The Doha Film Institute, the DFI, is one of the ambitious institutions Qatar has founded in line with its ambitions to be an international player in the arts. The institute has its building in the Katara Cultural Village. Apart from offices, the institute’s building has four smaller viewing halls.
Starting in 2009, the DFI organizes the yearly Doha Tribeca Film Festival. This is an offshoot from the New York Tribeca film festival, that was founded in 2002 in Manhattan’s the TriBeCa area, with Robert de Niro as one of the co-founders; the NYC edition of the festival is said to have been intended to help reviving the TriBeCa area, which suffered economically after the 2001 9/11 attacks on the NYC World Trade Center, and Robert de Niro was one of the benefactors. Meanwhile the 2009 to 2012 artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival Peter Scarlet was the previous artistic director of New York’s Tribeca festival, so the region owes something to the New York festival.
The Doha festival is one of the three major film festivals in the region. The other two are the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival, each aspiring to become a major player on the world film scene. Having had its fourth edition in 2012, Doha’s festival is the youngest of the four, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai being two respectively one year senior. So all of them are young. Together, they certainly contribute to a cinematographic culture in the region, and competition can be healthy, but each also tries to attract big names, both movies and makers, through competition, which can be a waste of resources and energy. Until now, all three lack the reputation of the festivals of Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance or even Rotterdam, but ambitions abound, they have large budgets, and they are important for cinematography in the Arab world and nearby South-Asia. The Doha franchise of the Tribeca festival might seem a bit more centered around glamor than its parent in Manhattan, where, to distinguish itself from the many other film festivals, the balance a mixture between big studio productions and less mainstream world-cinema production is worked out more clearly.
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival probably needs to choose between being a festival that drops established names looking well on the front-pages of newspapers, and a festival that really matters through discovering new talent, who might be the next generation of big names. The Abu Dhabi Film Festival has been more adventurous in this respect.
The festival takes place in the Doha Film Institute, in the large and small theaters of the nearby Opera House, in a special open-air film theatre in Katara Cultural Village, in the cinemas of the City Center shopping mal,l and in various locations around the city, such as in 2012 in the Souk Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art. Detailed information about the venues will be on the festival’s website each year.
The categories for competition include Best Arab Film, Best Arab Filmmaker, Audience Awards for Best Narrative; Documentary and Arab Short Films.
In addition to the festival, the DFI organizes screenings, debates and workshops during the year and maintains an active website with news on other movies playing in Doha and about festivals elsewhere.
The Founder of the DFI is Sheikha Al Mayassa Al Thani. The CEO of the DFI is Abdulaziz Al-Khater. Relevant persons inside the institute’s programming department are Ludmila Cvikova, coming from a decade of programming for the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Hania Mroué, chief Arab programmer, and Chadi Zeneddine as a resident filmmaker and programmer at DFI, who focuses on Contemporary Arab Cinema.
Issa Bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, is the Vice Chair of the festival. The Executive Director of Programming is Maggie Kim.
After the resignation of Amanda Palmer of Doha Tribeca Film Festival, the heads of the Gulf region’s three major film festivals (Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai) are all locals.