Posted on November 25, 2019

A short narrative film on self-acceptance and friendship, and a documentary about the aftermath of the Yemeni war, both directed by NU-Q alumni, received awards during the 2019 Ajyal Youth Film Festival. In total, 23 films by NU-Q students and alumni were featured under the festival’s short films program, with the majority of them debuting during the “Made in Qatar” segment.

“From Ajyal to Cannes, NU-Q students and alumni reconvene every year to offer the world unique visual commentaries on pressing social affairs and to test the limits of creative storytelling techniques,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q. “We are proud of all of the work that they do and that more than half the “Made in Qatar” films this year were by the NU-Q community.”

The Best Documentary Award was awarded to Mariam Al-Dubahani for her film "In the Middle," which examines the consequences of war by following a Yemeni soldier on tour. The film highlights the struggles and hardships endured by youth in Yemen who are being forced to forfeit their dreams and education to fulfill their duties in the military and survive the turmoil. Al-Dhubhani '18 is a Yemeni-Russian journalist and filmmaker. Her first short film “We are the Peace” received an award in Yemen’s inaugural film festival in 2011. Last year, her film “Just Another Memory,” which was her directorial debut, also won the Best Documentary Award at the 2018 Ajyal festival.

“I aim to tell a different narrative from Yemen by Yemenis, focusing on more than what is seen in the news,” said Al-Dubhani. “It is crucial to share the challenges in telling stories from conflict areas, which adds layers and value to the film as well.” “Beit Byoot,” a film directed by Mayar Hamdan ‘15, that is set in a dystopian dollhouse, received the Special Jury Award. The film discusses the themes of friendship and fitting in. Hamdan is currently getting an MFA at CalArts, focusing on art, film and new technologies.

NU-Q alumni win awards at 2 [].jpg

The film festival also featured the screening of films that are designed to accommodate people with special needs. Rawan Al Nassiri ‘18, who co-produced “Treasures of the Past,” with Nada Bedair ’18 said, “Our film featured Arabic audio description, sign-language interpreting, and enriched subtitles in both Arabic and English to be inclusive of all viewers. This is not only a representation of the growth of cinema in the country but also represents something bigger, the power of a collective—something film cannot come to fruition without.”

More than 20 NU-Q students and alumni participated in the festival with short narratives or documentary projects, and in various capacities, such as producer, co-producer, and director. Current students included Tony El Ghazal, Maha Essid, Awad Abdelrahman, Wijdan Al-Khateeb, Sahar Al Kabash, and Md Razi Islam; and alumni were Jassim Al Romaihi, Ayah Awartani, Sana Al Ansari, Mayar Hamdan, Yassine Ouaharani, Lubna Mohsin, Mariam Al Dhubhani, A.J Al Thani, Dhabya Al Muhannadi, Aisha Al Muhannadi, Nada Bedair, Alessandra El Chanti, Amal Al Muftah, Rawan Al Nassiri, Maysam Al Ani, Farida Zahran, Jemina Legaspi, Vibhav Guatam, and Fouad Hassan.

Rana Kazkaz, an NU-Q professor and award-winning filmmaker, noted the success of her students. “What’s remarkable is that not only are NU-Q students making their mark on the local film industry, as evidenced by the large number of films by our current students and alumni selected for this year’s Ajyal Film Festival, they are also screening their films in some of the most prominent festivals around the world,” she said. “I would not be surprised to see that in 5-10 years, alumni of NU-Q will be some of the most prolific and sought-after visual storytellers in the world.”

Below is the list of films by NU-Q students and alumni that were shown at the festival–the themes of the films ranged from the power of music to the challenges of mandatory military service, and from life under oppressive regimes to art in times of economic crises.

Paper Kite; Directed by: Nada Bedair; Produced by: Md Razi Islam and Sahar Elkabbash

Ghassan's Green Door; Directed by: Lubna Mohsin and Munera AlDosari; 

Revive the Lira's Glory; Directed by: Alessandra El Chanti

Desert Bounty; Directed by: Yassine Ouahrani; Produced by: Fouad Hassan

Batch 10; Directed by: Sana Al-Ansari; Produced by: Abdulla Kamal

Ana Bas; Directed by: Ayah Awartani and Tony El Ghazal

Beit Byoot; Directed by: Mayar Hamdan; Produced by: Ghouna Jaber

Maha'mel (Ships); Directed by: Dhabya Al-Muhannadi

Tick Tock; Directed by: Awad Karrar; Produced by: Wijdan Al Khateeb

The Artist: Yacoub Missi; Directed by: Tony El Ghazal

In the Middle; Directed by: Mariam Al-Dhubhani; Produced by: Noor Abu Na’ba and Mohammed Al Jaberi;

Refuge; Directed by: Maha Essid; Produced by: Wijdan Al Khateeb;

The Black Veil; Directed by: A.J. Al-Thani; Produced by: Vibhav Gautam;

Treasures of the Past; Directed by: Rawan Al-Nassiri and Nada Bedair;

Sh’hab; Directed by: Amal Al Muftah; Produced by: Basil Oweis;

Smicha; Directed by: Amal Al Muftah;

Makh’bz; Directed by: Aisha Al Muhannadi;

Where are you right Meow?; Directed by: Maysam Al Ani; Produced by: Saif Al Solaiti

Youth; Directed by: Farida Zahran; Produced by: Leah Chen Baker

Amer; Directed by: Jassim Al Romaihi; Produced by: Ben Robinson

Kashta; Directed by: A.J. Al-Thani; Produced by: Jamie Sordia

The Palm Tree; Directed by: Jassim Al Romaihi

Falling Leaves; Directed by: Dmitry Yuri; Produced by: Jemina Legaspi