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Ajyal makes colorful start with ‘Idol’ – DIFF to mark Deneuve’s career with lifetime achievement award

‘The Idol’ cast and crew at the third Ajyal Youth Film Festival
‘The Idol’ cast and crew at the third Ajyal Youth Film Festival

DOHA, Qatar, Dec 2: Putting the spotlight on young Arab talent and highlighting its commitment to promoting the next generation of filmmakers, the third Ajyal Youth Film Festival, presented by the Doha Film Institute, marked a colourful start at Katara. Until Dec 5, the festival will host the screening of 80 films from 36 countries including a showcase of 17 films ‘Made in Qatar.’

The third Ajyal Youth Film Festival flagged off with the Middle East and North Africa premiere of The Idol (Palestine, UK, Qatar, The Netherlands; 2015), directed by Academy Award-nominated Hany Abu-Assad, bringing the inspiring life story of ‘Arab Idol’ champion Mohammed Assaf to the big screen.

The opening red carpet gala welcomed Hany Abu-Assad, Mohammed Assaf, the film’s producers Ali Jafaar and Amira Diab, cinematographer Ehab Assal and a range of acclaimed filmmakers and local and regional celebrities.

The Ajyal Film Competition’s 520 young jurors also participated in the opening ceremony at the Katara Opera House. Over the week, they will watch and analyse a dynamic programme of films under three competitive sections — Mohaq, Hilal, and Bader — followed by discussions and events including panels, workshops and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.


At the opening ceremony, His Excellency Dr Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, Minister of Culture, Arts & Heritage, said: “Ajyal Youth Film Festival is an initiative that brings great value to our community. It was created to bring people of different generations together through cinema and the first two editions have made a positive impact on the lives of many people. Telling our stories through film allows us to connect as a community, to share our perspectives and to generate cultural dialogue within our society. Ajyal gives great importance to developing the creativity of the next generation.”

Fatma Al Remaihi, Festival Director and CEO of the Doha Film Institute, added: “This year, we pay tribute to the 120-year history of cinema. While the changes over the years have been vast and groundbreaking, here we are — still coming together in a dark room with a big screen for the perfect cinematic experience. Over the next seven days, we will make our own history through the films of Ajyal. Audiences young and old will experience films that will delight, inspire, entertain and move them.”

She added: “Alongside a dynamic selection of the best films from around the world, the Ajyal Youth Film Festival also celebrates the extraordinary talent emerging in Qatar with two special programmes of films in the Made in Qatar section. Our film screenings as well as a range of special events, exhibitions, digital installations, outdoor screenings live performances, panels and family weekend activities defines Ajyal as a truly community oriented event that also nurtures the next generation of talent.”


Doha Film Institute Chief Administrative Officer Abdulla Al Mosallam said: “Over the past two editions we have welcomed hundreds of young jurors, screened countless films, welcomed filmmakers and stars from all corners of the globe and brought memorable cinematic experiences to audiences young and old. The focus of Ajyal is films for and about young people but our programme has something for cinema lovers of all ages.”

Earlier, addressing a press conference to introduce The Idol, Fatma Al Remaihi said: “Hany Abu-Assad is one of the most distinctive filmmakers from the Arab world and we are honoured to open our festival with the regional premiere of this captivating and accomplished film, which epitomizes optimism and youthful energy.

“The Doha Film Institute has been involved right from its production stage as a co-financier of the project. Mohammed Assaf’s incredible story in the hands of a great filmmaker like Hany Abu-Assad is a winning combination. Ajyal is dedicated to inspiring our younger generation, to open them up to new perspectives on the world around them and encourage their creativity. The Idol is thus a perfect film that embodies hope and positivity for our youth.”

Hany Abu-Assad said: “The most difficult obstacle in making the film was to adapt reality into drama that would resonate with audiences. Even though Palestinians in Gaza are living in a very difficult situation and there is destruction all over the Arab region, which is traumatising and shocking, they still go to work, school and they live everyday life with love and humanity which transcends every ugliness and darkness, Gaza is inspirational for humanity because despite all their troubles they have not lost their humanity.”

Mohammed Assaf said: “Seeing my story personally was amazing — more importantly the story carried many aspects — not just about my life but about the difficulties and plight of Palestinians in Gaza. It’s a story of hope and is inspirational for young people not just in Palestine but for Arab youth. It teaches us to persevere, have hope and to realise our dreams; the film is a story of positivity that the people of Gaza have not given up hope despite the suffering.”

A producer of the film Amira Diab added: “It was very important for Hany to have the children in Gaza in the movie. They have their own energy and presence, they are self confident. The children in the film have witnessed two wars in their lives and so they are fearless and very confident and we wanted to convey that.”

The third annual Ajyal Youth Film Festival consists of daily public screenings of local and international films; the popular ‘Made in Qatar’ section dedicated to showcasing home-grown talent from 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.

The Ajyal Katara Main Box Office will be open from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM until December 5th. The Ajyal FNAC Ticket Outlet will be open until December 5th from 2:00 PM till 9:00 PM. Tickets can also be purchased securely online through the Festival’s website at ajyalfilm.com.

Tickets are priced at QR 25 for regular screenings, and QR 40 for premium screenings (including the opening and closing night films). QM Culture Pass members get a discount of QR 5 on all regularly priced Festival screenings and events when they present their QM Culture Pass at any Festival ticket outlet. Pass holders can purchase up to two discounted tickets per screening.

For more information on the movie timings and the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, log onto www.dohafilminstitute.com.


DUBAI: Catherine Deneuve, the grande dame of French cinema, will be honoured at the 12th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) this month when she is presented with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. The accolade will recognise Deneuve’s illustrious career which spans almost 60 years and includes more than 120 films.

Deneuve made her silver screen debut in 1957 aged just 13 and went on to make a name for herself for her impressive portrayal of enigmatic female leads. Her eminent career has seen her nominated for an astonishing 31 Cesar awards including winning Best Actress for Le Dernier Metro (1980), a romantic drama set in 1940s France, and Indochine (1992), Regis Wargnier’s epic about French Indochina for which she also received a Best Actress in a Leading Role nomination at the Academy Awards. For one of her best-known roles, as the lead in Belle du Jour (1967), she was also nominated as Best Actress at the BAFTA Film Awards.

Chairman of the Dubai International Film Festival, Abdulhamid Juma, spoke of the importance of DIFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award:

“Catherine Deneuve is an icon and one of the most influential women in cinema. Her contribution to film across the globe has been phenomenal and we are proud to be honouring her incredible talents at the Festival this year. DIFF is about more than just showcasing film; it is about bridging cultures and bringing worlds together and this sentiment is reflected in the recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement awards which will see talented individuals from all around the world recognised for their outstanding contribution to cinema.”

Speaking on her nomination, Catherine Deneuve said: “It is such an honour to receive the Dubai International Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I have been lucky enough to work all over the world and to have my work recognised here in the Middle East as well is testament to the cross-cultural and universal appeal of film.”

DIFF’s Lifetime Achievement Awards are dedicated to honouring the world’s greatest film industry actors, writers, directors and producers. Previous honourees include Omar Sharif, Faten Hamamah, Adel Imam, Jameel Rateb, Sabah, Morgan Freeman, Sean Penn, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Youssef Chahine, Rachid Bouchareb, Souleymane Cisse, Nabil El-Maleh, Oliver Stone, Danny Glover, Terry Gilliam, Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Michael Apted, and Mahmoud Abdel Aziz.

The 12th annual Dubai International Film Festival takes place from Dec 9-16, 2015. The DIFF box office is now open at www.diff.ae. Additional information is also available through the Festival’s dedicated customer care number — 363 FILM (3456).

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