All photos by Chantelle D’mello
The termination of the popular Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) was a tradition that Qatar shouldn’t have done away with, Oscar-winning actor and producer Robert De Niro has said.
DTFF was held annually in Qatar for four years, until the deal between DFI and Tribeca Enterprises, established by De Niro, concluded in April 2013.
The end had been billed as a mutual agreement, though many said the festival was scrapped over criticism that the Doha Film Institute (DFI) was not doing enough to attract a local audience.
Speaking to Doha News last night during a launch event in Qatar, De Niro said he had been “disappointed” about the development, saying he had hoped it would help open up film venues in the region.
“That, unfortunately, came to an end. I wish it hadn’t. I was disappointed when that finished. To keep things going you have to show the world and the public you are willing to continue it on and on, that it is not just going to go away but that it is a tradition.
That is what we wanted Tribeca to be about. That’s what all festivals which have been around for 20, 30 or 50 years are about.”
He added: “I was disappointed that it stopped, it shouldn’t have. But you don’t have control over the country.”
De Niro was mobbed by fans in Qatar last night as he joined chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa to officially open the world’s largest Nobu restaurant.
The 72-year-old veteran Hollywood icon, who co-owns the upscale Japanese brand with Chef Nobu, was the main draw for the 450 people who had paid QR1,500 each for canapes, drinks and the chance to meet their idol at the event billed as “a night with Nobu and De Niro” at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Nobu Doha opened to the public in April this year, but last night’s official launch was done in traditional Japanese style by breaking the lid of a large drum of Hokusetsu sake with wooden mallets.
There was also a five-piece taiko drumming group, which had been flown in from Tokyo for the event, and DJ Soma.
De Niro, who has starred in more than 90 films including The Godfather II, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, gave a brief speech to his fans, thanking them for attending and adding, “It’s great to be here tonight. This is a great restaurant.”
During his acting career, which has spanned more than 40 years, De Niro has become renowned for taking on complex characters. Describing his feelings in a role, he said:
“When I am in it , it is more than excitement, it is being totally immersed. I can’t even explain what excites me.”
Responding to a question what his most challenging role has been, De Niro pointed to his business partner chef and joked: “playing him.”
De Niro spent the night chatting with fans, taking selfies and signing autographs, although at some points looked overwhelmed at the crowds demanding his attention.
He was dressed his trademark understated way, in a navy jacket, black collared t-shirt and gray trousers – in contrast to the crowd who had dressed up for the occasion.
Some expressed their disappointment initially at not being able to get close to their hero, as crowds surged around them while the producer slowly moved around the restaurant.
“I thought everyone would be seated and he would move between us all. I feel sorry for him (De Niro) with everyone thrusting their cameras in his face. It’s a little bit much,” attendee Janice Langdon said.
However, as the crowd thinned out over the course of the evening, others got their chance to have a moment with the actor.
Attendee Mariam Al Rumaihi said she had met De Niro several times before, but wanted to see him in Doha, adding: “It is nice he is a guest in our country. He is so humble.”
Nobu said he had been delighted that the Qatar outpost of the brand had opened, after long discussions, adding: “they have made it a beautiful place.”
De Niro and Nobu flew in to Doha as part of an international tour of their chain, having been in London’s Berkeley Street outpost just a few days earlier to mark its 10th anniversary.