Middle East

Doha Tribeca Film Festival inspired by Arab Spring

Media captionRobert De Niro was among the A-list stars attending the festival

As Arab and global stars head home after the third Doha Tribeca Film Festival, film-makers and industry insiders are already preparing for the year ahead.

With the Arab Spring still in full force, films inspired by events in the region are likely to feature heavily.

Amanda Palmer, executive director of the Doha Film Institute (DFI), said it might take time for the best feature films to emerge, but the ideas would start to flow rapidly.

"When I look at what happened in Iraq, the really good films took four years to come out.

"What you're seeing now is a whole new generation of short films. I'm expecting a lot of scripts during the next six months."

The Doha Tribeca Film Festival is now a staple on the Doha cultural calendar, attracting many Hollywood and Arab A-list names.

Antonio Banderas, Robert De Niro, Michelle Yeoh, Luc Besson and Omar Sharif were among those who graced the red carpet.

Inspired

They came against a background of dramatic change in the region, change that Qatari Culture Minister Hamad Bin Abdul-Aziz says was reflected in the spirit of the festival.

"You see this by the presence of the youth," Mr Abul-Aziz said. "It will also reflect itself in the films."

Ali F Mostafa, a young Emirati film-maker whose feature debut City of Life won him international recognition, said that even though he had not yet made a film on the subject, he was extremely inspired by the Arab Spring.

"To see all this change that started from the youth... makes you realise that nothing can stand in your way - whether it's a dictator or [wanting] to get your film made. It's as simple as that."

Robert De Niro has been coming to Doha to support young Arab film-makers every year since the festival began.

At the closing night of this year's festival he said he was looking out for what next year would bring.

"I'm curious to see what other movies will come here next year after the Arab Spring... and how the story unfolds," De Niro told me.

"The reason Arab Spring arose was because of oppression. Now we hope that things shape down democratically, but it's not going to be easy".

James Cromwell, who played former President George HW Bush in Oliver Stone's W, was in Doha for the screening of his latest film, The Artist.

"I hopeā€¦ that there will be artists who will tell their stories and tell it in their own language in their own unique particular way and find the market for it," he said.

"We can do that because of festivals like these."

'Piece of reality'

One person who has already got to tell his story about the revolution and show it at the festival is Tunisian film-maker Elyes Baccar.

He started shooting his film Rouge Parole four days after Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali stepped down.

Mr Baccar toured the country, chronicling the changes and reactions of the Tunisian people to the revolution.

He filmed in the capital Tunis as well as Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Redeyef, Ras Jedir, Thala and other Tunisian cities.

"All the international media were focused on the capital but there were so many other stories in other cities I felt should be told," Baccar said.

"The couple of months after Ben Ali fell were magic; positive vibe and positive energy, but at the same time it was a chaotic situation.

"I felt after a couple of days that I had to film in order for me to realise what was happening. Through the lens, through the microphone, I was getting a piece of reality."

Earlier this year, the Cairo film festival was cancelled because of security concerns, and some might think that with people still dying on the streets, this is no time to be holding festivals.

But Egyptian actor Khaled el-Nabawy disagrees.

"We need to express what happened in the Arab Spring," he said. "As an Egyptian I want to tell our story to the world."

"Cinema is not just entertainment. It also creates jobs. This is our life. It must go on."

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