The third annual Ajyal Youth Film Festival presented by the Doha Film Institute (November 29 to December 5) showcases feature films from 20 countries and a series of short film programs in Katara, Qatar.Fatma
Al Remaihi, Festival Director and CEO of the Doha Film Institute, says: “By providing young people with access to international cinema, filmmakers from around the world, and the space to discuss their ideas and develop critical thinking, Ajyal empowers the youngest members of our community and develops their understanding of the world around them.”
Academy Award nominated director, Hany Abu-Assad
and Arab Idol champion Mohammed Assaf, whose life story "The Idol" is based on, will attend the Opening Night
and will participate in a special ‘In Conversation’ session about bringing Assaf’s life story to the big screen and highlight the power of combining music and cinema and the challenges facing Arab artists today.
Read more about "The Idol" and an interview with Hany Abu-Assad
at its debut at Tiff 2015.
Aside from the daily public screenings of local and international films other events are the popular "Made in Qatar"; Sony Cinema Under the Stars; Family Weekend
; the Doha Giffoni Youth Media Summit ; special events and exhibitions; the Sandbox interactive digital playground; school screenings; and the Ajyal Competition, where hundreds of young jurors between the ages of 8 and 21 will watch and discuss shorts and features and decide on the winning films. competition line-up.
The popular "Made in Qatar" section features 17 films -- nine narrative shorts and eight documentaries by local talent.
More than 500 young people from the ages of 8 to 21 make up the Ajyal Competition Jury which will watch and analyze a dynamic program of films in three competitive sections followed by discussions and events including panels, workshops and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.
Each of the three Ajyal Juries are made of 24 international jurors from 12 countries including Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon
, Oman, Serbia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The jury awards a Best Film prize to their favorite short and feature-length film, for a total of six awards. The directors of the winning films are awarded funding toward their next film, so jurors are empowered to support and promote future content that is relevant and important to them in a proactive way.
Mohaq means ‘New Moon’ in Arabic, and these are Ajyal’s youngest jurors, aged 8 to 12. These jurors will watch one program of short films and four feature-length films, marking the first year that competitive feature films are included in this category. They are: "Celestial Camel" (Russia) by Yury Feting about a young sheepherder living in the desolate Kalmyk Steppe, who sets off on an epic journey after his father is forced to sell the family’s beloved camel calf; "The Greatest House in the World" (Guatemala, Mexico) by Ana V. Bojórquez and Lucía Carreras
- a film about the never-ending circle of life told through the story of a young girl in the isolated highlands of Guatemala; "Paper Planes
"(Australia) by Robert Connolly
- a tale of friendship, creativity and the bonds of family which centers around an 11-year-old boy with an exceptional talent for creating paper airplanes; and "Phantom Boy
" by Jean-Loup Felicioli
, Alain Gagnol
(France, Belgium) an animated film about an 11-year-old boy whose illness allows him to have out-of-body experiences and mysterious powers.
Ajyal’s jurors aged 13 to 17 are the Hilal jury – the term means ‘Crescent Moon’ in Arabic. Five feature films and a program of shorts make up this jury’s film selection. The feature films competing in this section are: "Lamb
" (France, Ethiopia, Germany, Norway, Qatar) by Yared Zeleke
, a portrait of a young Ethiopian boy trying to find his way in the world; "Landfill Harmonic
" (U.S.) directed by Brad Allgood
and Graham Townsley
and recent audience award winning documentary at Napa Valley Film Festival, that tracks the astounding rise of a Paraguayan youth orchestra whose members live next to one of South America's largest landfills and make their instruments from recycled materials; "Mina Walking
" (Canada, Afghanistan), a multiple award winning documentary by Yosef Baraki
, a powerful tale of a 12-year-old girl in war-torn Afghanistan struggling to make ends meet for her family; "Scarecrow " (The Philippines) by Zig Madamba Dulay
which explores the complicated relationship of social injustice and familial expectations through the story of a young mother in a rural town; and " Wolf Totem
" (China, France) by Jean-Jacques Annaud
. Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution 1967, it is the story of a two young Chinese students who are sent on a research assignment with the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia and become fascinated by the wolves that roam the plains.
The most mature of Ajyal’s juries, Bader (Arabic for ‘Full Moon
’) jurors are aged 18 to 21 and will select their favorite films from five features and two programs of short films. The feature films vying for top honors in this section are: "An
" (Japan, France, Germany) by Naomi Kawase
is a drama about a lonely baker whose life is reinvigorated when he hires an elderly woman with a special culinary skill; "The Second Mother " (Brazil's submission for Oscar nomination) by Anna Muylaert
which is an exploration of the bond between mothers and their children told through the story of a housekeeper in Sao Paulo (Read review and interview with director Anna Muylaert here); "Taxi
" (Iran), winner of Fipresci and Golden Bear Awards in Berlin 2015, by Jafar Panahi
in which the celebrated Iranian director places himself in the driver’s seat of a cab, taking fares to their destinations in a wonderful portrait of contemporary Iran; "Very Big Shot" (Lebanon
, Qatar), a bold and insightful dark comedy by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
that skewers political corruption and the media circus that goes with it; and "Walls" (Spain) - a documentary by Pablo Iraburu
and Migueltxo Molina
that follows several subjects on both sides of three contemporary international borders, demonstrating that the people on each side of the barriers are not as different as they may believe.
In addition to the three competitive sections, the Festival’s youngest audiences under the age of 8 years will also vote for their favorite film with the help of their parents who will determine the Parents’ Choice Award in the Bariq program. Bariq films are selected to satisfy the excitement and curiosity of young children and are suitable for the whole family. This year’s program features a collection of eight short films and will also include a special outdoor cine-concert on the Katara esplanade by the Festival Tout-Petits Cinéma from Paris, with four films accompanied by live music by pianist Anthony Boulc’h and saxophonist Fanch Minous.
A senior jury of three eminent figures from the local and regional industry will determine the winners of the competitive section comprising feature films from 20 countries and a series of short film program with two awards being presented for Best Short Narrative Film and Best Short Documentary Film. The 2015 jury members are film producer Bassam Al Ibrahim (Qatar), who is the CEO of Innovation Films and co-founder of ILoveQatar.net; film actress, director and producer, Ahd
(Saudi Arabia), internationally renowned for her performance in Haifaa al-Mansour
’s " Wadjda
;" and respected veteran journalist and media personality, Marcel Ghanem (Lebanon
Al Remaihi said: “It has been another productive and inspiring year for filmmaking in Qatar and this year’s Made in Qatar selection indicates the rapid growth and diversity that we are witnessing in the Qatari film industry."
The films in the 2015 Ajyal Youth Film Festival Made in Qatar section are:
Made in Qatar Program 1, Wednesday 2nd December
"To My Mother" by Amina Al Bloshi
"Light Sounds" by Karem Kamel
"Her Majlis" by Najla Al Khulaifi, Dana Al Mesnad and Nayla Al Thani
"The Palm Tree" by Jassim Al-Rumaihi
"Yellow Nights" by Abdulla al Mulla
"If They Only Knew" by Sana Al-Ansari
"Heart of the House" by Gabrielle Sol
"The Notebook" by Amna Albinali
Made in Qatar Program 2, Friday 4th December
"Charlie" by Ali Ali
"Immortalizing Memories" by Mostafa Sheshtawy
"Asfoora" by Mayar Hamdan
"Good as New" by Jaser Alagha
"I Choose Islam" by Noor Al-Tamimi, Silma Suba and Zac J. Hollo
"Mariam" by Zainab Ayon
"Time" by Yassine Ouahrani
"Man of the House
" by Khalifa AlMarri
"Veganize It!" by Khalid Salim
Closing night will be the world premiere of animated feature film "Bilal
" (UAE/2015), a new animated feature film made with funding from the Doha Film Institute and produced by Dubai-based Barajoun Studios. Involving creative talents from 22 countries, "Bilal
" by Directors Ayman Jamal
and Khurram Alavi is an inspiring adventure story of faith, hope and self-discovery. Inspired by the real-life story of Bilal
Bin Rabah, the film's cutting edge animation technology, impeccable research and high production values will resonate with audiences across generations. The cast and crew of the film will be in attendance for the premiere including the directors of the film and cast members Andre Robinson
("Despicable Me 2
") and Adewale
Akinnuoye Agbaje ("Lost
", "The Bourne Identity
", "Game of Thrones
") who voice the young and adult Bilal
The Ajyal Family Weekend
will feature the regional premiere of Marking the Un International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Ajyal 2015 will present in a regional first, an inclusive cinema experience specially ‘transadapted’ to suit audiences with different abilities, a special screening of Al Rayyan Productions animated short "Hero and the Message" (Qatar/2012). Guests will be able to view the film through sound alone, with special subtitles for people who have difficulty understanding speech. This inclusive version of the film has been developed with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and is the result of a collaboration between the Doha Film Institute and the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Hamad
Bin Khalifa University who are spearheading the development of transadapted content in the Gulf region.Fatma
Al Remaihi, “Since our first edition, animated films have formed a core part of the Ajyal program and I am delighted that this year, we will premiere three incredibly diverse examples of the artform... from three corners of the globe.”
" (UAE/2015) In a dreamlike vision, mysterious dark riders mounted on demonic black horses bear down upon a village. Nearby, little Bilal
dreams of being a great warrior as he gallops along on his hobbyhorse. The riders come closer – are they real? Or are they just a figment of the youngster’s extraordinary imagination? Suddenly, Bilal
’s dream becomes a nightmare. The men on horseback kill his mother and take him captive along with Ghufaira, his sister, and they are soon sold as slaves to Umayya, the wealthiest merchant in all of Arabia. Bilal
never forgets this terrible day, which haunts his sleep for years to come. But the echoes of his mother’s gentle voice stay with him, a constant reminder that to break free of the chains that enslave him, he must forge his own destiny.
"The Good Dinosaur
" (USA/2015), the latest feature from the award-winning Pixar Animation Studios
and the team behind beloved Pixar classics "Finding Nemo
" and "Inside Out
" and will feature a special ‘kids red carpet’ for all families and young people from the community to participate and to be transported to a world where dinosaurs walk the Earth. Directed by Peter Sohn
, the film screens on December 4th and presents an alternate history where the asteroids that wiped out these ancient reptiles never hit our planet.
and the Message" (Qatar/2012) tells the fantastic tale of a Qatari brother and sister who travel back in time to witness the founding events of the State of Qatar. Produced by Al Rayyan Productions, the top-notch animated short directed by Pawel Borowski
was created to celebrate Qatar’s National Day in 2012, and screens on December 3rd.
"When Marnie Was There" (Japan/2014), screening on December 4 is one of the final anime sensations from Ghibli Studios and is based on the novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
, the film is about a young girl Anna who explores a long- abandoned villa and meets a mysterious blonde girl only she can see.