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90 films from 43 countries to screen at the second edition of the Ajyal Youth Film Festival

Nov 12, 2014

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Doha, Qatar; November 12, 2014: Ninety films showcasing the best in local and international filmmaking will screen at the second edition of the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, being held 1-6 December at the Cultural Village Katara.

An array of public screenings, jury screenings, premieres, red carpets, special events, exhibitions and family activities will make up this year’s Festival programme, where 21 feature films will screen over six days. Ten of these features are by first and second-time filmmakers including Macondo (Austria, Germany) by Sudabeh Mortezai, Antboy (Denmark) by Ask Hasselbalch, #chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes On a Dictator (USA, Syria) by Joe Piscatella and the opening night world premiere of Speed Sisters (USA, Qatar) by Amber Fares, underscoring the Doha Film Institute’s year-round support of emerging filmmakers from the MENA region and around the world.

Highlights of this year’s feature film line-up include the world premiere of Palestinian motor racing documentary Speed Sisters, an action-packed and insightful documentary about the Middle East’s first all-woman motor-racing team, and the MENA premiere of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (France, Lebanon, Qatar, USA), produced by and starring Salma Hayek-Pinault. The animated feature, which is the Festival’s closing night gala presentation, is an adaptation of Gibran’s beloved book directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King) and featuring sequences by award-winning directors from across the globe, including popular Gulf animator Mohammed Saeed Harib.

Special guests confirmed to attend the Festival include a delegation from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet including Producer/Actress Salma Hayek-Pinault, Director Roger Allers and chapter Directors Joan Graetz and Mohammed Saeed Harib. Speed Sisters director Amber Fares will be in attendance for the opening night along with the team members who star in the documentary.

Also confirmed to attend is Jordanian Director, Naji Abu Nowar, to present Theeb (Jordan, Qatar, UAE, UK), one of many award-winning films rounding out the feature programme. Supported by the Doha Film Institute Grants Programme, Theeb is the coming-of-age story of a Bedouin boy who embarks on a perilous journey across the desert as the Ottoman Empire crumbles. Abu Nowar won the Orrizonti Award for Best Director when the film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival this year; it also won the Best Film from the Arab World award in the New Horizons competition and the FIPRESCI Prize for best narrative feature at the recent Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and Abu Nowar has been named ‘Variety’’s Arab Filmmaker of the Year.

The outstandingly original, magical Brazilian animated feature The Boy and the World (Brazil) by Ale Abreu, which illustrates the issues of the modern world through the eyes of a child, won the best feature and audience prizes at this year’s Annecy International Animated Film Festival; while Whiplash (USA) by Damien Chazelle, the story of a teenager’s dreams of becoming a jazz musician, won the audience and grand jury prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

A number of high profile MENA features which tackle modern-day social issues will also be showcased at the Festival including Difret (Ethiopia) by Zeresenay Mehari, Ethiopia’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards. Executive produced by Angelina Jolie, the film tells the tale of the kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl on her way home from school. #chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes On a Dictator follows the life of a young Syrian woman as she assists the revolution in her home country – from her bedroom in Chicago. Ala’a Basatneh, aka #chicagoGirl, will be in attendance to speak to audiences and festival jurors about her incredible experiences depicted in the documentary.

Animation also continues to be a popular theme at the Festival this year with the screening of the visual masterpiece The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Japan), from acclaimed Japanese anime director Isao Takahata, co-founder with celebrated director Hayao Miyazaki of the legendary Studio Ghibli, and Song of the Sea (Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, France) by Tomm Moore, a captivating animated adventure inspired by the Ancient Irish legend of the selkies.

An eclectic shorts programme will see more than 40 short films screen to the public during the festival – 20 of these in the Made in Qatar section, which celebrates work by filmmakers who call Qatar home. Additional short film programmes will screen exclusively to the young jurors participating in the Doha Film Experience.

Some of the many highlights of the short film programmes include the Iranian black comedy A Ceremony for a Friend by Kaveh Ebrahimpour, the UK/Italian sci-fi short The Nostalgist by Giacomo Cimini, Finnish/Turkish short Keys of Heaven by Paratiisin Avaimet, set during the Iran-Iraq War and two UK shorts: Hijabi Girls by Nada Al-Hudaid which celebrates the world of high fashion and Shackled by Nour Wazzi, starring Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke.

“We are really proud of the line-up for this year’s Ajyal Youth Film Festival, which has truly become an event for all generations,” said Fatma Al Remaihi, Festival Director and Acting CEO of Doha Film Institute.

“Film lovers of all ages will find this year’s programme rich with opportunities to explore and engage with the many interesting films and subject matters that are highlighted – from magical tales of the sea and nature, to the world of music and contemporary issues of social change and transformation.

“We want to bring young people together in a creative and inspiring environment, and I think this year’s programme will really spark their imagination and allow everyone who takes part to celebrate the art of cinema in all its forms.”

The Ajyal Youth Film Festival builds on the Doha Film Institute’s history of community-based programming. Ajyal, meaning ‘generations’ in Arabic, invites people of all ages to come together to discuss cinema through events that inspire creative interaction, opening up a fun, collaborative environment where young people can express themselves. Driven with the goal to inspire and create, Ajyal has been designed to empower the region’s youth and to inspire film enthusiasts of all ages in Qatar and the region.

For more details on the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, please visit