A little less than two years after he joined the Doha Film Institute as its new CEO, Abdulaziz Al-Khater has decided to leave the organization.
Confirming the move, DFI said in a statement that Fatma Al-Remaihi, who has been overseeing the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, will temporarily assume his role while continuing her other responsibilities.
The statement added:
“We would like to thank Abdulaziz for his hard work and many contributions to DFI over the past two years and wish him all the best with his future endeavors. Confirmation of the new CEO will be announced in due course.”
Al-Khater’s exit comes as the government-funded DFI pivots away from holding glitzy Doha Tribeca Film Festivals to focusing almost exclusively on young people and the development of regional talent.
The transition appears to be a rocky one. In January, the organization said it was postponing its new film festival Qumra, after laying off some 40 employees. The festival was originally scheduled for March, but has been pushed back until 2015.
At the time, DFI said it was “realigning its objectives for 2014,” which staffers said partly involved meeting new budget restraints.
In addition to internal problems, DFI also contended with external pressure from residents this year, after several Qataris and expats took to Twitter to complain about the organization, saying it did not do enough to support homegrown talent.
Under the hashtag #dfi_fails_again, residents accused the organization of nepotism and said that DFI was spending too much money financing foreign films instead of supporting local projects.
This may have been a dig at a deal DFI and US-based Participant Media announced in 2013, in which they said they were creating a $100 million revolving film fund to finance the production of a dozen movies worldwide.
DFI responded to the criticism by saying a new education program would soon be announced to “benefit all levels of filmmakers in Qatar.”
However, this program has yet to be rolled out, and it is unclear if Al-Khater’s exit will affect the plan.
When he moved to DFI in October 2012, Al-Khater, a Qatari businessman who previously worked as a banker, replaced Amanda Palmer, the first head of DFI.
Speaking to Doha News, a senior staffer who was laid off from DFI this year after working there since 2011 said that Al-Khater’s leadership was initially welcomed by the team, which had been struggling with morale issues.
But the former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said a toxic work culture continued to be a problem for the organization.
He added that he hopes the CEO’s exit would signal a new beginning for the organization.
“It’s been a roller coaster – hopefully this is the last stop… If there was anyone who would be able to take DFI to a place where it would be successful again, it would be Fatma – she is very well-liked, and I hope that her appointment is permanent.”