Doha’s youth-focused film festival screened 80 pictures from 36 countries.

Paper Planes

Robert Connolly’s Australian feature Paper Planes, Zig Madamba Dulay’s Philippine title Scarecrow and Spanish duo Pablo Iraburu and Migueltxo Molina’s feature-length documentary Walls (Muros) have clinched the top prizes at the Doha Film Institute’s third Ajyal Youth Film Festival (Nov 29-Dec 5).

Connolly’s endearing tale about a young Australian boy chasing his dream to participate in the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan was voted the top film by the Mohaq jury for children aged eight to 12-years-old.

The Hilal jury, for children aged 13-17, chose Dulay’s tale of a young agricultural worker wrongly accused of theft.

The Bader jury, for jurors aged 18-21, picked the hard-hitting Walls, exploring controversial political barriers around the world.

In the “Made in Qatar” section, the observational documentary The Palm Tree, charting the life story of a palm tree, and the short fiction work Asfoora won the top prizes.

Third edition

The third edition of Ajyal opened with a red carpet screening of Hany Abu-Assad’s Idol in the presence of the director and Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf and closed on Saturday evening with the world premiere of feature-length Emirati animation Bilal.

A selection of 80 films from 36 countries screened over the weeklong event held in Doha’s Katara cultural quarter.

Industry events

The festival also hosted the third Doha Giffoni Youth Media Summit, a joint meeting put together by the DFI and Italy’s youth-focused Giffoni Film Festival bringing 40 delegates from across the world together to discuss how cinema can be used as a vehicle to engage youth and enrich lives.

During the meeting, the DFI and Giffoni announced the first concrete projects in their joint Planet-Y initiative aimed at supporting youth-focused film and cultural initiatives. The Planet-Y programme was conceptualised at the 2014 edition of Ajyal and launched at Giffoni in July.

The first five projects comprise: One Platform, Many Voices, a speciality media channel created by and for youth; The Magic Box, an educational radio station for Syrian children; Content is King – a youth production programme; Nomadic, a festival cooperation and exchange programme; and Film Fun in Bed, a hospital outreach programme.

“We will follow up on each project and keep them growing. Next July at Giffoni, we will report back on the progress that was made. Many of these projects will take time, but I already see the collaborations coming out of the Summit now as a victory for Planet-Y,” said festival director and DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi.

“Planet-Y emerged from the need to identify a collective, industry-wide strategy to tackle the myriad challenges in the media sphere. Through our workshops, we aimed to combine the experiences and wisdom of the Summit participants to create concrete takeaways and action plans. The deliberations of Planet-Y have the power to shape the lives of children, and subsequently our own, because in helping others we make our own lives meaningful,” said added.

Claudio Gubitosi, Giffoni director and founder, said that through the Doha Giffoni Youth Media Summit’s Planet-Y, the creative community was taking tangible action to address the problems faced by youth globally.

“We have to stand together to find practical solutions through a culture of dialogue and knowledge exchange. Planet-Y will help keep up with the ongoing cultural, social, economic and political evolution of younger generations,” he said.