Each time I travel to attend or cover an event, festival, or film shoot, more than the reportage of the main event what really excites me is the incredible opportunity this presents to transport everyone (reading or watching) to where I am. When the invitation to attend Qumra came, I was immediately interested – both as a journalist and as a film festival organiser (Mumbai Film Festival).
I heard about Qumra two years ago from Cameron Bailey's (Artistic Director, The Toronto International Film Festival) Twitter feed. This 6-day film event in Doha is fast gaining ground as a serious space for mentoring new filmmakers from the Middle East and beyond. An initiative of the Doha Film Institute, Qumra focuses on mentoring the projects chosen by the institute for funding grants. Each year five masters are invited as key mentors to the chosen projects. Apart from the masters, industry experts from across the world like festival directors, producers, programmers, sales agents make their way to Qumra to talk to emerging filmmakers.
An initiative of the Doha Film Institute, Qumra focuses on mentoring the projects chosen by the institute for funding grants.
The first thing that struck me when I reached Souq Wakif (where Qumra will unfold over the next 6 days) was the quaintness and old world charm of the venue. It felt like stepping into history. It gave you a sense of the city's heritage. The alienating opulence and personality free modern construction associated with big cities was thankfully absent.
Peppered with restaurants, the century-old Souq Wakif is popular with both the locals and tourists. It was restored in 2006 under a restoration program launched by the government to preserve its architectural and historical identity.
The third year of Qumra is special. It will see 34 projects, 5 masters (Filmmakers Asghar Farhadi, Bruno Dumont, Luceria Martel, Rithy Panh and Producer Paulo Branco), and over a hundred industry experts. It is the grand payback of the labour of the last two years. Projects supported by the Doha Film Institute Grants and mentored at Qumra have gathered acclaim in the festival circuit (Ghost Hunting, Divines, Mimosas, Go Home, Mountain, The Garbage Helicopter, Blessed Benefit, By the Time It Gets Dark, Degrade, Frenzy, Holy Cow). You can smell triumph in the air. This has given Qumra both credibility and bigger ambitions.
Earlier an industry-only event, this year Qumra has initiated a registration program that allows film students, and the filmmaking community as well to be mentored. In the current bleak political climate across the world, Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman winning the Oscar has brought relief and hope. It is the first time in 48 years that a film co-financed by an Arab country has won and it is also the first time ever that a Qatar-financed film has won the prestigious honour. The combination of all these elements has only bolstered the relevance and need for platforms like Qumra.
The third year of Qumra is special. It will see 34 projects, 5 masters (Filmmakers Asghar Farhadi, Bruno Dumont, Luceria Martel, Rithy Panh and Producer Paulo Branco), and over a hundred industry experts.
The creative forces behind the event, The CEO of the Doha Film Institute and Director of Qumra, Fatma Al Remaihi, Artistic Advisor of Qumra and renowned filmmaker Elia Suleiman and Deputy Director of Qumra Hanaa Issa opened this year's edition with a casual gathering of all the delegates, masters and filmmakers. All three echoed the collective sentiment of fighting, through cinema, against the forces that are trying to make the world smaller.
In keeping with encouraging intimacy over ceremony, the opening dinner saw everyone chat and chill. There were no grand speeches and hoopla. That is what Qumra is fighting to do. Change perception of the film events in the middle east from flashy extravaganzas to a place with movie making heft. Film is the best way for a voice to carry across the globe. And this is the time that this voice needs to be at its strongest.