From July 2011 until September 2014, I worked at the Doha Film Institute in Qatar as Head of Film Programming, responsible for the overall film programming at the Institute. Later on, in 2014, I became the Deputy Director of the Qumra Doha Film Festival (Doha/Tribeca FF had it lasts years in 2011 and 2012, during which I was heading the international film programming). Using my experience as Hubert Bals Fund reader and committee member, I also joined as reader and jury member the Doha Film Institute’s Film Grants and enjoyed supporting it for two years, together with my international colleagues.
Working within a totally different culture in Doha was sometimes an interesting challenge, mainly because cinema is still viewed with a bit of suspicion and the average audience has a preference for commercial cinema.
As far as film programming is concerned, the majority of international guests associate DFI mostly with festival(s) but there is more.
Though quite modest, there exists a year-round programming of films.
Just to name a few examples: “a cultural year” programming (Qatar-Japan 2012, Qatar-UK 2013, Qatar-Brazil 2014), a week long programming in Katara Cultural Village theatre, usually once a month, some diplomatic relations programming and thematic retrospectives.
There are two retrospectives that were a great pleasure to organize: that of the Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami (including a master class) – the first time in Doha and in the Gulf regions as such.
Having known Abbas Kiarostami for a few years, it was wonderful to welcome him in Qatar for a week in person.
Another retrospective that (also literally) made me smile was that of Jacques Tati, the first introduction of the works of the French master in the region. Mostly because I have a personal relation with his films that I discovered as student and co-programmer of the Kriterion film theater in Amsterdam.
The big difference were the newly restored DCP’s that were shown in Doha.
Master of Modern Comedy: Jacques Tati
Victor Kossakovsky’s documentary Vivan Las Antipodas – “a feast for the senses and a fascinating kaleidoscope of our planet” – had its Gulf premiere at DTFF 2011, as well as The Woman in the Fifth by the amazing Pawel Pawlikowski. Both directors came to Doha.
In June 2012, I was the only international jury member at the Short Shorts FF & Asia in Tokyo, Japan. This was a re-discovery of an old passion and love – Japan and its culture.