The past few months have been saturated with talk about film awards. The Oscars, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes. But while all of these dazzling, red-carpeted events are entertaining, they are also all about the biggest names in cinema.
Luckily for you Doha-dwellers, Qumra Film Festival is bringing you five days of film screenings from the best of the industry’s emerging directors, producers and writers. They may not have star-status (yet), but we can guarantee they are ones to watch.
110 min. Arabic, English, French, Italian
Screening: Friday March 4, 4pm
Director: Jonas Carpignano
The film follows two friends as they travel the immense distance from Burkina Faso – a land-locked country in West Africa – to the coast of Libya, as they try to make it to Italy and find a better life. It's arguably the most relevant film screening at Qumra. Ayiva and Abas desperately endure violence, bandits and a treacherous sea journey before finally arriving in Europe, which is where the focus of Mediterranea lies.
It’s a fast-paced, poignant film, and director Carpignano brilliantly captures the fierce determination of the human spirit, and the sadness of losing hope in the future. The pair struggle to make ends meet, and though support within the migrant community is heart-warming to watch, tensions build with the local population. It’s a harsh portrayal of the realities of life as an immigrant in Europe, and an important, timely call to treat migrants and refugees with dignity, respect and compassion.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001)
120 min. Mandarin
Screening: Friday March 4, 7pm
Director: Ang Lee
Screenwriter/Producer: James Schamus
This Chinese sensation needs little introduction. Its sequel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny has just hit cinema screens, but we suggest you hot-foot it to Qumra to see the original first. Okay, this one’s a little star-studded, and although it may sound like just another ball-busting, action-packed martial arts hit, it’s much more than that. Powerful drama, epic romance, adventure, action – it’s no wonder it bagged ten nominations and four Oscar wins, not to mention scooping up an additional 95 awards across the world. Stunning cinematography, moving music and sensational acting all come together to make this one of the most celebrated foreign language films of all time.
Roundabout in My Head (2015)
101 min. Arabic
Screening: Saturday March 5, 4pm
Director: Hassen Ferhani
A quick Google of Hassen Ferhani’s debut film will bring up multiple reviews calling Roundabout in My Head “the most beautiful film ever made in a slaughterhouse”. Set in Algeria, it’s an experimental film that makes much use of visual metaphors (vegetarians, take note) to paint a rather bleakly affecting picture of youth and death, both literally and figuratively. The surreal shots of dreary hallways, grotesque corpses, and the dreamy musings of the film’s subjects touch on topical issues of politics in the Arab world and beyond. Perhaps not one for the squeamish, but otherwise a not-to-be-missed screening.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)
157 min. Turkish
Screening: Saturday March 5, 7pm
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The sweeping vistas of Anatolian steppes are part of what makes this film so captivating, not least because they serve as the perfect moody backdrop to a murder mystery. At times darkly humorous, and at times melancholy, it follows a few village policemen, some locals, a doctor and a prosecutor, as they drive through the steppes searching for a crime scene with a murder suspect in tow, and then as the subsequent investigation unfolds.
The story is much less straightforward than it first appears. Though a whodunnit tale is at the forefront, the screenplay is intertwined with reflections on regret and disappointment, as the central characters look back on their lives.
The Mourning Forest (2007)
97 min. Japanese
Screening: Sunday March 6, 7pm
Director: Naomi Kawase
Another Cannes winner, but a film that has divided critics. Nevertheless, between its heartbreaking look at guilt and sorrow, there are some touching moments between Machiko – a young nurse working at a retirement home – and Shigaki, a resident mourning his late wife. Sound boring? Things get more interesting (but no less gloomy) when the pair get horribly lost in a forest for days. Once again, the scenery is mesmerising, while the use of a handheld camera gives the film a more intimate atmosphere.
Russian Ark (2002)
90 min. Russian
Screening: Monday, March 7, 7pm
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
More than 200 years of Russian history is contained within the 33 rooms of the Russian Hermitage Museum, all brought to screen in one, single, continuous 90-minute shot. Famous for being the first feature film to ever be shot in a single take, this is one of better-known films screening as part of Qumra and a milestone in film-making history. As the narrator – evidently a ghost – wanders the halls, grand rooms and galleries, he encounters characters from the past, from the family of Tsar Nicholas II to the museum director during the time of Stalin. An enigmatic look at Russia’s complex, and sometimes dark, history.
The details Tickets QR35 (regular screening), QR25 (with student discount). All screenings take place at the Museum of Islamic Art Auditorium. Visit www.dohafilminstitute.com for tickets. Maximum of six tickets per screening, per order.
Waves ’98 (2015)
15 min. Arabic
Screening: With Roundabout in My Head
Director: Ely Dagher
The most beautiful animation since the provocative, autobiographical Waltz with Bashir, Ely Dagher’s Waves ’98 won the Palm D’Or prize for a short film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. It’s also set in Beirut, in the post-war recovery years as the city struggles to repair itself. Omar, a young man in the ’90s, lives a mundane, listless life in the segregated city’s suburbs until he one day discovers a strange, beaming light shining through the city.
Similar in many ways to Waltz with Bashir, the short film is a reflection on the director’s own experience and a meditation on how living outside your home city affects your connection to it. It’s a sentiment that no doubt resonates with many of Doha’s residents: feeling lost at home, and the complications of maintaining a strong attachment to a once-familiar place.
The Palm Tree (2015)
Screening: With Mediterranea
Director: Jassim Al-Remaihi
This short documentary film is an intriguing, almost alien, look at the connections between nature and science, as well as the disconnect Man and machine can create. The silent film is set in a sterile lab, where machinery works to wash, sift and plant seeds, and track their growth. It’s the second short film from director Jassim Al-Rumaihi, who studied at Northwestern University in Qatar.
Ask them anything
The directors conducting post-screening Q&A sessions (and their seriously impressive credentials)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Actor, director, producer
Ceylan was born in Istanbul in 1959, and first studied at the Department of Electrical Engineering at Istanbul's Boğaziçi University, before going on to study cinema at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. His first two feature-length films were screened at the Berlin International Film Festival and, since, five of his films have won prizes at Cannes including Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) and, his most recent, Winter Sleep (2014) which won the Palme d’Or.
Kawase was born and raised in Nara, Japan, and graduated from Visual Arts College Osaka. She has made two documentaries about her own family – Embracing (1992) and Katatsumori (1994) – and was the youngest filmmaker to receive the Caméra d’Or at the Festival de Cannes for her first narrative feature Suazku (1997) which explored the impact of the economic decline in rural Japan. In both 2013 and 2014, Kawase sat on the jury of the Official Competition at Cannes and her most recent film, An (2015), opened the Un Certain Regard section in 2015.
Schamus was CEO of Focus Features between 2002 and 2014, whose films include Lost in Translation (2003), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012). He has worked with Ang Lee on nine films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001) and he will make his feature-length directorial debut this year with an adaptation of Philip Roth’s Indignation.
Born in 1951 in the former USSR, Sokurov’s films have won numerous international awards, and in 1995 he was listed by the European Film Academy as one of the best 100 directors of world cinema. His film Mother and Son (1997) won international acclaim, and its mirror film Father and Son (2003) won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Festival de Cannes. Next came remarkable masterpiece Russian Ark (2002) and his most recent film Francofonia (2015) is about the Louvre Museum during World War II. Currently, he is in the process of founding a film studio for non-commercial films.