This year the festival holds a lot of promise. Arab cinema is at its center with an unprecedented two films in Competition, Nadine Labaki's 'Capharnaüm' and Abu Bakr Shawky's 'Yomeddine', while there are of course quite a few other titles sprinkled among the sidebars, including Mohamed Ben Attia's 'Weldi'. A newly formed Saudi Film Council is occupying a harbor-side pavilion and offering wonderful panels (including one on Sunday the 13th at 11 moderated by yours truly and featuring Annemarie Jacir, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Lamia Chraibi and TIFF's own Cameron Bailey) as well as much welcomed Arabic coffee and dates. When I dropped by on a late afternoon I really cherished that cardamom and saffron infused shot of Arabia and the hospitality brought me back to my days in the Gulf.Read More
As of my very first steps at this year's Qumra, around the Souq Waqif, spent inside the Date Market fair and eating a bowl of fragrant Moroccan fava bean soup at a nearby restaurant, to my very last moments wandering inside the Hamad International Airport drinking an espresso with a fellow journalist, Doha gave me the very best she has to offer. And that's pretty darn sensational in a country that can count culture, fashion and heritage at the top of its list of priorities.
From the brand new, still partly in construction National Museum of Qatar rising out of the sands, and shaped like a Desert Rose, the crystallized rock that is formed when lighting hits the dunes, to the institution of the Museum of Islamic Art, where most of the Qumra events and masterclasses are held, to the leisurely, harass-free environment of the Souq itself, I felt like I was being coddled in a cocoon of culture and learning, one that would definitely remain with me for months to come.Read More
The greatness of Qumra, the annual industry event held by the Doha Film Institute to help connect, inspire and encourage filmmakers, lies in its diversity of activities. From the daily working breakfasts with some of the most well-respected festival directors and programmers, sales agents and producers to the Masterclasses with cinema greats, from its Qumra Talks to the networking sessions held each afternoon just around the corner from my hotel, there is a buzz of activity at any given moment and even a non-filmmaker like me can feel the excitement of great cinema in the making.Read More
From the moment I boarded the Qatar Airways plane in Fiumicino, I realized I was being transported somewhere special. I also knew my journey, as both a film writer and a human being, would be a life changing one.
To begin with, the airline offers Karak chai -- a milky tea infused with cardamom or saffron to taste -- and a choice of films that included 'Murder on the Orient Express', the new version by Kenneth Branagh. Not what I would have gone to the movies to watch it but at 30 thousand feet, flying over lands and bodies of water I'll probably never set foot on or swim through, cup of fragrant tea in hand one's taste adjusts. And I even found myself crying through some of Branagh's Hercule Poirot moments.Read More