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Qumra: A new audiovisual market model?


- We present part one of a special report from the Qumra international gathering in Doha, where 30 film projects will benefit from the experience of international film-industry experts

Qumra: A new audiovisual market model?
Director Abderrahmane Sissako during one of the master classes (© Doha Film Institute)

Qumra means “camera” in Arabic, and this word can be traced back to an Arabic philosopher, Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, who was the first scientist to attempt the camera obscura experiment from which the modern camera was developed.

This year, the Arab world seems to have invented a new formula: the Qumra international gathering. According to Mirsad Purivatra, director of the Sarajevo Film Festival, who has been attending the event in Doha over the last few days, “Qumra represents an absolute novelty in the audiovisual panorama. Over six days, it offers personalised mentoring, master classes, screenings and one-to-one meetings in an intimate and friendly environment. The meetings are relaxed, without those noisy and time-consuming ‘festival tourists’,” he commented to Cineuropa.

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Founded by the Doha Film Institute, in partnership with many other institutions, including the Sarajevo Film Festival, Qumra offers 30 film projects the chance to benefit from the experience of international film-industry experts in bespoke mentorship labs and business meetings. Qumra’s artistic director and European Awards winner, Elia Suleiman, told Cineuropa, “Qumra does not aim to compete with other existing audiovisual markets. It is a ‘spiritual’ concept. We need to create links and build bridges between different cultures, through valuable meetings that go beyond the business-to-business framework. If we really want people to cooperate, work together and overcome cultural barriers, we need to build new spaces where the human side of the encounter prevails over the commercial aspect.”

Fatma Al Remaihi, Doha Film Institute’s chief executive, insisted on the need to have a wider circulation of audiovisual works, not only for commercial reasons, but also to achieve mutual understanding and respect. “This is the reason why we brought so many (European) distributors and sales agents to Doha. They can see the projects in development, in addition to the finished films, but most importantly, they are exposed to content they cannot really see anywhere else. At the Doha Film Institute, we will encourage other initiatives to support the distribution of films, and cover the P&A costs for exhibitors and distributors,” she declared.

Given the diversity of the projects, Qumra has been organised in several different formats. To ensure the most efficient leverage of international expertise, the organisers have created customised agendas for industry delegates based on their primary professional activities and respective roles in the programme:

Industry screenings: for work-in-progress projects, sales agents, programmers, distributors and broadcasters are invited to the industry screenings – exclusive preview screenings of 20-minute excerpts from projects that are completed or in post-production.

Working breakfasts: all of the 150 delegates participate in daily working breakfasts – moderated working sessions for participants and industry executives in an informal atmosphere, where labs and festival representatives, sales agents, distributors and financiers present their businesses, share their expertise and discuss current industry trends.

Qumra master classes: the Doha Film Institute has also organised four master classes with Leila Hatami, Gael García Bernal, Cristian Mungiu, Abderrahmane Sissako and Danis Tanović, who will share experiences from their acclaimed careers. To see videos of these master classes, click here.

In order to favour international co-productions and cooperation, there is an impressive mix of nationalities present at the gathering: 40% of the participants come from Europe, 40% hail from the Arab world, and 20% from the US and other countries in Asia.


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