha to create such a special Festival. We look forward to continuing all the new friendships we struck up during our time there, and to creating more friendships next year. On to 2010!

We will leave you with two insightful blogs posts from Doha TFF, written by friend of Tribeca Jared Cohen about the Festival's significance: Why Doha? and Film as Citizen Politics

See Doha TFF Day One in Pictures.
See Doha TFF Day Two in Pictures.
See Doha TFF Day Three in Pictures.
See Doha TFF Day Four in Pictures.
Visit the Doha Tribeca Film Festival website for complete coverage.


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