Award-winning filmmaker and Qatar Foundation (QF) graduate Rawan al-Nassiri learned early on during her time at Northwestern University at Qatar (NU-Q) that “if an idea doesn’t scare you a bit, it’s probably not worth pursuing.”
“Studying at QF has given me the confidence to not be afraid to leave my comfort zone,” said Rawan. “I got involved in so many projects and worked with so many different people at NU-Q that I quickly realised it’s good to step away from that with which you’re comfortable. Today, I can thank my professors, and also my mom, for helping me to not be afraid to pursue big ideas.”
Rawan, who is set to graduate with a BSc degree in Communication from NU-Q in Education City, is due to travel to the Cannes Film Festival in France this month, where her short documentary, Treasures of the Past, which she co-directed with fellow NU-Q student Nada Bedair, has been selected as part of the Cannes Short Film Corner.
“Our film won Best Documentary at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha last year and was also screened at the Middle East Studies Association annual meeting in Washington DC,” said Rawan. “It’s amazing really; I’ll be going to Cannes after graduation, where I hope to take part in filmmaking workshops.”
Rawan’s film, which follows three older Qatari women as they strive to defy gender stereotypes by starting their own businesses, was also shown during QF’s Town Hall event, ‘I AM QF’, last December. Qatari filmmaker and QF alumnus Latifa al-Darwish is also certain her chosen career path began long before she ever graduated from college at Education City.
The award-winning director is currently in production on her upcoming film, Ya Hootah, with co-director and local artist Abdulaziz Yousef, having previously had her work showcased in London and supported by the Doha Film Institute.
Latifa, an alumnus of NU-Q, described her time as a student on the Education City campus as being enormously formative for her chosen career.
“At Education City, I always felt I was building a career at the same time as being a student. For example, my work in filmmaking didn’t begin after I graduated; it began while I was in university,” she said.
“Most of our work at NU-Q took place out in the field – making films; it wasn’t all theory or academic. So when I co-directed a film in my sophomore year with Sara al-Saadi and Maaria Assaami, and it won the Made in Qatar award at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in 2012, I received great support from NU-Q, who worked with me to promote and write about the film.”
Latifa’s abstract animation, Yaoum Al Om, was showcased at the Transition art exhibition and organised by Reconnecting Arts, at the Menier Gallery in London. The film was co-produced with Qatari cartoonist Abdulaziz Yousef.
Latifa, who has recently completed a master’s degree in Culture and Creative Industries at King’s College London, says she is passionate about animation because it allows her to tell stories and revive traditional Qatari tales through creative work. “Storytelling is a form of entertainment that is extremely powerful because it can change people’s perspectives, influence their behaviour, and open their eyes to new ideas,” she said.
Latifa was awarded a Qatari Film Fund from Doha Film Institute to produce a short film on anecdotal stories from Qatari culture. Her upcoming film, Ya Hootah, currently in production, is set to be completed later this year.
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