The second edition of Qumra, March 4 - 9, organized by the Doha Film Institute has wrapped. Through a series of one-on-one meetings, consultations and tutorials, delegates at Qumra - the producers and directors associated with the 33 projects from 19 countries selected for the industry program - are provided with deep insights on how their films can find their voice in the global film market.

Only 100+ people, all working hard and all meeting every day is especially appealing. Seen in light of mega-events as Berlin, Cannes, TIFF and Sundance, the intimacy of everyone sharing meals, attending the same party, staying at the same hotels within the famed souk and in walking distance to the incredibly beautiful Museum of Islamic Art, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei where morning events, classes and screenings take place makes this event forever memorable.

Mentoring is a natural result of the rich mix of people from all levels of the industry sharing themselves along with their expertise.

In my closing conversation with Doha Film Institute CEO Fatma Al Remaihi, Qumra Deputy Director Hanaa Issa and Artistic Advisor for the Doha Film Institute, filmmaker Elia Suleiman, I had quite pointed questions to ask but in fact, they were too pointed because as Elia said, “While the Qatar film industry is still in its infancy, we are all discovering and learning about the region and Qatar, the power of the filmmakers’ voices. We have no target to hit, because that would be too confining.”

Elia Suleiman, James Schamus, Hanaa Issa and Fatma Al Remaihi
Elia Suleiman, James Schamus, Hanaa Issa and Fatma Al Remaihi

What is the objective of all the activity of DFI?

Fatma : Qumra marks the beginning of new collaborations, new creative partnerships and new friendships. At its heart, the mission of this event is to support emerging filmmakers. The program has been designed with the constant goal of creating a supportive and productive space for projects by emerging filmmakers to be nurtured and to provide maximum opportunities for our filmmakers to benefit from the wisdom of the most experienced industry experts in the world.

“Last year, we launched Qumra and embarked on an ambitious journey to provide emerging talent with an industry platform to help them build their skills and foster meaningful industry connections. In its second edition, we are excited to see it define its own niche with experts from across the world taking part in the discussions and asserting their commitment to supporting young filmmakers. We thank them for being here in Qatar and sharing their experience with the spirit of generosity that has come to embody this event.”

The objective of supporting Arab voices is being met faster than expected as shown by the success of ‘ Theeb’.

Editor: “Theeb” has won numerous awards in festivals including its debut in Venice where director-writer Naji Abu Nowar won for Best Director, winning the U.K.’s top BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer by Naji Abu Nowar and Rupert Lloyd and reaching the level of nominee for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

This coproduction between Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and U.K. was funded by Doha Film Institute, Visions Sud Est and Anad of Abu Dhabi and it has been sold by top international sales agent Fortissimo to Australia (JIFF Distribution), Belgium (ABC), Middle East (Mad Solutions), Netherlands (ABC – Cinemien), Norway (AS Fidalgo), Switzerland (trigon-film) U.K. (New Wave) and U.S. (Film Movement).

 Legal Aspects of Co-Production with Sarajevo’s Jovan Marjanović
Legal Aspects of Co-Production with Sarajevo’s Jovan Marjanović

Hanaa Issa : “In many ways, Qumra is the culmination of the work we have been doing at the Doha Film Institute over the past five years. It builds on the existing support we give to filmmakers through our education and development programs, our funding programs, and our screenings and film appreciation initiatives. Our first edition showed us that the format worked and provided meaningful results to all those who participated, and we are confident that the second edition has contributed to extending further support to our talents.

I notice how many young filmmakers are here, and how shorts seem to be a strong suit right now for them. How does this objective apply specifically to Qatar?

Hanaa : The DFI is making Qatar voices heard by traveling, bringing a package of films and selected participants to Berlin, Cannes, Dubai and Clermont-Ferrand, the world’s first and still most prestigious short film festival.

Elia: Qumra is for the young filmmakers and to inspire them, especially at a time when fences and borders are being built all around, and new ones are springing everywhere in the world. The imagination and poetry of our young filmmakers serve as a resistance to these borders. The fact that we are here at Qumra shows our confidence in our filmmakers in breaking down these barriers.

Are you getting any feedback yet?

Elia : I mix among everyone and am hearing very positive things from the filmmakers, the experts and festival programmers.

I heard James Schamus say it is unique. I’ve had several conversations with young women filmmakers that go beyond the subject of filmmaking.

Elia: There are more women here than last year, perhaps because the doors are so recently opened.

Marie-Pierre Macias in a working session
Marie-Pierre Macias in a working session

How do you evaluate all that has happened here?

Fatma: Very soon after the event, all together, every person involved in the event reviews every step and we forecast trends from what we see has taken place so far. We plan how to fulfil the needs of the filmmakers as we grow.

How do you see the future?

Hanaa: Many more people want to come and some want to come at their own expense. We want to meet the demands and also to keep the integrity of Qumra and insure that projects develop with follow up by all participants. We want to keep the format and avoid getting too big, to keep it relevant…We want to see the evolution of the projects here.

I myself love the intimacy and fear its loss as more people become aware of how great this program is. As press, I hesitate to write to tell more people about it because I want to keep it small as a participant.

Elia: In ten years perhaps one of the Masters will be someone who began here.

Fatma: The returnees from the first year are here with passion. And yet we need to guard the windows for new comers.

Hanaa: I would say Qumra is “elastic”.

Ellis Dreissen in a one-on-one meeting
Ellis Dreissen in a one-on-one meeting

Those are good closing words. “Elastic” defines Qumra now. Thank you for this look at what has happened so far at Qumra. I hope to remain a part of the Qumra family now that I have participated with the short filmmakers myself and have experienced the people’s warm hospitality!

From the official press notes:

Doha Film Institute CEO Fatma Al Remaihi said: “Qumra offers audiences highly engaging film experiences presenting new insights into the language of cinema and the process behind the creation of compelling films. They will also be educational and inspirational, underlining our commitment to strengthening film culture in Qatar by promoting access to and appreciation of world cinema.”

Masters and master classes with James Schamus, Joshua Oppenheimer, Naomi Kawase, Aleksandr Sokurov and Nuri Bilge Ceylan interested all participants and much of the public.

The Masters screenings, accompanied by Q&A sessions with the visiting Qumra Masters linked to each film were “The Look of Silence” (Denmark, Indonesia, Finland, Norway, UK / Indonesian, Javanese /2014) by Qumra Master Joshua Oppenheimer, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina / Turkish / 2011) by Qumra Master Nuri Bilge Ceylan; “Russian Ark” (Russian Federation, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan / Russian / 2002) by Qumra Master Aleksandr Sokurov; “The Mourning Forest” (Japan, France / Japanese / 2007) by Qumra Master Naomi Kawase; and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA, China / Mandarin / 2001) by Ang Lee, co-written and produced by Lee’s longtime collaborator and Qumra Master, James Schamus.

The ‘New Voices in Cinema’ screenings included two feature films granted by the Doha Film Institute: “ Mediterranea” (Italy, France, Germany, Qatar/ Arabic, English, French, Italian; 2015) by Jonas Carpignano being sold internationally by NDM and WME; “ Roundabout in my Head”/ “Fi rassi roun-point” (Algeria, France, Qatar/Arabic/2015); and two award-winning short films “Waves 98” by Ely Dagher (Lebanon, Qatar / Arabic / 2015), winner of the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and “The Palm Tree (Qatar, No Dialogue, 2015) by Jasim Al Rumaihi, winner of the 2015 Ajyal Youth Film Festival Made in Qatar Award for Best Documentary.

Many of the industry guests included returnees as well as the new guests which count Bero Beyer, Rotterdam; Tine Fisher, CPH Dox; Christophe Le Parc, Director’s Fortnight, Cannes; Vincenzo Bugno, World Cinema Fund, Berlinale; Cameron Bailey, TIFF and Carlo Chatrian, Locarno here for their second time; Sundance for its first year; Matthijs Wouter Knol, European Film Market; Mike Goodridge, Protagonist; Memento Films, Arte; Michael Werner, Fortissimo; Alaa Karkouti, MAD Solutions and Selim El Azar, Gulf Films.

Also attending for the first time was Netflix who picked up “Under the Shadow” an elevated horror/ thriller partially funded by the Doha Film Institute, Film Movement and the Ford Foundation.

The closing night party was a sumptuous affair held in the desert, an homage to the tent dwellings of the Doha Bedouins, grandparents of those who are now forging a new urban and international identity.