Source: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Doha Film Institute


The Doha Film Institute (DFI) has set up an online mentorship programme to replace its Qumra talent and project development event which was cancelled earlier this month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 46 projects were to have received support and advice from some 100 industry professionals at the sixth edition of the meeting, originally scheduled to run March 20-25 in Doha.

French director Claire Denis, Greek cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, US director James Gray, Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner and Oscar-winning sound editor Mark Mangini were also due to attend as “Qumra Masters”.

Running the same dates, the online programme will continue Qumra’s project development activities online.

Filmmakers Rithy Panh, Karim Ainouz, Annemarie Jacir, Tala Hadid and Ghassan Salhab will be holding one-on-one tutorials with assigned film project teams to directly share their creative feedback, answer questions, provide guidance, and advise upon a broad range of subjects related to filmmaking and directing.

French-US screenwriter Matthieu Taponier and Lebanese screenwriter Joelle Touma, a long-time collaborator of Ziad Doueiri on films like The Insult, will give individual consultations to projects in the early stages of development.

Festival and industry event experts Matthieu Darras, Joslyn Barnes, Teresa Cavina, Violeta Bava and Jovan Marjanovic will be giving tutorials on packaging, project positioning, pitching and festival strategies.

Producers Jean des Forets, Didar Domehri, Catherine Dussart, Dora Bouchoucha and Jad Abi Khalil will be consulting individual project teams on topics including budget, financing plan and strategies, international co-production, and funding.

Neerja Narayanan, creative producer at Sony Pictures International Production, will be leading mentoring sessions on the new TV drama-focused Qumra Series sidebar with Gabriele Capolino, IFP senior manager, episodic and international programming, US writer-director Jeremy Robbins (The Purge), Touma and director Bassem Breish.

Wide-reaching legacy

Launched in 2014, Qumra has traditionally focused on projects from the Middle East and North Africa as well as local Qatari productions with a handful of works from further afield.

Recent features to have been supported by the event include French-Algerian filmmaker Mounia Meddour’s Papicha, which premiered in Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2019 and was Algieria’s Oscar submission this year, Moroccan director Alaa Eddine Aljem’s The Unknown Saint, which debuted in Cannes Critics Week, and Tunisian director Hinde Boujemaa’s Noura’s Dream, which played in Toronto, San Sebastian and the BFI London Film Festival.

Qumra’s cancellation was seen as a blow to the Arab indie cinema world and the participants who had hoped to find co-partners as well as sales agents and festival berths, in some cases, through the event.

“Qumra is an extremely important event for our community and participants, and the 46 selected projects remain a priority for the DFI this year,” said DFI CEO Fatma Hassan Alremaihi.

“To maintain the current momentum towards success for the projects, the institute will proceed with an adapted online mentorship and support format to generate opportunities for the filmmakers through this period of new challenges.”

Works-in-Progress selection 

In addition to the online mentoring programme, there will also be a works-in-progress showcase, in partnership with Festival Scope, screening extracts of around a dozen fiction and non-fiction feature projects in post-production.

These include Breche’s Lebanon-set mother-daughter drama The Maiden’s Pond, Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf’s Syria-set thriller The Translator and documentary After A Revolution about siblings whose loyalties lie on either side of the Libyan revolution.

Each extract will be accompanied by a short introduction video by the filmmaker as well as information on their work to date and material related to the project. The showcase will be available to screen from March 20 to 31.

“The institute is extremely grateful to our Qumra Masters, filmmakers and industry participants for their ongoing passion and contribution to our commitment to reshape the global storytelling landscape and empower emerging voices to create cinema, to exercise creative expression, and to transform inspired stories into acclaimed masterpieces,” said Hassan Alremaihi.