Doha dazzles for cinema

If the city of Doha ever wanted its name in the international spotlight, actress and director Salma Hayek helped deliver the message.

By Mohamad Kadry

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Published: Thu 28 Oct 2010, 8:49 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:13 PM

At the second annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF), which kicked off this week, thousands of fans and industry insiders swarmed the newly built Qatara Open Air Ampitheatre to catch a glimpse of some of the most prolific and legendary actors and directors from across the Middle East.

But it was Hayek, donning a stunning black and gold printed dress by the late Alexander McQueen, who stole the show.

Voicing her support for DTFF’s recent initiatives in funding local filmmakers, Hayek said, “ The festival sets a great tone for arts and culture in the region and I feel privileged to be participating.”

Hayek, who was the first-ever Mexican national to be nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, was participating on the festival’s jury panel this year.

“ I don’t sit on film juries often but I take it very seriously,” she said.

“Doha has an educational programme for film and that’s what gives me the most pride being here. What I find most impressive is that 60 per cent of the participants here are women, so just imagine the strength that these Arab voices can give to youth across the Middle East. ”

Hayek, who is the executive producer of the hit show Ugly Betty, is a vocal champion of women’s rights around the world. She is active in campaigns including UNICEF and creating awareness for violence against women.

“This region has so much potential, and film will allow all of us to break through barriers,” she said.

The festival’s opening film, Outside The Law by French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb, proved to a powerful induction to the ceremonies. The violent and gritty film follows three brothers in their quest for Algerian independence from France following World War II.

Bouchareb, decked out in a sleek Dior suit, told the crowds he was hopeful that his film’s message would translate well to the international community.

Outside the Law is not just about the Algerian struggle for independence, it also explores how an individual’s culture is integral to their sense of identity and belonging in the world, a universal theme, which I am sure DTFF audiences will be able to connect with,” Bouchareb said.

“Doha has shown me great hospitality so I hope they are just as agreeable with my work,” he added with his trademark smirk.

Emirati director Ali Mustafa also hit the red carpet following the success of his film, City of Life, last year. As a member of the jury panel, he voiced his support for Arab filmmakers and lauded the attention his film, the first major local production to come out of Dubai, has received around the world.

“I just got back from Washington D.C. where City Of Life was screened. To know that your film can travel so far is amazing,” he said.

He is currently working on a comedy flick in Abu Dhabi.

Bollywood also made its mark at the festival as bombshell Malika Sherawat made the rounds to promote her upcoming projects including Politics of Love and Dhamaal 2. Donning a creation by an unknown Turkish designer, she explained how her lifestyle choices have aided her health and fitness.

“I’m a vegan so that really helps,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle choice for me but I also do a lot of yoga to stay fit.”

“ You’ll always find sunscreen and a parasol in my handbag,” she added.

Notably absent from the event was Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto who was slated to join the opening festivities for her new film Miral.

Celebrities in attendance also included legendary Egyptian actor Adel Imam, American-Egyptian director and comedian Ahmed Ahmed, Indian directors Mira Nair and Bhavna Talwar, haute couture fashion designer Stephane Rolland, Egyptian actors Lebleba, Ragna El Guedani, Palestinian actor Yasmine Al Massri and American actor William Schimmel.

In addition to Outside the Law, other films screening at DTFF include John Curran’s Stone, Ahmed Ahmed’s Just like Us, Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, Julian Schnabel’s Miral, Randall Wallace’s Secretariat and Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader. Indian films also have a strong presence at this year’s Festival including Ram Gopal Varma’s Rakta Charitra.

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