Qatar’s newest festival, Doha Film Institute’s Ajyal Youth Film Festival, opened on 26 November amid a flourish of celebrity faces from the Arabic film fraternity, and a host of other dignitaries from government ministries and from a number of embassies.
There was the ubiquitous ‘red carpet’, a Gala Dinner, plus, of course, a special screening. The screening in question being of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises – a film about a man with the goal of building the world’s greatest flying machine that the animé legend has said will be his last.
Miyazaki is undoubtedly a master of his chosen art form, but this was a strange choice for a festival specifically targeting youth and taking place in the Gulf. Animé is popular among a wide age range, but wasn’t there something more Arabic in flavour, or more specifically youth focused, that could have been picked to start the festival with?
There were many VIPs present, which gave the opening night kudos, but ‘youth’, the target of the festival, were not so easy to spot. Yes, children were there to open the screening with a rendition of Qatar’s National Anthem, but given that the film is rated ‘PG-15’ some of them, or their parents, may have found staying around for the screening inappropriate.
Despite these criticisms, the evening marked a successful start to what could become a fixture of the Doha’s festival calendar. Having left behind the link to TriBeCa and Robert De Niro, it was a good idea to go for something completely different, such as a youth film festival.
Hopefully the ‘Youth’ referred to in the festival’s name will be matched in prominence by the presence of many young audience members during the rest of the festival’s run.