Middle East
Qatar to host annual film festival
Deal with Robert De Niro's Tribeca to help Gulf state launch film festival in 2009.
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2008 16:59 GMT
Sheikha Mayassa and De Niro signed the agreement at Qatar's newly opened Museum of Islamic Arts [AFP]

Qatar has teamed up with Robert De Niro, the Hollywood star, to launch a film festival modeled after the original New York City Tribeca Film Festival.

An agreement was signed on Saturday by De Niro and Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani, the president of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), to kick off the festival in 2009.

"The Tribeca Film Festival Doha is destined to become a major annual event in world cinema,'' said Abdullah al-Najjar, the chairman of QMA.

The festival, which will feature a selection of 40 films, is set to take place November 10-14 and will be presented at Doha's celebrated Museum of Islamic Arts as well ass cinemas across the capital.

"In today' s increasingly globalised world, creative initiatives like this festival can play a truly inspirational role by bringing cultures closer together," al-Mayassa said.

The event will highlight work by Qataris and Arabs alongside entries from international filmmakers.

'Bridging cultures'

De Niro, the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, said: "We hope that film will not only be used as a form of entertainment, but play a role in bridging cultures closer together.

"By learning each other's stories, we can see how much we share in common as well as explore and better understand our differences."

Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, launched its first film festival last year, competing for attention with a similar event in its fifth year in the rival city of Dubai.

Michael Bloomberg, the New York City mayor, said in a statement: "The Tribeca Film Festival's substantial cultural and economic impact in New York City is unequivocal, and our hope is that Doha will reap similar benefits.

The expansion of a New York institution like the Tribeca Film Festival to Doha is a sign of the international significance of New York City cinema and will help foster new relationships between our two cities," he said.

While it remains unclear how the country's attitude toward censorship will affect the festival, most countries in the Middle East, including Qatar and the UAE, censor and occasionally ban entire movies.

Craig Hatkoff, another Tribeca co-founder also present at the signing of the deal, said: "This initiative underscores the enormous potential of the entertainment market in the Middle East and the strategic importance of the region to the future of the film industry.

"In addition to the positive cultural implications, this initiative underscores the enormous potential of the entertainment market in the Middle East and the strategic importance of the region to the future of the film industry," said Hatkoff.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2001 by De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, a film producer, and her husband Craig Hatkoff in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City.

The festival's initial purpose was to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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