The Doha Film Institute has been relentless in its mission to change the landscape of modern cinema. While many mistakenly assume the Qatari institution only supports projects from the MENA region, the DFI actually aids and helps mentor projects from as faraway as Mongolia and Malaysia. In fact, at the 76th Festival de Cannes there are women-led projects from both countries among the record 13-DFI supported projects from across the world selected to screen in key sections of the Festival.
The Doha Film Institute (DFI) has set a first in the Arab region for a film organization, with its latest co-financed projects, About Dry Grasses by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Jessica Hausner’s Club Zero (photographed above) which are both selected to the Official Selection, In Competition at the French festival, which takes place from the 16 to the 27 May 2023.
Additionally, Banel E Adama, the debut feature by Senegalese filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye SY, recipient of the Spring 2023 grants, has been selected for the Competition, marking the first ever DFI grantee project selected to the prestigious section.
This nomination makes DFI the only cultural organisation in the MENA region to have eight supported projects, including seven co-financed titles selected for the Official Selection, In Competition to date. Previous nominees include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman in 2016 (the film also won the Oscar for Best International Feature Film that year), Nadine Labaki’s Caphernaum (which walked away from the festival with a Jury Prize in 2018) and The Wild Pear Tree by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, also in 2018, as well as It Must Be Heaven by Elia Suleiman in 2019 and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria in 2021.
To those visiting Qumra and other events organized by the DFI, the rapport and cinematic bridges the Institute creates are immediately apparent. Even a film like Memoria couldn't have been possible without a meeting of minds in Doha between the Thai filmmaker and the statuesque Tilda Swinton, his leading lady in Memoria.
"The diversity of DFI-supported films at Cannes this year is a strong testament to the high quality of projects nurtured through the Institute’s funding and mentoring initiatives." - Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, CEO of the DFI
Diverse projects supported by DFI through its Grants program will also screen to global audiences in key sections of the prestigious festival including three in Un Certain Regard; one in the Midnight Screening; four projects in the parallel section of Critics’ Week (Semaine de la Critique), one in Director’s Fortnight (Quinzaine des cinéastes), and one in ACID.
Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, Chief Executive Officer of DFI, said: “The diversity of DFI-supported films at Cannes this year is a strong testament to the high quality of projects nurtured through the Institute’s funding and mentoring initiatives. We are honored and proud to be supporting auteurs and previous Qumra Master’s on their prestigious new projects as well as the journey of emerging filmmakers from across the world to achieve creative excellence.
She added: “We are delighted that the works of talented filmmakers have once again made the cut at the premiere film event, competing with some of the most anticipated films in international cinema. The selection highlights our role as a vital link for bold and important voices from all over the world in realizing their cinematic ambitions, and also underlines the focus of DFI and Qatar to support compelling stories that have the potential to shape world cinema.”
For all the projects supported by the DFI at this year's Cannes Film Festival, check out the list below. For more info on the DFI, check out their website.
Official Selection, In Competition:
- Co-financed by DFI, About Dry Grasses (Turkey, France, Qatar/2023) by Qumra Master Nuri Bilge Ceylan, follows Samet, a young teacher, who is finishing his fourth year of compulsory service in a remote village in Anatolia. When some events happen to him that he finds difficult to make sense of, he loses his hopes of escaping the grim life he seems to be stuck in. But his meeting with Nuray, herself a teacher, may help him overcome his angst.
- Club Zero (Austria, UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Qatar/2023) by Qumra Master Jessica Hausner, narrates the story of Miss Novak, who joins the staff of an international boarding school to teach a conscious eating class. She instructs that eating less is healthy. The other teachers are slow to notice what is happening and by the time the distracted parents begin to realise, Club Zero has become a reality.
- Banel E Adama (Senegal, France, Mali, Qatar/2023) by Ramata-Toulaye SY is set in a remote village of Northern Senegal and follows the lives of Banel and Adama who long for a home of their own. When Adama refuses his blood duty as future chief and informs the village council of his intentions, the whole community is disrupted and chaos ensues.
Official Selection, Un Certain Regard:
- The Mother of All Lies (Morocco, France, Qatar/2023) by Asmae El Moudir, is a feature documentary in which the filmmaker investigates the secrets of a Casablanca family using different personal stories of each family member to ground historical events.
- If Only I Could Hibernate (Mongolia, France, Switzerland, Qatar / 2023), by Zoljargal Purevdash, is about a poor but prideful teenager, who lives with his mother and siblings. The physics teacher who recently transferred to his school notices Ulzii’s talent in physics and encourages him to participate in competitions.
- Hounds (Morocco, France, Belgium, Qatar/2023) by Kamal Lazraq, set in the working-class suburbs of Casablanca, narrates the story of a father and son, who are trying to make ends meet by doing odd jobs. One night, a man they were meant to kidnap accidentally dies in the trunk of their car, marking the start of a long night roaming the seedier parts of the city with a corpse.
Official Selection, Midnight Screenings:
· One of only three films selected to the Midnight Screenings segment of Official Selection is Omar La Fraise (Algeria, France, Qatar/2023), by Elia Belkeddar. The film is about an old school gangster, who is forced to flee from France to Algiers, and must clean up his act to stay away from French prisons.
Critics’ Week (Semaine de la Critique):
- InshAllah Wallad (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France, Qatar/2023), by Amjad Al Rasheed, is about a grieving mother shaken up by the sudden death of her husband, who is now at the risk of losing her home to her brother-in-law.
- Tiger Stripes (Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Qatar/2023), Amanda Nell Eu is about a girl who discovers a terrifying secret about her physical self.
- I Promise You Paradise (Egypt, France, Qatar/2023) by Morad Mostafa is a short film about Eissa, a young illegal African migrant in Egypt in a quest against time to save his loved ones.
- Lost Country (Serbia, France, Croatia, Luxembourg, Qatar/2023) by Vladimir Perisic explores the sensorial, emotional and political formation of a boy born at the beginning of the 80-is in Yugoslavia as the political system around him radically unfolds.
Director’s Fortnight (Quinzaine des cinéastes):
- Deserts (Morocco, France, Germany, Belgium, Qatar/2023) by Faouzi Bensaïdi is about two longtime friends Mehdi and Hamid who work for a collection agency, and their meeting with an evader that marks the beginning of an unforeseen and mystical journey.
- Machtat (Tunisia, Lebanon, France, Qatar/2023) by Sonia Ben Slama follows the lives of wedding musicians Fatma and her two daughters Najeh and Waffeh and their struggles to go about their daily live shoping for a better future.