Harka on set_1

Source: Film Constellation

On the set of ‘Harka’

The Doha Film Institute (DFI) has announced the beneficiaries of its Spring 2022 Grants Programme, backing 44 projects from 33 countries as part of its latest funding cycle.

Three of the beneficiaries – Lotfy Nathan’s Harka, Chie Hayakawa’s Plan 75 and Davy Chou’s All The People I’ll Never Be – are playing in Un Certain Regard at Cannes.

Another grant recipient – Suzannah Mirghani’s Cotton Queen – is participating in Cannes’ L’Atelier programme.

The DFI grants programme is awarded in two annual cycles – spring and the autumn. It is the Middle East’s longest-running film funding programme and aims to nurture filmmakers and identify new talent.

To date, more than 650 film projects from 74 countries have benefited from the DFI’s funding rounds, which began in 2011.

“We are always looking for originality, new angles and points of view,” Fatma Al Remaihi, CEO of the Doha Film Institute told Screen. “Of particular importance are fresh perspectives and innovative ways of telling a story.”

“We are always focused on new talent,” added DFI director of strategy and development Hanaa Issa. “There are various different criteria, but the bulk of our attention is on first or second-timers.”

Projects from countries such as Algeria, Chile, Greenland, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Switzerland, Ukraine the US and Yemen have received grants. For the first time, a film project from the Comoros has received a grant.

Nine directors who received grants this year are repeat beneficiaries, either of past grants or of support from the DFI’s Qumra, its annual talent incubator event.

Some 45 DFI-supported projects, including shorts, features and TV series, were supported this year through the annual Qumra talent and project incubator which was held online from March 18-23.

The organisation’s other key finance strand, the Qatari Film Fund, is aimed at Qatari-based filmmakers, both nationals and residents.

The 2022 Spring Grants recipients are (loglines provided by DFI):

MENA – Feature Narrative – Development

  • Feet (Qatar) by Mahdi Ali Ali, which pans the camera on two individuals in two respectable careers, one on the stage, a ballerina, and the other on the field, a footballer.
  • The Other Wife [working title] (Qatar, France) by Meriem Mesraoua about Salima who is confronted with the fragility of her long-preserved image and adopts extreme measures to save the illusory refuge of her marriage.
  • My Father’s Scent (Egypt, Norway, Qatar) by Mohamed Siam, about a father who returns home after a long absence due to his sudden illness and treatment.
  • Yunan (Palestine, Germany, Syria, France, Italy, Qatar) by Ameer Fakher Eldin, in which an exiled Syrian author travels to a remote island in Germany to commit suicide.

MENA – Feature Narrative – Production

  • Cotton Queen (Sudan, Palestine, Germany, France, Qatar) by Suzannah Mirghani. The film is set in a cotton-farming village in Sudan, where15-year-old Nafisa is forced to negotiate between modernity and tradition in a defiant drive for personal choice.
  • Grey Glow (Lebanon, France, Qatar) by Michèle Tyan, about Nayla, who is struggling to keep her family afloat in a Beirut that is sinking.
  • Layla in Dreamland (UK, Qatar) by Celine Cotran about Layla, a 60-year-old Syrian refugee and Dreamland Amusement Park cleaner, whose life is turned upside down when she meets a young local boy who teaches her to skateboard.
  • The 67th Summer (France, Egypt, Germany, Qatar) by Abu Bakr Shawky, in which a boy—aspiring pianist and avid footballer—starts writing letters to a young girl in another corner of the world.
  • The Last Days of R.M. (Algeria, France, Qatar) by Amin Sidi-Boumédiène about R.M., a writer threatened with death in 1990s Algeria. He decides to go into exile in France, in the Parisian suburbs.

MENA – Feature Narrative – Post-Production

  • Harka (Egypt, France, Tunisia, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Qatar) by Lotfy Nathan, about Ali, a young Tunisian who dreams of a better life while making a precarious living selling contraband gas.

NON-MENA – Feature Narrative – Post-Production

  • 1976 (Chile, Argentina, Qatar) by Manuela Martelli. Set in Chile in 1976, the film is about Carmen, who heads to the beach to supervise her family’s house renovation.
  • All The People I’ll Never Be (France, Germany, Belgium, South Korea, Romania, Qatar) by Davy Chou in which Freddie returns for the first time to South Korea—the place of her birth, before she was adopted and raised in France.
  • Plan 75 (Japan, France, Philippines, Qatar) by Chie Hayakawa set in a Japan of the near future, where the government program “Plan 75” encourages senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanized.
  • Rapture (India, China, Switzerland, Netherlands) by Dominic Megam Sangma, in which the fear of child kidnappers grips a village. At the same time, the church prophesizes the coming of apocalyptic darkness that will last for 80 days.

MENA – Feature Documentary – Development

  • Grain of Sand (Morocco, France, Qatar) by Nadja Anane, about Figuig, which was cut in two when France drew the border between Morocco and Algeria.
  • Mother Street (Morocco, France) by Benhachem El Mouêtassim Billah, about homeless Moroccan children who flee the streets of Casablanca for the Goutte d’Or slum in Paris, hoping to find a better life.

MENA – Feature Documentary – Production

  • Let’s Play Soldiers (Yemen, Qatar) by Mariam Al-Dhubhani, in which Nasser, a child-soldier from Yemen tries to find his place in his community, where the ongoing war has forced him to become the guardian of his younger siblings’ fate.
  • Son of the Streets (Palestine, Poland, Lebanon, Ukraine, Qatar) by Mohammed Almughanni, which follows the life of the Palestinian child Khodor from the age of 14 to 18 as he grows up without ID in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut.

MENA – Feature Documentary – Post-Production

  • Behind Closed Doors (Morocco, Qatar) by Yakout Elhababi, a portrait of a farming family living in the most marginalized region of Morocco, the Rif mountains, where livelihood comes exclusively from growing cannabis.
  • Qatar Stars (USA, Qatar) by Danielle Beverly, set in a girls’ rhythmic gymnastics school in Doha led by a former Russian gymnast, which provides a space for empowerment and freedom.
  • Jump the Wall (Morocco, Qatar) by Mohamed Zineddaine, a video diary in which the filmmaker explores the universal theme of the border.

NON-MENA – Feature Documentary – Post-Production

  • After the Bridge (Italy, France, Qatar) by Marzia Toscano, about Valeria Collina, an Italian woman who converted to Islam, who returns to live in Italy after twenty years in Morocco.
  • Between Revolutions (Romania, Iran, Croatia, Qatar) by Vlad Petri, in which two former university classmates and friends, one Iranian and one Romanian, are writing letters to each other.
  • Polaris (France, Greenland, Qatar) by Ainara Vera, about Hayat, an expert sailor in the Arctic, who navigates far from humans and her destructive family past in France.