The Short Film Lab, sponsored under the Community Grants programme of the US embassy, Doha mission, is now entering its second phase: the production of 14 short films.
The participants, ranging from 15-21 years, are young women from across Qatar who spent Phase One refining their film ideas. They were chosen out of 63 applicants and after a lengthy selection process that included a face-to-face interview during which each participant ‘pitched’ her story idea within three minutes.
The Short Film Lab includes a two-part training and mentorship programme to support the artistic and professional development of its young female civic-minded content creators who are residents and citizens of Qatar.
Through a series of connected screenwriting and filmmaking workshops, the lab has fostered the individual and communal development of aspiring content creators in topical areas important to community development and global engagement.
As a group, the films represent concerns central to this age group including explorations of mental health issues, parental neglect, toxic environments and bullying.
Phase Two will see everyone moving from screenwriting to filming their original concepts. This includes a training session on lights, camera and sound equipment. The participants are directing their scripts with the help of friends, family, and each other. One member of the lab is even acting in her project as well.
Writing, directing and editing their own films are among the soft skill development and cultural transfer goals for this programme. Led by long-time community member and Qatar resident, herself a novelist and filmmaker, Dr Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, describes the lab as “a chance for young women to learn the skills of digital storytelling”.
Supported by Samantha McCourt, an experienced NGO staffer, and Ukrainian-American documentary director Christina Paschyn, this is an entirely female-led project that shows young women the possibilities for self expression and cultural engagement. They are joined by eight female filmmaking mentors who are spread throughout the Mena region. Among these are a mix of documentary and narrative directors, including Mariam al-Dubhani, Nouf al-Sulaiti, Muna Nur, Aleesandr El Chanti, Waad Shafi, Suzannah Mirghani, Dana Atrach and Fateema al-Hamaydeh Miller.
The inclusion of these mentors further underscores the knowledge transfer of story creation and artistic expression that is the aim of the Short Film Lab.
A public screening is planned in May. Select films will be submitted to international film festivals within the Mena region and beyond.