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Entries in Doha Tribeca Film Festival (2)

Tuesday
May282013

The Forgotten (2012): An Unforgettable Short

Achingly beautiful is The ForgottenA Palestinian has much to lament, but she may at least not lament the world’s forgetting about her grievance, even when people of the world refuse to acknowledge the injustice wrought upon her own. The dispossessed, displaced people of the Golan Heights can scarcely console themselves with international recognition for their plight. After all, I cannot recall the last time I read or saw a potent piece, of any sort, on the Golan, until I watched The Forgotten.

The Syrian Golan was occupied by Israel during the 67, resulting in the dislocation of 100,000 people. Israel then formalized its annexation of the territory in 81, a territory which has been settled by 20 thousand Israelis in over 30 settlements1. The Forgotten’s director Ehab Tarabieh was born to the Syrians who remained in the Golan and has determined and succeeded at creating a most evocative work.

There is a scene in The Forgotten that epitomizes one of the most magical moments that film can serve up to a viewer: that when a principle character and the viewer develop an epiphany concomitantly. In the case of the Forgotten, the moment occurs about a quarter of the way into the 21 minute film. In it, the much younger of the film’s two principle characters begins to care about the other—as does the viewer—when the older character experiences a sudden moment of great vulnerability.

Shot on location and boasting its artifacts—minefields, decrepit tanks and disused bunkers—the film is beautiful to behold. Painterly composition, earthly colors and overcast landscapes enrapture, while the spare, suspenseful story captivates. The shortage of dialogue makes sense, since one character is smuggler and the other smuggled. As such, the symbolism inherent in the older, smuggled character’s experience representing that of his people comes off not as heavy-handed but poetic and affecting. Fans of Tarkovsky will surely discern the influence.

I was chatting with a friend about the The Forgotten, when I mentioned that the smuggled character wanted to be forgotten. My friend retorted that the character more correctly did not wish to be found. Touché! The smuggled character preferred to go missing on his own terms than to be forgotten on the terms of others.

 

Notes:

1. "Golan Heights Profile." BBC News. BBC, 21 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ world-middle-east-14724842>.

Monday
Nov262012

For the Love of Film in Doha

I have just returned from Doha, having attended the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF). Energy and enthusiasm suffused the city, which seemed to have been wrapped in its celebration of film.

Photo credit: Doha Film Institute

Of course, I expected the abundantly funded festival to exude lavishness and glamor, but what I didn’t expect and what has driven me to post a day after my return is the community engagement, which manifested in ways that surprised and delighted me.

Museum of Islamic Art. Photo credit: riy

This year’s edition was held in three locations: the Museum of Islamic Art, an architectural marvel I unfortunately did not have the time to visit; Katara cultural village, which houses the Doha Film Institute, the organization behind DTFF; and Souq Waqef, a century-old shopping district that has recently been restored and expanded to include restaurants and fashionable boutique hotels wherein the festival guests stayed. Yet, physical signifiers of the festival—signs, posters, and billboards, some enormous—were strategically positioned throughout the capital city.

Souq Waqef. Photo credit: Jan Smith

The festival boasted much that I’ve encountered in other festivals: film screenings, Q&A sessions with filmmakers, panel discussions, workshops, award ceremonies, red carpet events, and, of course, parties. What really impressed me, however, was the engagement of youth in the festival. Beside supporting and celebrating many young local filmmakers in the “Made in Qatar” competition, the festival presented Family Days, a four-day program of family focused events aiming not only to expose kids to art, including film, but also to have them participate in creative workshops, including photography and filmmaking. All non-screening Family Days programs were free of charge. Family Days also presented free screenings of two wonderful films which long ago had me in memorable weeping sessions--E.T. and Cinema Paradiso--both of which were screened in the stupendous, beachside Sony Open-Air Cinema within Katara.

Sony Open-Air Cinema. Photo credit: Ayman Itani

The festival cultivated a youth reporter core, dubbed the DFI Kids Access Reporting Team, which covered red carpet events, proudly displaying their press badges as they interviewed guests then reporting on such events on the festival website—charming!

Katara. Photo credit: Karen Blumberg Ultimately, it was my encounters with young DTFF volunteers and guest service providers that left the deepest impression. One morning, I was heading to Katara for a meeting and thought to catch the festival shuttle bus. As I boarded, I asked the driver about going there and was told that it would take an hour. “That’s too long,” I responded, before turning to see a teenage boy, in festival T-shirt and badge, who had followed with “That’s too late for me too.” The transportation coordinator at this station (like most, in his early twenties), upon checking my credentials, availed me a car within the festival’s transportation fleet. When the car arrived, I asked the transportation coordinator if it would be OK if the teen came along, which he appreciated, as did my new companion.

On the way, I asked my companion what he was doing for the festival. I could sense the enthusiasm in his voice as he conveyed that he was in a hurry to get to Katara because he was volunteering in a Family Days event.

Next day, after spending a couple of hours watching films in a room designated for press viewing, at independent stations, of films exhibited in the festival, I walked over to the room supervisor, a woman in her early twenties. I handed her back the DVD of Rafea: Solar Mama as I poured praise over the irresistible documentary film, to which she said that she hadn’t seen it, but that she thought the winner of the Best Documentary Filmmaker Award In the Shadow of a Man was a really special, moving film. She then emphatically encouraged me to see it when I had the chance. She wasn’t just checking out DVDs; she was a film enthusiast.

And she wasn’t the only twenty-something female film enthusiast that I encountered in the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Indeed, nothing has warmed my heart in attending DTFF more than this evident vitality among young people involved in one capacity or another in the festival. I was readily convinced that the Doha Film Institute was earnest and determined in its proclamation that it aimed to fashion a community centered international film festival. Many large events claim to be community based, few have struck me as such as much as DTFF—well done.