The 7th Aljazeera International Documentary Festival closed on Sunday night with a glitzy awards ceremony, which saw hundreds of filmmakers, journalists and film lovers crammed in to the Sheraton’s Al-Majlis hall.
This year has seen a record 284 films shown, out of over 1200 applicants. The theme of this year’s festival was ‘dialogue’, which, as festival director Abbas Arnaout says: “we need at a time when journalists conveying the truth get killed and detained”. With films from 92 countries around the world, and subjects ranging from Israeli peace activists to female South Korean deep sea divers, there was plenty to talk about.
The most significant development of the festival for 2011 is the introduction of the Promising Film Award, which was offered in cooperation with Qatar Foundation, and is awarded to the best three films directed by school and university students from across Qatar. The awards went to Jasem Al Remaihi from North Western University for ‘A Falcon, A Revolution’; ‘Broken Records’ from North Western University about the rising Arab hip-hop movement, and ‘Lady of Rosary’ from Qatar University, about Doha’s first church.
The Al Jazeera Golden Award for a Long Film went to Kim Longinotto’s ‘Pink Saris’, a British documentary about a group of Indian women who have taken justice into their own hands and are tackling violence against women. The award for a Medium Film went to crowd favourite ‘Shooting Muhammed’,which tells the story of a lone Palestinian in an Israeli film school; and the prize for Public Liberty and Human Rights went to ‘Israel Vs Israel’ (DFI coverage here). See audience responses below:
On the last day of the festival, I caught up with DFI filmmaking student Tusilya Muthukumar, who told me: “I always thought that documentary making was boring and not really challenging, but after I watched the documentaries here I had 2 or 3 ideas of what I can make out of my life, my experience and things around me. I’ll probably start writing one – I’m really inspired!”
It doesn’t matter who wins the awards, or how many industry personnel turn up – the real barometer of any film festival’s success is in the response of the audience, and if Tusilya’s is anything to go by, it’s certainly been a good year.