It is a special time to be in Qatar these days. After their wildly successful World Cup hosting, which was a feast for the eyes, senses and sporting pride, the country appears even more beautiful than I remembered. The headquarters for Qumra, their yearly incubator which sees a return to an in-person event, the first since 2019 (remember that world?) have shifted to the super fashionable Msheireb district. In past years, the hub for the event was in the Souk, although that is never very far away, accessible via a cool, A/C tunnel with escalators, just across the way.
It was also exciting to see the person who started this love affair Doha has with cinema, among us at the Meet and Greet opening event for Qumra. In fact, the Doha Film Institute’s (DFI) annual talent incubator event for Arab and international cinema, Qumra 2023, flagged of in the presence of Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of the Doha Film Institute and Qatar, along with the industry experts and emerging filmmakers, who represent the new wave of independent cinema globally. H.E. Sheikha Mayassa's vision brought her to NYC, in the midst of the Tribeca Film Festival, where she realized her own country -- she's the sister of the current Emir of Qatar -- needed something similar, and the rest, as they say in history. Ever the fashionista, H.E. wore a midnight blue Virgil Abloh abaya with the word "RESPECTFULLY" studded in Swarovski crystals all down the back.
The event is being held in an innovative hybrid format with in-person activities until March 15 and online sessions from March 19 to 21, 2023. This year, Qumra hosts over 200 international industry experts from 41 countries who will mentor 44 films, including feature narratives, documentaries, web series and shorts by emerging talents. The projects chosen are from 23 countries underlining Qumra’s mission to support filmmakers from the region and beyond in their script-to-screen journey.
At the meet and greet session on the opening day attended by Qumra Master Lynne Ramsay and former Qumra Master Rithy Panh, Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, Chief Executive Officer of the Doha Film Institute, welcomed the participants, and thanked them for their unwavering support in the journey of investing in a brighter cinema for cinema and the arts.
Altemaihi said: “We established Qumra as an important project incubator and uniquely curated industry matchmaking event that is an extension of the Doha Film Institute’s ever-expanding funding, training, and development programs. Qumra provides the environment and opportunity for impactful global collaboration and exchange in the film industry. At its heart, the mission of this event is to support emerging voices from across the world.”
She then added: “Qumra signifies the beginning of new collaborations, new creative partnerships and new friendships. We are confident that the inspiration and energy that Qumra delegates gain will elevate their work to new heights."
A highlight of Qumra 2023 is the distinguished mentoring offered by Qumra Masters - multi-award-winning British playwright, screenwriter, and director Sir Christopher Hampton (The Father, Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement); veteran film, TV and theatre producer David Parfitt (The Father, Shakespeare in Love, My Week with Marilyn, Loving Vincent); visionary costume designer Jacqueline West (Dune, The Revenant, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Award-winning Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin, You Were Never Really Here, Ratcatcher); and critically acclaimed British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo, A Mighty Heart, Welcome to Sarajevo).
Addressing the delegates, Doha Film Institute’s Artistic Advisor Elia Suleiman, said: “I hope that Qumra 2023 will be a promise for realizing projects that would put a smile on audiences, present or the future. May it also inspire associated memories for audiences, and make people all around the world dream, watching your films. And may Qumra bring blessings to all the [chosen] projects.”
In addition to talents associated with the Qumra projects, this year, members of the public can attend the masterclasses and Qumra screenings, providing them a unique window to gain insights on the cinematic vision of the Qumra Masters as well as the trends defining independent cinema today.
Talents associated with the selected projects will take part in group and individual sessions with Qumra Masters and industry mentors in script consulting, legal, sales, marketing, and co-production advice, along with individual matchmaking sessions for projects in post-production, which are presented in a series of closed rough-cut screenings to leading festival programmers, broadcasters, market representatives, sales agents and distributors.
Film projects at Qumra 2023 come from varied geographies, from Algeria to Indonesia and Mexico to Mongolia. The guests this year include acclaimed film directors, producers, film festival directors, programmers, consultants, fund managers, sales professionals, acquisition heads, script experts, distributors, video on demand (VoD) platforms and broadcasters, and other industry professionals.
Qatar Museums, the Museum of Islamic Art and M7, Qatar's epicenter for innovation and entrepreneurship in fashion, design, and tech, are the Cultural Partners of Qumra 2023. The event is supported by Alwadi Doha – MGallery Hotel Collection as Official Hotel Partner; Darwish Holding (FNAC/SONY) as Official Electronics Partner; Qatar Airways as Official Airlines Partner; Aldo Coppola and Blumen Floral Art and Design. The Friends of Qumra this year are Sarajevo Film Festival, British Council and The French Embassy. The event is promoted by I Love Qatar, Qatar Living and Doha News. Qommunication is the Social Media Partner, while Deadline and Screen Daily are the Media Partners.