Inaugural GCC Film Festival opens in Doha

Film director Nawaf al-Janahi is scheduled to make an appearance at the first GCC Film Festival. [Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

Film director Nawaf al-Janahi is scheduled to make an appearance at the first GCC Film Festival. [Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

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The first Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Film Festival began Thursday (February 23rd) at the Qatar National Theatre in Doha and will continue until February 29th.

Hamad al-Kuwari, Qatar's minister of culture, said during a Tuesday press conference in Doha that festival events include screenings of Gulf documentaries and short feature films. Organisers will offer awards for the best film, best director, best screenplay, best cinematography, best editing and best actor.

The six Gulf States are participating in the festival. Al-Kuwari said each Gulf country is participating with two short feature films and two documentaries.

The festival began with films from Qatar, and the screenings were followed by a seminar with the participating Qatari directors.

The Qatari films include two feature films produced by the Doha Film Institute. The first is "Country of the Pearl", a 10-minute film that tells the story of Saad, an elderly pearl vendor who attempts to improve the troubled relationship between his son and grandson. Mohamed Al-Ibrahim directed the film and wrote the screenplay.

The second film is "Mother of Boys", a 10-minute feature set in the 1970s. The story is about a boy who is possessed since birth by a harmful genie. Wafaa al-Saffar wrote and directed the film.

The documentaries include "Mrs. Wardia", a 17-minute film directed by Shurouq Shaheen and Sarah Rugani that was produced by the University of Qatar. The film addresses the opening of the first church in Qatar, which caused a sensation among the population.

The second documentary is "The Falcon and the Revolution", an eight-minute film that surveys the life of an Egyptian falcon trainer who follows the Egyptian revolution from a distance. Jassim Al-Rumaihi and Ridwan Islam directed the film and it was produced by Northwestern University Qatar.

Al-Rumaihi told Al-Shorfa the film "is an attempt to document the untold moments of the days of the Egyptian revolution".

"The film is a first experience for me, and I think its entry in the festival will be a strong incentive for me to knock on the door of professionalism in the field of production," he said.

Ali al-Sulaiti, a member of the event organising committee, said the festival will honour several stars in the Gulf region, including the late artist Ismail Abdul Rahman Abbasi of Qatar, Massoud Amarallah from the UAE, Abdullah al-Saadawi of Bahrain, Abdullah Muhaisin from Saudi Arabia, Dr. Khaled Zadjali of Oman and Khalid Siddiq of Kuwait.

During a meeting in October, GCC cultural ministers called for hosting the region's first festival to strengthen the film industry in GCC countries and encourage new talent to enter the field. The ministers also sought to honour industry pioneers who have distinguished themselves in Gulf films.

"The festival will host critical seminars after the daily film screenings," al-Sulaiti said. "Several famous artists will make appearances, including Nawaf al-Janahi from the UAE, Hamid Karomi and Fatima Abdul Rahim from Bahrain, Khalid al-Sadiq and Ilham Al-Fadhala from Kuwait, critic Rafiq Ali Ahmad from Lebanon, artist Nour El-Sherif and director Khaled Youssef from Egypt."

The organising committee said a $10,000 award would go for the best feature film, $7,500 for best director, and $5,000 for best actor, best actress, best screenplay, best cinematography and best editing.

The documentary film awards include $5,000 for best film, $5,000 for best director, and $2,500 for best cinematography and best editing.

Culture critic Saeed Abdullah described the festival as "a gateway for artistic talent in the Gulf region".

"The festival is another in a series of festivals that are held in the Arab Gulf region, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain," Abdullah told Al-Shorfa. "The advantage of this festival is that it opens the door to local amateur talent, and it seeks to attract individuals with artistic talent who are trying to make it in the world of cinema."

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    عمر البدري

    2012-3-21

    The Gulf States are from the countries that have a lot of artists who should not be underestimated in their artistic abilities and their potential, through the series and programs that they provide to people on the screens of the satellite TV, and they have achieved much success in this respect. At the same time, I do not see that this success can be applied to the cinema in the Gulf countries, which suffers from stagnation and neglect. Also, I have not seen a single film production that has been made in the Gulf States which deserves to be mentioned or addressed. I see the Gulf cinema as desperate to an extent that cannot even be mentioned in spite of the cinematic festivals and carnivals held in the Gulf States from time to time, which could be used in the advancement of the Gulf cinema. However, I believe that these festivals and events have had a concrete impact on the revival of cinema in the Gulf States.

  • سرمد

    2012-3-21

    The Gulf cinema, according to my point of view, does not reach the level of ambition and continues to suffer from a lot of decline. We did not notice that there were serious attempts in this regard by the Gulf countries and by those responsible for the film industry there despite the financial resources that these countries have. I criticize the situation of the Gulf cinema, which still requires a lot more work, perseverance and attention in order to reach the level of ambition of the Gulf citizens who hoped that there would be films that can be produced and be shown outside their countries that shall have sufficient capacity to keep pace with the progress and success witnessed by the world or at least the Arab world, which reached advanced stages. We see this today in the Egyptian cinema, which I consider to be at the height of notable contribution and deserve to be commended. This is an action film, which received the admiration and applause of the Arab citizens in all parts of the Arab world. The Gulf cinema, I see it as unable to meet the aspirations of the people of the Gulf.

  • سلمان

    2012-3-12

    The Gulf cinema needs improvement and new ideas, as well as close and regular follow-up on all the produced films, to focus more on the quality and not the quantity. For instance, we saw many good and successful films that did not cost much and vice versa. Hence, it is extremely important to meet all the conditions so that the artistic work can appeal to the audience and achieve success.

  • نزار الفهد

    2012-3-7

    It is very necessary to exert more efforts in order to achieve a huge cinematic production that deserves to be called Gulf Cinema and be good for the Arabian Cinema in order to complete the aesthetic aspect of the successful cinema acts. Therefore, it is necessary to have a Gulf cinema that will relate a lot of stories that occur in real life. Such acts will achieve great success and contribute in reaching the hearts of the audience in a very short time. So, we should take care of the quality of the art and it should be directed in a great way. The production should not be necessarily huge, but quality is of the utmost importance. If the material is very limited and not very successful like the Egyptian movies, they should overcome the obstacles that face the Gulf cinema in order to get the best and most successful results. After that, production can be started and the Gulf cinema will be able to reach its goals. We should not forget the role of the Gulf actor as he should get used to the cinema camera. It is not much different from the Drama camera which the Gulf actor is used to dealing with. The cinema camera needs a certain kind of performance so it is very necessary to choose the actors who are capable of dealing with the cinema camera. It requires power and courage in order to master the art of movie production and acting.

  • ناظم علي

    2012-3-7

    The cinematic production of the Gulf countries is suffering from great deterioration. It needs a long time in order to reach the required level that the Gulf audiences are waiting for as well as reach the best required results. The Cinematic production is suffering from great weakness with regards to the aspect of composition, performance and direction. It needs a longer period of time to be able to own all the aspects that will enhance the Gulf cinematic production and be similar to the other ones like the Egyptian cinema, which is one of the most powerful cinema industries that exist in the Arabian world. That is why the Gulf cinema needs the time in producing a lot of movies, as well as the continuous and consequent work. Criticism and censorship will play a great role in improving and developing the level of performance of the Gulf actors, directors and authors. They will give their best in order to let the viewer of the Gulf cinema find all that he is waiting for, from huge productions to stories and successful movies with the required level.

  • نوري علي

    2012-3-5

    The Gulf States are among the countries that suffer from severe deterioration in the sector of the arts, including the cinema and theater. I also see that the Gulf States will need a very long period to develop their conditions and improve the situation of the cinema and theater. However, there is no doubt that the development of the arts sector would be very beneficial to these conservative countries. That is the cause that made these states think about developing the Gulf cinema to make up for what they have missed over the past years, in terms of artistic creativity and development. They need to think about the achievements in this respect as a form of progress of sarcasm and impoliteness. The Gulf States must protect their traditions through producing works that suit their culture, because most of the current films are not good and are a waste of money. I believe that the Gulf States should think more about activities that will benefit them and the other states. The current situation is not good, and this is not the time for rest, because many states need actual help, rather than spending money on ridiculous works. We can make use of these funds in helping these states. For example, Yemen has suffered many acts of violence and destruction, and it needs urgent help from its Gulf neighbors. The same thing applies to Syria, and other poor states that need help to save their children from horrible crimes and death under the ruins of their houses. We should think about them a little, rather than spending money on the cinema and similar trivial things. The Arab peoples need help!

  • ثامر ياسين

    2012-3-1

    There is no standard conventional film production in the Gulf, but there are attempts to create an infrastructure for the sector specializing in film production in the Gulf States in the future similar to what is found in Egypt at the present time, where there were some attempts in the Gulf at film production. But they are very small and almost do not exceed the number of fingers of one hand due to the lack of any kind of government support for film production in any of the Gulf countries. It must be noted that there are some individual attempts at film production by some specialists and lovers of this elegant and beautiful art form to display those works for the purpose of entertaining the audience. Then, attempts are made to have this culture of factors incorporated as a producer so as to participate in the development of intellectual and cultural rights in these countries. The idea of film production has made its way to the Gulf through a lot of people from Kuwait who traveled to a number of Arab countries, particularly the Republic of Egypt, to study and to trade, where they were able to watch Arab and foreign movies and liked this idea and decided to make some attempts to produce films that talk about the reality of the Gulf States, the lives of its people in the past and prospects for development and construction, which has reached the present time, especially after the discovery of oil. Kuwait was able to open prospects for cooperation with some of the directors and film companies and produced a number of documentary films related to the lives of the citizens of Kuwait. Then, there have been successive attempts in the field of film production through the emergence of a group of cinematic artists in the Gulf region, adding to the development of public demand for film through festivals, which included many of the activities that were cinematic debuts as films. In light of this, some film institutions were built in the Gulf region, that is expected to have a special film production operation in the next phase.

  • سليم العنزي

    2012-2-28

    There is great neglect in the Gulf countries in terms of productions. In fact, there is no Gulf cinema. Besides, there is no cinema production in the Gulf countries. However, at the international level, the Gulf countries and companies have sponsored all the types of cinema. Don’t we have writers and actors? Why have the Gulf production companies sponsored the works of the other countries? However, in the Gulf countries there is no cinema production. This is in addition to the big cinema festivals in the Gulf countries, such as the cinema festivals which are organized in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. Thus, it is strange that we have no cinema in the Gulf countries. That’s why the Gulf countries must sponsor and encourage cinema festivals. And the specialized departments and companies must sponsor cinema production in the Gulf countries.