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"We are leaving a lot of space for the poetics to play and for the filmmakers to be inspired"

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Elia Suleiman, Fatma Al Remaihi and Hanaa Issa • Organisers, Qumra

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- A press conference took place as part of the Qumra initiative held in Doha, involving Elia Suleiman, artistic director, Fatma Al Remaihi, CEO of the DFI, and Hanaa Issa, Qumra deputy director

Elia Suleiman, Fatma Al Remaihi and Hanaa Issa • Organisers, Qumra
l-r: Fatma Al Remaihi, Hanaa Issa, Joshua Oppenheimer (one of the Qumra masters) and Elia Suleiman

A press conference was held as part of the Qumra initiative held in Doha, Qatar, from 4-9 March, involving Elia Suleiman, artistic director, Fatma Al Remaihi, CEO of the Doha Film Institute (DFI), and Hanaa Issa, Qumra deputy director.

All ten of the short film projects participating in Qumra are from Qatar…
Elia Suleiman: The industry in Qatar is still in its infancy, and most of the projects we have been working on with locals are short films. We decided to have a dedicated programme for them this year. Given that we have experts coming to Qumra, we thought it better to run it as a programme [for short films] so that they can all learn together and get the most out of Qumra.
Hanaa Issa: It was an achievement to have more Qatari projects. This year at Qumra, we’ve had a year looking at Qatari works in progress. We are very happy to see those local projects participating, engaging, very eager to learn.
Elia Suleiman: Hopefully, at some point, maybe not next year, there will be [Qatari] feature-length films participating. There is an environment that might help grow cinema. 

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There are also a lot of guests from the industry here.
Fatma Al Remaihi: This year, we have more festivals represented here than last year. We also have more of an American presence, not only for the masters, but also Sundance, Netflix, the Ford Foundation... There is more interest from the North American side. 

What do you think of the expansion of pay television? Does it mean something for Arab filmmakers?
Fatma Al Remaihi: Definitely; we conducted three research projects, and one of the findings was that now the number of channels and platforms is multiplying greatly. This is going to create the need to fill in a gap that exists. Independent cinemas can take advantage of this. It is very exciting for Qatar; it positions us as a place where not only creativity, but also business in the media and film sector is booming for the film industry. There is a lot of potential; let’s now wait and see.

Among the masters who came last year, there were some actors [Gael García Bernal]. That is not the case this year. Was this a strategic decision?
Elia Suleiman: It’s not exactly a strategy. We are leaving a lot of space for the poetics to play and for the filmmakers to be inspired. It is not really about having representations; it is about who we think would make for an interesting master. This can be quite experimental at times. Qumra is about the young filmmakers who come here; it is about the little stories they want to bring and how they can grow and become masters themselves at some point. It is about making cinema, not making industry. The masters are a part of helping fulfil this mission.

Some films funded by the DFI took part in the Academy Awards this year. Does that change anything for you?
Fatma Al Remaihi: It is certainly not a bad thing. It is great, and it shows filmmakers, especially those from the region, that the DFI is an organisation we can trust and work with. Of course, films going to the Oscars give us more credibility in the region, within the industry. It is fantastic to see the fruits of our investment in these filmmakers, which can now be seen at the highest platforms; being that visible.
Elia Suleiman: Some filmmakers from the region might be aiming for the Oscars, but some others are looking at European festivals. We have around ten films that have won prizes, and dozens that have already been participating in festivals, like Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

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