Inaugural youth festival in Doha hosts industry forum where experts stressed importance of local content.

The Doha Film Institute’s first Ajyal Youth Film Festival ended on Saturday night a number of films winning cash prizes handed out by hundreds of jurors aged 8 to 21.

The winners are:

Doha Film Experience

Mohaq: Best Short Filmmaker
Little Kyota Neon Hood
, directed by Satsuki Okawa

Hilal: Best Short Filmmaker
Invention, directed by Giovanni Granada

Hilal: Best Feature Filmmaker
, directed by David Schram

Bader: Best Short Filmmaker
Men’s Barber Shop
, directed by Meshal Alhulail

Bader: Best Feature Filmmaker
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
, directed by George Tillman Jr.

Made in Qatar

Made in Qatar Award
My Hero
, directed by Nora Al-Subai

The winners received development awards of $15,000 each for the Best Feature Filmmakers in the Hilal and Bader categories, and US$5,000 each for the Best Filmmakers in the Mohaq, Hilal and Bader segments, through the Ajyal Film Fund.

The closing night gala included a screening of Japanese anime films Garden of Words and Voices of a Distant Star.

Abdulaziz Al-Khater, Chief Executive Officer of the Doha Film Institute, said: “In our first edition, we hope that we have instilled and reinforced the love of cinema in many of you – young and young at heart. We also hope that we have ignited many interesting conversations, exchanges of ideas and point of views - amongst children, teens, and across generations. I congratulate the young jurors for their dedication and enthusiasm over the last five days in watching your films, discussing them and working hard to decide the winners.”

Fatma Al Remaihi, Director of Ajyal Youth Film Festival: “Ajyal has addressed a clear need in this part of the world in creating a platform for young audiences to discover new facets of cinema, engage in new types of conversations and expand their imagination. We will continue to build on the bonds that have been formed through the festival and support our youth and talent to pursue their dreams.”

The festival screened 65 films from 30 nations.

Industry Forum says content is king

The inaugural two-day Ajyal Industry Forum, themed ‘Our Children First!,’ discussed aspects ranging from the value of local content to policy making and film marketing, and presented diverse perspectives of filmmakers from around the world. Participants at the panel discussions underlined the need to narrate stories for children from their perspective and to promote localized content.

During the Forum, Al Remaihi said: “We have confirmed that ‘content is king’ – but let’s make that our own by saying ‘content is kid’, because we believe that only if we put our children first will we find positive solutions for the media needs of all young people. We hope this is the beginning of a fruitful partnership for all of us. Let’s continue on this journey together, so we can enhance the worldwide media environment for all our children.”

Nitin Sawhney, co-director of Flying Paper, added: “Our idea was to create a narrative that was portrayed purely through the eyes of the children that are starring in it. When the UN decided to host the Kite Festival in Gaza, we realized that this was an element that we could add to the film, but it was the children that would give the film its narrative.

“Each kite in the film is symbolic of the children in Gaza – each of them has a name, a poem, a pattern, and they show audiences that the human spirit cannot be crushed.

“Essentially, this is our way of bringing out talent from Gaza to be able to tell their stories, which is exactly what the Ajyal Youth Film Festival is doing. It is bringing young filmmakers to audiences, and we think Doha can be instrumental in driving this trend and building the youth’s capabilities.”

Monique Ruinen, Feature Film Consultant at the Netherlands Filmfund, outlined the remarkable growth of the children’s film industry in the country, stating that 22 percent of all films made are children’s movies, which account for 48 percent of all cinema admissions locally.

Annette Brejner, Head of the Financing Forum for Kids Content in Sweden, reminded the audience that “children are the most sophisticated audience of all times, and it is important to create challenging content for them with high artistic value.”

Oliver Acker, from the Cartoon Network Animation Academy in Abu Dhabi, discussed the passion for animation in the region given the popularity of their training courses saying that they have over 150 applications for their 14 placements each year. “We invested in the course to help define an artistic voice within the region and to help unlock the potential of creative talent, developing a skilled creative workforce that will attract more animation businesses to set up.

“One of the most important factors today is that our children are learning only one language. This forces children to become global citizens and we are running the risk of losing touch with individual cultures and language. We need locally produced children’s content that reflects regional lives” added Sami Raffoul, CEO of the Pan Arab Research Centre.