With reporting from Riham Sheble
Following the sudden closure of the Sheraton Doha for renovations, Al Jazeera has rescheduled its annual film festival by several months.
The 10th edition of the Al Jazeera Documentary Film Festival, which is themed “Steps,” will now be held from Oct. 23 to 26, instead of April 17 to 20.
Speaking to Doha News, the festival’s director said his team was given very short notice that the iconic hotel was closing earlier this month. Abbas Arnaout said:
“We found ourselves in a tight spot having to try and find another venue on such short notice. The alternatives we found were not readily available, especially that the place we choose has to meet certain criteria, such as having enough halls to screen multiple screenings simultaneously and to technically suitable for screenings as well.”
The Sheraton is expected to reopen in December, but Arnaout said Al Jazeera has found a new venue for the festival. However, he declined to say where the festival will be held for now.
Entering its 10th year, Al Jazeera has received film submissions from a record 110 countries, Arnaout said. Though the deadline for submissions passed in February, discussion is underway about possibly reopening it, he added.
A decision on this would be made within the month, he said.
This is the second film festival to be rescheduled in Qatar this year. In January, the Doha Film Institute announced that it would be postponing its inaugural Qumra Festival for first and second-time film directors until next year. The festival was supposed to be held this week.
When asked about the theme “Steps,” Arnaout said it was chosen to give the festival organizers a chance to reflect on the past decade, but added that films were not tied to this idea.
“It is how the festival, if you like, thinks of itself at this particular point in its life. The films we select do not mirror that. We don’t marry our theme with the content of the films.”