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Heidi Goes to Qumra

From the moment I arrived in Doha, Qatar, I was impressed by the beautiful architecture, warm hospitality and, of course, delicious food—I was instantly addicted to the chapati and karak. (Does anyone know where to find this in Toronto?)

No less impressive was Qumra.

Only in its second year, Qumra is a new film initiative presented by the Doha Institute. It offers professional development for filmmakers from Qatar and the international community. Qumra is a hub for discussion about the business and art of non-fiction and fiction films, supplies development help for emerging filmmakers, and is a celebration of film. Screenings and master classes were also offered to the public and feature renowned filmmakers like Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence), James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), and Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest). 

While Qumra is young, it behaves maturely. Every aspect and detail was well thought-out: All programs are considered and designed for filmmakers to advance their films, master classes provide continuous learning opportunities to international delegates, and the event itself is exceptionally well organized. If there were ever any hiccups, they were silent.

Representing Hot Docs Industry, I participated in a few sessions over my two days at Qumra. First, one-on-one meetings to discuss filmmaker’s projects; there was a lot of talk about story development, but also financing and filmmakers were encouraged to look at our CrossCurrents Documentary Fund and Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund. Next, I was in feedback sessions for works-in-progress; all the films were beautifully constructed, focusing on engaging characters, and relevant topics. This generation of documentary filmmakers has a lot of vital stories to share. Last was a moderated roundtable, How to Make it Into the North American Market, which included Matthew Takata from the Sundance Institute and Cameron Bailey from TIFF. The participants were a mix of directors, producers, and fellow film professionals. The lively discussion explored the preferences of North American audiences, as well as the importance of discoverability and marketing materials. We all agreed that making an engaging trailer is one of the keys to helping your film standout during release.

The most rewarding part of the experience for me was meeting fellow film professionals and building relationships with the talented filmmakers. I can’t wait to see how their projects evolve, and what Qumra will be up to next year.

Heidi Tao Yang is Hot Doc’s Industry Programmer of Funds & Deal Maker. She attended Qumra from March 4 to 6, 2016. 


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