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Doha Tribeca Film Festival Raises International Awareness of New Arab Cinema at Tribeca Film Festival in New York City

May 10, 2010 — Film Festival

10 May 2010 – The Doha Tribeca Film Festival’s (DTFF) participation in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) in New York City has provided an important platform for films from the Middle East region, offering international audiences an insight into the range of diversity of new voices from the Arab world.

The team from DTFF organized a range of initiatives at the Festival designed to showcase new cinema including selection of screenings and workshops as well as a cultural exchange program for aspiring Qatari filmmakers.
One of the highest profile events supported by DTFF was the first US screening of the award-winning feature documentary “Budrus”, which profiles the work of a Palestinian community organizer trying to save the village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier.

The theater was filled to capacity with film enthusiasts from New York – including award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore – and the screening was followed by a special panel discussion which provided the audience with important insight into the ongoing struggle of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Julia Bacha, director of Budrus, said: “It was an honor to have the Doha Tribeca Film Festival co-sponsoring the North American premiere of Budrus at TIFF. Our film talks about bridging multiple divides, so it was particularly fitting to have Tribeca’s cultural partner in the Arab world supporting our screening and panel.”

Bacha’s “Budrus” achieved widespread interest among the jury, granting it a Special Jury Mention during the Tribeca Film Festival 2010 Awards. The popular documentary was described by the jury as “a film with a powerful message and a fresh perspective on an issue that is familiar to many. It’s about a local community who stood up to defend what was theirs, and in doing so they changed a country. This story is a journey that stretches beyond borders to provide hope, and it should be seen by everyone.”

Another major highlight, which generated international attention, was a screening of “Just Like Us,” a documentary featuring Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed and a host of critically acclaimed international stand-up comedians, as they make audiences laugh across the Middle East. Including stand-up comedy performances filmed in Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the film challenges western perceptions of humor and story-telling in the Arab world.

Among the sold out crowd, including many American residents of Middle Eastern origin, were actor Vince Vaughn and Tribeca Film Festival co-founders Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff.

Interviewed at the screening, Ahmed Ahmed stated: “The experience has been extraordinary. We are honored and grateful that these films are recognized. After the events of September 11th, it was hard to get people to listen to us. Events like this that the Doha Tribeca Film Festival has provided, have given us a voice in international festivals and Doha’s involvement and hospitality was a great addition to the global promotion of this film.”

The screening was followed by a comedy night that included stand up performances from many of the comedians featured in the film.

Promoting original films that document the lives and aspirations of people from the Arab world has been a key aim of the DTFF since its launch in 2009. With DTFF now running as a year-round educational and cultural initiative, its participation in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival added an important international element to its calendar of activities.

DTFF Executive Director Amanda Palmer, who joined all of the DTFF activities taking place in New York, commented, “There are so many astonishing films coming out of the Middle East at the moment that DTFF is trying to take every opportunity to share and celebrate them with the widest possible audience. We’re really pleased at the popular response we’ve enjoyed at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and are looking forward to bringing some of the films and film-makers we’ve met here back to Doha to hear firsthand the stories from the region.”

In addition to supporting screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival, DTFF also brought a number of young film-makers and cinema enthusiasts from Doha to take part in workshops, screenings and mentoring sessions. The experience provided an important development opportunity for the participants, and also strengthened the bond between the two Festivals. One of the workshops brought in twenty high school students who, along with the Qatari filmmakers, viewed the film Ajami and were able to meet with director Scandar Copti afterwards. Reflecting on the experience, Copti commented, “The kids really enjoyed the workshop and interacted positively with each other. The activities proved that the method I used with Middle Eastern non-professional actors, works everywhere in the world. These kids learned a new way to deal with actors other than the conventional script way, which is improvisation.”

To ensure that film lovers of all ages could enjoy events at Tribeca, DTFF also co-hosted a special family screening of the new film Shrek Forever After.

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About DTFF
Doha Tribeca Film Festival was launched in 2009. DTFF was Doha’s first international film festival to celebrate the best of Arabic and international cinema. Its ongoing aim will be to inspire, engage and educate a new generation of cinema appreciation locally; discover, mentor and fund regional filmmaking talent; foster a community through art and entertainment; and encourage open discussion and debate. The 2010 edition of DTFF will run from 26-30 October.