Two filmmakers who screened their Doha Film Institute (DFI) supported films Monday before 613 young jurors at the Special Edition of the 10th Ajyal Film Festival, underlined the power of cinema to address misconceptions, promote a deeper understanding of human suffering and build empathy.
Kash Kash – Without Feathers We Can’t Live (Germany, Lebanon, Qatar/ 2022), directed by Lea Najjar, a documentary set in Beirut; and Rest in Piece (Germany, France, Qatar/2021), a stop-motion picture by Antoine Antabi about the courage and resilience of displaced people, present a universal theme – of discovering hope amidst hopelessness.

Rest in Piece

“What matters is to continue to make films that will help us take the message to new and wider audiences, so that we can change the way they look at some of the most pressing issues today, such as the refugee crisis,” said Antabi.
Najjar said films are communicative tools that help build bridges, despite the different paths that people take in their lives. “After screening my film in Europe, I was surprised to learn that despite the viewers having no biological connection with the Middle East, they could still form an emotional bond. That is what films can do – create empathy and understanding – so that viewers do not feel it is someone else’s story. They feel the joy and suffering of the people who are far away from their cultures,” she explained.

Antoine Antabi

Both the filmmakers said the support extended by the DFI in realising their projects was invaluable. Antabi said that his film is a message on the need to hold on to hope, look for new beginnings and stay optimistic. “Life will go on and we must be strong or else we will collapse as a society,” he explained.
Najjar said her film also conveys the message of hope and resilience, presented through the eyes of three protagonists, who find peace and empowerment as they scale the roofs of Beirut’s building to pursue their passion for pigeon gaming. The film presents rich metaphors of how people are curtailed by personal freedom and builds on the innate wish of every individual to be free.

Lea Najjar

Antabi's film was created over a period of five years, and the theme evolved from his own personal experiences of moving from Syria to Lebanon and eventually to Germany. He uses symbolism to present the challenges that refugees and emigrants face, especially the essentials that are often denied to them.
Najjar’s documentary is edited from hundreds of hours of footage, and she focused on being character-driven even when a lot was changing in the country. Their advice to emerging filmmakers is to believe in themselves and stay stubborn about their dreams.
The Special Edition of the 10th Ajyal Film Festival, which concludes on October 8, will screen a specially curated programme of important stories from around the world to Ajyal Jurors from 50 countries. They will also take part in the Ajyal Talks and Spotlight sessions in addition to taking part in lively discussions on cinema and critiquing the movies they watched.