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7 items from 2016

The Forgotten: Leslie Norman's "Dunkirk" (1958)

2 June 2016 7:34 AM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

Apart from the usual Powell & Pressburger and David Lean masterpieces, I have steered rather away from the great British war movie during my cinematic peregrinations. Growing up in the UK, one did get rather tired of hearing about these films, spoken of in terms of nostalgia and sentiment. This kind of admiration for movies based on their respectable subject matter rather than their artistry felt like exactly the kind of patriotic attitude to film culture that kept Michael Powell languishing in obscurity for so many years.But in my mellow senescence I can appreciate these movies a bit more. Dunkirk is an interesting flick. On the one hand it's an epic, with armies of extras, special effects, and a narrative sweep that takes almost the whole first act of WWII, from the British perspective. On the other hand, it's a product of Ealing Studios, best known for comedy but ideologically attuned to celebrating group efforts, »

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Three Filmmakers from Doha in Cannes with Their Shorts

5 May 2016 11:51 AM, PDT | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

James Schamus, who was one of the master teachers at the recent second edition of Doha Film Institute’s Qumra, says the new filmmakers are the most important and I agree.  Even when I was “new” I knew that and now that I am “old” I still do.

Qumra is the prime opportunity to see the new filmmakers of Mena as they create their early works.  Now three are here extending their visibility and learning more about the international film world.

Qumra’s second edition in March introduced an intensive workshop during which 10 Qatar-based filmmakers presented their short film projects, currently in development, to a group of international industry professionals, including script consultants, producers, lab representatives, programmers and buyers, all of whom are experts in the short form. Ten shorts is not too few so that the films are representative of a broad swatch of filmmakers and/ or stories but not too many for us to get to know all the projects and even the filmmakers on a more personal, deeper level.

The Qumra Shorts Group Tutorials gave me the chance to present “The International Festival Circuit”, which sets the stage for understanding how to present first films and next projects to film-business executives, possible co-producers, financiers, etc.  My objective was to provide a practical overview of the key issues to consider in choosing the best festivals and/or market events that best suit scripts, projects in pre-production, or completed films. Emerging filmmakers can then create the ideal marketing campaign to advance their films and further their career while approaching buyers, distributors and financiers.

All the filmmakers are creating stories out of issues of identity. Each of the projects is indicative of these young emerging filmmakers’ intensely personal searches for identity within their environments.  The transformation of the personal to the universal is, as we all know,  key to artistic creation.  I was deeply moved by these filmmakers daring to meet the challenge of every thinking person – young or old -- through their choices in creating works of fiction or documentaries which speak to this issue.  Their honesty in facing themselves in their society today is brave.

Watch videos of the short filmmakers here (and other videos of Qumra too).

The Shorts of Qumra

“The World Is Blue”

Amna Al-Binali, a graduate of Qatar University English Literature and Linguistics major, directed her first short film, “Doctor’s Office” at the La Fémis Gulf Summer School in 2015. “The Notebook”, her second short film, had its premiere at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in 2015.

How people present themselves in our society today and how they feel about

it in reality is what this comedy/drama portrays.  A young bride prefers to read a book rather than attend her own engagement party. The book is the evil object that prevents her from playing her role and coming out to the stage as a bride.

What Amna said in explanation of this film reminded me of how our weddings and Bar Mitzvahs and Quinceanera’s work as well.

“In the film, we see the different parts women play in society. There are young women lavishly dressed, elderly women completely covered, little children with little care in the world and pregnant women. These are the usual sights in a Qatari engagement party.  Because I have been attending quite a few engagement parties recently, I have been observing how they all go on the same way, and how everyone acts and reacts the same. They don’t really talk to each other. They seem to be there only because it’s a social duty. You almost never feel that you are attending different engagement parties. It made me think about why these parties repeat themselves over and over. It felt like I was attending a play. Everyone was acting according to their assigned roles, whether it’s the bride, the mother of the bride, the cousin of the bride, etc.

The protagonists spends most of the story trying to finish the book she is reading. Through the narrative, she is trying to understand the fictional character’s emotional experience. Perhaps it will help her understand her own.”

She is dealing with psychological issues within the context of society’s strict adherence to engagement/ marital rules and customs. 

The issue of identity plays out with the heroine not wanting to fit the same mold as everyone else, not satisfied with her sister’s answer that she will understand once she gets married…what will she understand?  That she is now to have children who will take up her life?  I admire the heroine for her intense questioning and wonder how it will be resolved.

"Amer : The Arabian Legend"

Jassim Al-Rumaihi works as a reporter at Al-Jazeera News Channel, covering news from Tunisia to Nepal. While studying at Northwestern University in Qatar, he took several classes in film production. Since then, he has worked on a two short films, and he is currently working on his third with the support of the Doha Film Institute. His film “The Palm Tree” (Qatar, No Dialogue, 2015) was made as a part of a documentary workshop in just over a week. With the film winning the Made in Qatar – Best Documentary Award at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival 2015, it is now receiving interest from film festivals and critics.

“Amer : The Arabian Legend” is his third short.

Sent as a gift to the late Emir of Qatar in the 1980s, Amer seemed like an average purebred Arabian. After he was taken to the tracks of Umm Qarn to train other horses, however, he showed his class, changing the face of Arabian horseracing forever.

Besides being a champion horse – he won nine of his thirteen starts – Amer is the most influential stallion in Arabian horseracing history. With a current stud fee of Us $60,000, the grey horse from the deserts of Arabia has sired more than 130 champions. Yet Amer’s extraordinary story is almost unbelievable for many, who speculate as to the legitimacy of his legacy.

 “Amer” deals with the subject of identity.  First of all, I had always heard all great race horses called “Arabian horses” but I had not really thought about the term.  I find so many of my preconceptions are brought to consciousnss with my experience in Doha. I learned that what I have called Arabian is actually a western definition.  The true Arabian horse:  Is it built for racing or for endurance? Amer, a legendary Arabian stallion, is changing the definition of Arabian horse racing with Europeanized “Arabian” horses encountering the “upstart” genetically, and perhaps “out of line” horse Amer who most definitely is Arabian and his mixed progeny. 


Director, Fahad Al Obaidly, is a researcher at the National Museum of Qatar as well as a curator and fashion designer.  He introduced his brand Fahad Al-Obaidly in 2014. He completed his course in fashion design, specializing in casual menswear, at the Institute Marangoni. Being an Arab with a European vision of style in fashion greatly contributes to the philosophy behind his work. Al Obaidly has directed two short fashion films and directed one short documentary.

I had more time and more occasions to socialize with the film’s producer, Salwa Al Khalifa, during several activities at Qumra.  She is so outgoing and engaging and her background is unique as she is a Sudanese filmmaker whose father moved to Qatar before she was born and yet she still grapples with what it means to be Sudanese-Qatari.  She studied Mass Communication at Qatar University, and obtained a diploma in Documentary Filmmaking. She has directed a few short films, and has worked as an assistant director and script supervisor in a number of independent short films in Qatar.

“Buqsha”’s underpinning is modern day’s greatest philosophic dilemma:  How can we venture into the past to look to the future?  Here Fahad posits the question in terms of his own his wish to pursue a difficult line of artistic freedom as a designer which he knows has great import to his society, even though the society is not exactly eager for him to follow the path he has chosen.

Director-writer Fahad Al Obaldly and the producer Salwa Al Khalifa are both dealing with their personal issues of identity in an intense and creative way as seen in their previous autobiographical films.

Fahad is looking directly at his grandmother, a weaver of tents who incorporated coded language into the designs.  Fahad’s definition of himself is found in this grandmother’s weaving and the sense of design that weaving brings to societies around the world.  Design is not a trivial modern pursuit; it reflects society’s need for shelter and for clothing to protect us against the elements.  And within the designs is the secret language of the society itself.

Fahad and Sara Al Obaidly journey around Qatar, capturing the beauty of the Doha landscapes while exploring the rich diversity of arts and ancestral traditions, as well as the impact contemporary and traditional culture have on each other. During their travels, they focus on “sedu” weaving, one of the most important of Qatari traditional textile crafts. They meet with and interview an expert to discover and learn the historical background of “sedu” in Qatar. Along the way they visit artisans and cultural experts, and explore their roles in preserving and promoting the cultural and ethnic heritage of Qatar.

A treasure trove of talent is also remaining at home in Qatar but their films will have lives extending beyond in the coming year.  Here are the others which we discussed in Qumra.

“Love in the Middle East”

I loved this project.  I was amazed to learn that Arabic has about 99 words describing different degrees and types of love; way beyond our English vocabulary. Mostafa Sheshtawy is an emerging filmmaker I think will become an important interpreter of mores in Mena of interest to the world today.  His sense of humanity is very apparent.

To some people, love is the pursuit of happiness. Throughout the history of the Arab world, love has always been one of the most popular subjects of discussion, as we can see from poetry, literature and folktales. In a series of interviews and stories, the director, a 28-year-old Arab, explores what love means in the Middle East – how it is affected by culture and tradition, how much it is influenced by religion, and how it is perceived by different generations.

Filmmaker and photographer Mostafa Sheshtawy was born in Egypt and raised in Qatar. He began his film career by documenting the Egyptian revolution in 2011. Since then, he has worked on various productions in Egypt and Qatar with the Doha Film Institute, primarily in the camera department. His directorial debut was the short documentary ‘Immortalizing Memories’, which screened in the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in 2015. Sheshtawy’s first short narrative film is the romantic comedy ‘Love Blood Test’ (2015).

“A Ranged Marriage”

Dealing with society’s arranged marriages, and an unhappy one at that, this is daring and fantastical . Nora Al-Subai’s multi cultural upbringing -- a Qatari born and raised in France, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon in Computer Science – and her earlier film “My Hero” which already won for Best Short Film at the Ajyal Youth Film Festivla and was in Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand and other top festivals was a very well developed, well produced and well directed story about a little boy paying for his busy father’s time.  Her other film, a Middle Eastern Cinderella story for today was also very well told. She has a sure hand directing and a flair for storytelling. These two previous films, both of which make comedies out of current societal issues, bode well for her ability to tell this story. 

She does not tell her stories in a dark way; instead she uses lightness to illuminate what we would normally label “dark comedy”.  In a way this reminds me of “Of Kind Hearts and Coronets” a classic British comedy of in 1949 dealing with murder in a light-hearted funny way.

Nora Al Subai says, “I have always been intrigued by the concept of arranged marriages, and people agreeing to live the rest of their lives with another person simply because they are “good people” or come from a good family. I wanted to explore the comical concept of an arranged marriage in which one partner decides that the best anniversary gift of all would be the death of their spouse. Since she is in an arranged marriage, however, Sarah finds it difficult to kill her husband when she realizes she doesn’t know anything about him.


Mayar Hamdan’s previous film in live action was about a girl caught cheating in school.  It was funny and whimsical in style, but is very subversive.  It reminded me of Todd Solondz’ “Welcome to the Dollhouse”.  Mayar said that people strongly objected to her film as if she were revealing something that should not be revealed.  And that is what made it a brave story to tell.

“Qafas” is toned down.  It is also to be animated.  Thematically it fits into the issue of finding one’s true identity when confined within strictures not of one’s own choosing.  It is the story of a young man who tries everything to escape the cage in which he is chained. Only when he realizes that the true obstacle to his release is not the chains, but rather his outlook on his situation, does he finally become free.

Mayar Hamdan is a recent graduate of Northwestern University in Qatar, where she studied Media Industries and Technology, with a concentration in Animation and Post-Production.

“More Than Two Days”

Ahmed Abdelnaser was born in Doha. A filmmaker and an editor, he became passionate about cinema at an early age. After winning two awards for best editing, he became a montage trainer with Avid. As a lecturer, he taught the art of film editing at the Aljazeera Media Training Centre. His first film, ‘Children of the Earthquake’ (2007) was shot in Pakistan with the support of Reach Out to Asia. His recent short film ‘I Exist’ (2014), filmed on the borders of Turkey, won five international awards for Best Short Film, and participated in more than 30 film festivals. ‘More Than Two Days’ (2015) was supported by the Film Training and Development Department of the Doha Film Institute.

Something has occurred that has cast a shadow on two brothers who are in the prime of their lives. Between silence, admonition, and a desire to reveal, the film dives into the implications of what has happened – a conflict that reflects on their lives, their relationship, and how each of them tries to deal with his new life. Over two days, the story focuses on the eruption of the conflict they face, and its weighty influence on the future of each of the brothers.


A father takes his two sons out on a trip to the desert to go hunting, but the results are not quite what he was expecting.  The story has a primal quality as it unfolds in the most beautiful desert valley. I could see filmmaker Aj Al-Thani’s fascination with “Star Wars” as she told me when we spoke.  She and her producer Jaime Siordia are a unique team to watch.

Aj Al-Thani is a Qatar-born filmmaker. Her love for movies and moviemaking began at the age of six when she saw ‘Star Wars’ (1977) in the cinema in 1999. Al-Thani’s relationship with the Doha Film Institute began in 2010 when she participated in one of its first film workshops, which opened the door for many local filmmakers to pursue their passion. For almost six years Al-Thani has been developing her skills with the help of the Institute. She is now working on her first professional short film through a grant from the Institute.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jaime Siordia studied photography and cinema before beginning his film career. Spending several years on numerous sets, he wrote and produced television pilots and independent films throughout the United States. After spending a year as an event producer with Film Independent, he began working for film festivals including the Los Angeles Film Festival, Sundance and Tribeca, landing in New York where he returned to filmmaking. Now based in Doha, Siordia has produced films for clients including Qatar Airways, Vodafone, Barwa Bank and Al Jazeera.

“The Innocent Prisoner”

The story of a man trying to wash away his history of being a prisoner, determining his destiny by becoming a better person, and finding himself a place in his own society. ‘The Innocent Prisoner’ reveals stories of people who were jailed not because they committed a crime or broke the law, but rather because they were irresponsible or ignorant. When Yassir kindly took on a business loan taken out by his close friend Fadhil, all seemed well until his lost his job and was no longer able to make the necessary payments. Now he faces prison time for helping out his friend. This film asks why Yassir should face a future of unemployment after his release, and why society would punish him a second time by not accepting him.

Amina Ahmed Al Boluchi graduated from Qatar University with a BA in Mass Communication. She has directed ‘The Pearl of Qatar’s Concert: Abdulrahman Almanai’ (2013) and her graduation project, ‘Made in Qatar’ (2015). Most recently, working with the Doha Film Institute, she made ‘To My Mother’ (2015).

“I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. As such, society should support those of its members who need its understanding. It is the responsibility of every individual to help those with whom they share their community, and take into consideration that there will be always exceptional cases and irregular circumstances. With that in mind, I think people who experience being imprisoned deserve special treatment after finishing their years of punishment. They ought to be treated fairly and should have the rights of getting married and starting a new life, just like anyone else. I want this film to help those who have lost their chance to participate fully in their society because of their background.”

“I Want to Feel What I Feel When I Am Asleep”

In a post-apocalyptic world, in a ruined city, little of humanity remains. The residue of a poison has become a drug, which creates the illusion that life is still beautiful, and that everything is as it was before. The survivors wander through the rubble as though nothing had ever happened – except one woman. Unaffected by the poison, she sees the horrors around her. She begins to clean the streets and the buildings in the hope of recreating the reality that existed before the catastrophe.

Writer-DirectorAbdullah Al-Mulla grew up in Qatar until moving abroad to pursue his university studies. He first became involved in film through the Doha Film Institute, and has worked on 10 short films to date. He is currently working on his next screenplay and researching a larger work.

This version of a dystopian society is dealing with the same dilemma as “The World is Blue” though the circumstances differ.  Everyone is totally accepting of a condition of life which the protagonist finds unacceptable.

It has resonance today with the ruined cities of Damsascus, Hons, etc. although I cannot say everyone is walking around thinking all is well; perhaps they are walking around in a daze; most likely they are struggling to survive, but it still has resonance. 

And people in the fine world that has not been destroyed perhaps are the ones in a drugged state believing all is well in their world…when in fact, it is not, as in “The World is Blue”.  Again, there is a resonance with “I Want to Feel”, a surreal synthesis of these two co-existing worlds. 


- Sydney Levine

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Win Pink String and Sealing Wax in a Vintage Classics Blu-Ray bundle

22 April 2016 12:44 AM, PDT | | See recent HeyUGuys news »

To celebrate the new Home Entertainment release of Pink String &Sealing Wax we have a bundle of 5 Vintage Classics films to give away. Titles include Passport to Pimlico, The Lady Killers, Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets and of course, the classic crime comedy Pink String & Sealing Wax which sees its re-release this month. From Ealing Studios this roaring melodrama sees

The post Win Pink String and Sealing Wax in a Vintage Classics Blu-Ray bundle appeared first on HeyUGuys. »

- Competitions

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Weekly Rushes. 24 February 2016

27 February 2016 1:47 PM, PST | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

Rushes collects news, articles, images, videos and more for a weekly roundup of essential items from the world of film.NEWSThai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose brilliant Cemetery of Splendor will be released in the Us this spring, has revealed a new installation work, Home Movie, made for Sydney's 2016 Biennale. According to his website, "an exhibition space hosts a cave-like ritual where people gather to simply take in the light": "In this home-cave, the heat is both comfortable and threatening. A fireball is an organic-like machine with phantom fans to blow away the heat and, at the same time, rouse the fire, which is impossible to put out even in dreams."This season seems to be one of cinema masters passing. In addition to the directors who've died over the last month, we've lost two great cinematographers this week. First, Douglas Slocombe, who shot the first three Indian Jones films, »

- Notebook

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Raiders of the Lost Ark cinematographer Douglas Slocombe dies aged 103

22 February 2016 1:15 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

The three-time Oscar nominee is best known for shooting the first three Indiana Jones films and nearly all the classic Ealing comedies

Raiders of the Lost Ark cinematographer Douglas Slocombe has died aged 103 in London.

The Oscar-nominated British director of photography is best known for shooting the first three Indiana Jones films in the 1980s, and nearly all the classic comedies produced by London-based Ealing Studios, including Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). In total, he shot 80 films.

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- Nigel M Smith

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Douglas Slocombe, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Cinematographer, Dies at 103

22 February 2016 12:15 PM, PST | The Wrap | See recent The Wrap news »

Douglas Slocombe, the cinematographer for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” has died. He was 103. According to Afp, his daughter Georgina confirmed his death. Slocombe received Oscar nominations for “Travels With My Aunt” in 1973, “Julia” in 1978 and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1982. He also shot “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Maids” and “Rollerball,” as well as Ealing comedies including “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “The Man in The White Suit.” Also Read: Harper Lee, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author, Dies at 89 “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) as the last film he worked on. »

- Beatrice Verhoeven and Matt Donnelly

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Douglas Slocombe, Cinematographer for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ Dies at 103

22 February 2016 12:05 PM, PST | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Oscar-nominated British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, whose many films include several classic Ealing comedies in the 1940s and ’50s and the first three Indiana Jones pics in the 1980s, has died, his family told the Agence France-Presse. He was 103.

Slocombe drew Oscar noms for “Travels With My Aunt” in 1973, “Julia” in 1978 and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1982. He is famous within the industry for never having used a light meter on the set of “Raiders.”

He shot Ealing comedies including “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “The Man in the White Suit.”

During the 1960s he was d.p. on films including “The Servant,” “The Blue Max,” “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” “The Lion in Winter” and “The Italian Job.”

In addition to the pics for which he was Oscar nominated, he shot “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Maids” and “Rollerball” in the 1970s.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade »

- Carmel Dagan

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