Well. The films are watched and the votes are in, so now it’s time to announce the award winners of the second Doha Film Experience and our annual Made in Qatar Award.
Friday evening saw the presentation of the Made in Qatar Award. At a ceremony after a packed screening of homegrown films, jurors Saad Borshid, Mohammed Saeed Harib and Hala Al Khalifa, acknowledged announced their decisions.
Acknowledgements of excellent performances went to Mohammad Al Hamadi in Hind Al-Ansari’s ‘Amreeka Laa!’; Mohammed AlSyari in Yousef Al Moadhadi’s ‘10%’; and Sally Al Mansouri in Ali Al Ansari’s ‘Qarar’; while Special Mentions went out to Suzannah Mirghani for ‘Hind’s Dream’, Ali Al Ansari for ‘Qarar’ and Ghassan Kairouz for ‘Takrir’. Then it was time for the big moment, and the 2014 Made in Qatar Award was presented to Yousef Al Moadhadi’s for his ‘10%’, a charming and funny tale that wonders whether we have become far too dependent on our ubiquitous mobile devices.
Meanwhile, over the course of Ajyal, about 450 young people from Doha and around the world, representing 41 nationalities, sat on three juries for the festival’s official competition. Altogether, they watched eight feature films and 36 short films, and made the tough decision to choose the best directors for two features and three shorts.
But first, to our youngest audiences. Ajyal’s Bariq section – the term means ‘sparkle’ in Arabic – are between the ages of four and eight. They came to see a selection of 15 short animated films, and they got to choose their favourite as well. The winner? ‘5m80, by French animator Nicolas Deveaux. The film is the brilliant result of wondering what would happen if a herd of giraffes wandered into an aquatic centre and decided to try out some fantastic high diving. Not to be outdone, the parents of the Bariq boys and girls were asked to choose their favourite film for the Parents’ Choice Award – and they chose ‘5m80’ as well.
Mohaq – ‘new moon’ in Arabic – is Ajyal’s jury of young people aged 8 to 12. They watched two feature-length films that were not in competition, as well as a dozen shorts, from which they selected their favourite: Kuwaiti director Yousef Al-Abdullah’s ‘Ignorant’, in which the Minister of Finance is left scratching his head when a little boy asks a Very Important Question. ‘I wish I had bigger hands so that I could hug all the children who voted for the film. I’m very flattered and very happy – this is the first festival that I have participated in. This is the last thing that I expected!’, said Al-Abdullah, upon hearing the news of his award.
Next up was Hilal – Arabic for ‘crescent moon’ – our jurors aged 13 to 17. From four feature films, they selected the Canadian representative ‘If I Had Wings’, the wonderful story of two high-school students who overcome personal obstacles to participate in a cross-country competition. ‘I’ve wanted to be here for the full week to see some of the other films’, said director Allan Harmon. ‘I’m so pleased that my film is being enjoyed, and that it was enjoyed here. I always have to offer congratulations to any other films that make it into film festivals. “If I Had Wings” premiered at the Whistler Film Festival a year ago this weekend, and it’s been in several festivals since, and to us it’s like a victory lap to see audiences responding like we hoped.’ In the short film category, the young people named Danish filmmaker Anders Walter’s ‘Helium’ as best film – an excellent addition on the awards shelf to go along with the Oscar it won earlier this year.
Bader – ‘full moon’ in Arabic – is our jury of young adults aged 18 to 21. It was a very close choice for this group, but, but they chose the searing character drama ‘Whiplash’, by rising US filmmaker Damien Chazelle, as best feature. The film has received intense acclaim worldwide since its award-winning premiere in Sundance and clearly young people here in Doha were equally moved by its brilliant direction and performances.
In the short-film category, Bader youth chose the extremely moving ‘Keys of Heaven’, a dramatisation of the difficult situation of young men during the Iran-Iraq War and the terrible impact that conflict had on young lives. Finnish-Iranian director Hamy Ramezan, on receiving his award, said ‘I have been to many festivals with my films, and I have to admit that Ajyal is really unique. I love the concept of the festival and what the Doha Film Institute is doing for young people is great. They had so much energy, they took everything in and wanted more and more information. I was impressed by the way these young adults analyze films. They also question which kind of cinema we need in this society, its cultural role, and it’s wonderful that they think about these things.’
And so, it’s a wrap until next year, when once again the young people of Doha will make their mark on international cinema, forge new friendships and – of course – enjoy some of the best films the world has to offer.