Artistic Advisor Elia Suleiman [pictured] speaks about importance of supporting emerging filmmakers at new March event.

The Doha Film Institute had added three new programme advisors to work on the inaugural edition of the Qumra Doha Film Festival, which runs March 19-26.

The festival focuses on emerging directors’ first or second features.

The Institute has appointed three programme advisors who will support DFI’s staff programming team: Paolo Bertolin for the Asia Pacific region; Violeta Bava, for the Central American, South American, and Caribbean regions; and Cary Rajinder Sawhney, for the Indian subcontinent.

Bertolin has served as programme consultant for festivals including Venice, Nyon, Udine and Cannes Critics’ Week. Bava works with the Buenos Aires Intenrational Independent Film Festival and co-founded production company Ruda Cine. Sawhney was former head of diversity at the British Film Institute and has worked in programming for the London Film Festival.

Artistic Advisor to the festival, Paris-based Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, is here in Toronto to discuss the unique aspects of Qumra. “Working with first and second time filmmakers internationally benefits everyone, including the Arab filmmakers,” he told Screen.

Moving the festival away from the autumn crunch will also help the environment, he noted. “It shouldn’t be in a competitive environment….it’s a get together for filmmakers, they can come together and meet each other and hear ideas.”

He said that when he was starting out in his filmmaking career, “99.9 percent of doors were shut to me, nobody believe in me, very few people saw any potential. Now when I go around the world and I see people in a similar situaiton, I can feel the anguish. But now in the Arab world there is so much possibility.”

Abdulaziz Al Khater, Chief Executive Officer, Doha Film Institute, noted that Qumra will bring international guests to “engage with their peers from the Middle East and contribute to the growth of regional film culture.”

The DFI now plans two festivals per year: Qumra as well as the youth-oriented Ajyal Film Festival (Nov 26-30).

Meanwhile, Suleiman will continue to be an active filmmaker while working with the festival. “I’m not a filmmaker who wants to make a film every year, I like crisscrossing boundaries…It would be counterproductive if I stopped being a filmmaker,” he said of his advisory role to DFI.

He is in the final stages of working on a script for his next feature, which will more into more preliminary preparations after March. “It’s a personal film, even semi-autobiographical,” he said.