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Doha, Qatar; November 22, 2012: In a panel session in front of an almost sold out crowd, Doha Film Institute (DFI) tackled one of the more sensitive and controversial issues in cinema -overcoming stereotypes in Khaleeji film – as part of their Doha Talk series of the fourth Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF).
Traditionally, storytelling has always played a central role in Arab culture. Four members of the regional film industry came together to discuss contemporary storytelling, debating new regional and international influences and on whether Khaleeji films rely on stereotypes.
“Stereotyping happens everywhere, not just in Khaleeji films. It’s a global issue, not a local one,” said Dr Marzook Bashir, Director, Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, during his opening remarks, before continuing to providing background into the origins of the phrase. “This is a reflection of our personalities in society. Stereotypes exist whether you agree with them or not,” he added
Bassam Al-Thawadi, Producer/Director from Bahrain suggested local acting talent need better scripts and need to work more collaboratively with directors. “Directors and Casting Directors should ensure actors understand their characters, and give them more direction and better materials in order to bring a deeper sense of character to their roles.”
Haifaa Al-Mansour discussed the role of women both in filmmaking and on screen. “Regionally, the stereotypical role for women has been the same for many years, in all aspects of the media.” Addressing the crowd she said: “It’s very encouraging to see so many women here today and we have a large number of women within the industry, however women still remain apprehensive about getting their work made.”
Emirati author/screenwriter Mohammed Hassan spoke about the importance of making local content. “If we don’t produce modern movies, we are not representing and reflecting our society correctly. You have to find the balance between social constraints and the storytelling and through this process, we will move forward from the current plateau of portraying the same character over and over again. You must focus on the aesthetics before anything else and push the boundaries to change the perception of cinema.”
Dr Bashir summed up the session by putting his faith in the younger generations in the region. “By fostering a better film industry in this region, we can benefit from shared technologies and learning from our neighbours. I am proud that this new generation are a challenging one. We don’t want them to give up straight away, we want them to continue to push the boundaries in order to overcome stereotypical representation in the media.”