Six DFI-backed films on Toronto festival list

September 03, 2014 - 2:02:18 am
A scene from the film Theeb.

DOHA: Six films made with support from Doha Film Institute (DFI) will screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which begins tomorrow.

Three will make their world premiere.

The films include Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb and Ghassan Salhab’s The Valley, both recipients of funding from DFI’s Grants Programme; grant recipient Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako and co-financed project The Narrow Frame of Midnight by Tala Hadid. Eye & Mermaid, a short film directed by Shahad Ameen, was made through DFI’s Hazawi Short Film Production Fund. 

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (Canada/France/Lebanon/Qatar/US), also co-financed by DFI, will have its world premiere as a Special Presentation following its work-in-progress preview at Cannes Film Festival.

The innovative adaptation of the classic features the work of eight renowned animators, including Gulf talent Mohammed Saeed Harib (creator of the acclaimed animated series Freej), who has directed the chapter On Good and Evil.

Fatma Al Remaihi, Acting CEO, DFI, said: “We are honoured to have played a part in bringing these wonderful projects to life. The festival has a notable history of excellent programming of films from the Arab world and this year’s selection is no exception. I am delighted to see these projects among the strong representation of voices from our region.”

Making its world premiere in the Discovery section is The Narrow Frame of Midnight (Morocco/Qatar/France/UK), the debut feature-length fiction by Moroccan-Iraqi filmmaker and visual artist Hadid.

Against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, in a country torn apart by injustice, the film paints a story of interconnected destiny, redemption and hope as three people struggle to define their futures in a cruel and uncertain world. 

Abu Nowar’s Theeb (Jordan/Qatar/UAE/UK) also screens in this section after its world premiere in the Orizzonti Competition at Venice Film Festival. Based in the Arabian Peninsula in 1916, Theeb blends coming-of-age drama with frontier Western, telling the story of a boy’s perilous desert adventures when his nomadic tribe is confronted with the modern world in a forgotten corner of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. 

The Valley (Lebanon/France/Germany/Qatar), which makes its world premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema selection, is the fifth feature film by Lebanese director Salhab, whose acclaimed previous film The Mountain screened at the festival in 2011. A sense of impending catastrophe pervades The Valley after a car crashes in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and the driver, stricken with amnesia, meets a group of people on the road and is taken to their farm – perhaps never to leave again.

Sissako’s Timbuktu (France/Mauritania/Mali) screens in the Masters section, marking its North American premiere after it garnered critical acclaim at its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Set in the aftermath of the jihadist takeover of northern Mali, the skilful auteur’s film is a poetic excoriation of the horrors of war that lay bare the blindly destructive force of extremism.

The newly minted Short Cuts International programme includes Eye & Mermaid (Qatar), by Saudi director Shahad Ameen. 

It was made in Qatar through DFI’s Hazawi Short Film Production Fund, an educational initiative that supports emerging filmmakers in the Gulf. The haunting, brutally metaphorical tale of a young girl’s discovery of the dreadful secret behind the beautiful black pearls her father harvests shows that lovely things in life sometimes come at a hefty price.