By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, which prompted a large number of people to stay home, provides an opportunity for filmmakers to focus and work on their projects, Qatari filmmaker A J al-Thani has told Gulf Times.
“We get so distracted from our lives and this (current situation) will surely help us speed up the process of finishing our films,” she said.
A J al-Thani, one of the participants in the recently-held Qumra 2020, said her latest project is called Arabnovela, set in Doha, Qatar in 1997 – a satirical story about how society and family can crush dreams. She said the film tells a story of a young woman named Noor who dreams of becoming a khaleeji telenovela actress. She lives a double life as she juggles being an actress under the alias of Reem Ahmed and her actual job as a resident doctor from her family.
A J al-Thani noted that she got into the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in the US but the pandemic halted her plan to attend the event, which was earlier postponed but some of its programming will push through via online format. While the international filmmaking scene has been put on pause, she expressed confidence that there will be “a lot of competition for festivals when this is over and I believe it’s a great time to be creating right now.”
A J al-Thani cited the efforts of the Doha Film Institute (DFI) in continuously developing the country’s film and creative industries saying the Institute “is a great asset to filmmakers not just locally but regionally as well.” “They’ve always been a great help in giving us the support and platform to make our films. It was almost impossible to make our films before. I have a great relationship with DFI as they have supported me with my projects from the very first day I walked through the door in 2010,” she stressed.
A J al-Thani’s love for movies and movie-making began at the age of six when she saw Star Wars (1977) in the cinema in 1999. She began to pursue her dream of being a filmmaker with the launch of DFI.
The Qatari filmmaker’s relationship with the Institute began in 2010 when she participated in one of its first film workshops, which opened the door for many local filmmakers to pursue their passion. For almost six years, she has been developing her skills with the help of the Institute, and her film Kashta was made through a grant from DFI.
About her message or tips for aspiring filmmakers, A J al-Thani said: “Don’t let anything stop you. Take all the small steps. Watch movies, make small 1-minute films with your friends. Get your content out there.”
About Qumra, she described the latest edition as “a very different one because we’re no longer physically meeting as we would usually at Museum of Islamic Art or Souq Waqif where most of the meetings are held.”
Despite the current situation, DFI witnessed a positive impact of the outbreak in organising a much-awaited event, which commenced with 46 selected projects from 20 countries. “We’ve had a large amount of meeting with mentors and project coaches who’ve given us a lot of advice and helped us shape our projects better,” A J al-Thani said. “These meetings are more focused on our own projects and we’ve received a lot of good feedback for our projects and how to take it forward.”
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