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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Six things to look forward to at Qatar’s Ajyal Film Fest


Qatar’s second annual Ajyal Youth Film Festival will open in two days time on Dec. 1.

The festival will be held at Katara Cultural Village through Dec. 6 and will include 90 movies screenings from 43 different countries.

Because attendance was low last year, the Doha Film Institute has been drumming up excitement ahead of the six-day event with a few offerings that one doesn’t normally see around here.

Here’s a breakdown of some of those activities, as part of a list of things we’re looking forward to at the upcoming festival:

Big stars

Though Ajyal isn’t big on promoting celebrities, it has confirmed that award-winning Mexican/American actress, producer and director Salma Hayek-Pinault will be in Doha for the screening of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

Making its Middle East debut, the film will be shown as part of the closing night gala.

The film was produced by Hayek-Pinault, directed by Roger Allers and funded in part by DFI.

Animation legend Roger Allers, director of the Lion King, will also make an appearance at the festival, Ajyal has confirmed. It is not clear whether Allers will be also attending The Prophet premiere, however.

It has been announced that Allers will be holding an open discussion with fellow animator Mohammed Saeed Harib, creator of the Gulf television animated series Freej and contributor to The Prophet.

The two are set to discuss the secrets to the art of animation on Friday, Dec. 6 at 8pm at Katara Building 16, Drama Theatre. While the event is free, a ticket is required for admission.


Meanwhile, though Angelina Jolie is likely not going to be in town for Ajyal, her award-winning film Difret will be screened here. Jolie served as executive producer in the feature narrative, which is based on a true story in Ethiopia and is in the running for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Academy Awards.

With an audience rating of 15 years and above, the film explores the plight of a 14-year old girl as she struggles for social justice and women’s rights.

The film will be screened twice — on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 9pm (Katara Building 16, Drama Theatre) and Friday, Dec. 5 at 9:15pm (Katara Building 12, Theatre B).

LOTR marathon

Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings

For all the Lord of the Rings fans out there, Ajyal is treating festival-goers with free screenings of the film trilogy as well as the first two chapters of The Hobbit.

At 8pm each evening from Tuesday, Dec. 2 to Thursday, Dec. 4, a pop-up cinema will hold a “special screening” of the trilogy before showing part one and two of The Hobbit over the weekend at the same time.

The pop-up cinema will be located at the north end of the Katara Esplanade. While the screenings are free, seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Zombies in Doha

Nearly two dozen of the films that will be screened at the festival fall under the “Made in Qatar” category. They are free and will be showcased over a period of two days (Dec. 4 and 5).


Included in the lineup is one of Qatar’s first zombie films, Qarar (which means “decision” in English). The short film focuses on a young married couple trying to survive a post-apocalyptic zombie epidemic – in Qatar.

Other movies that will be screened include Coucou, directed by Meriem Mesraoua, a film that captures the distorted reality of a senile mind of 80-year-old woman; and Lumiere directed by Aisha Abduljawad, an experimental film on light and shadow, open and closed spaces and urban and natural landscapes.

Over 450 young jurors will watch, analyze and pick winning films, according to DFI.

Regional premieres

In addition to Gibran’s rendition of The Prophet, Ajyal festival will showcase a number of films for the first time in the Middle East, including:

  • #chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes On a Dictatoran American/Syrian feature documentary rated 15 years and above (Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 8pm, Katara Building 12 Theatre A and Saturday, Dec. 6 at 5:45 pm, Katara Building 12, Theatre B);
  • Macondo, an Austrian drama rated 13 years and above (Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 9:15pm, Katara Building 12 Theatre B and Thursday, Dec. 4 at 8:30pm, Katara Building 12 Theatre A);
  • Sepideh, a Middle Eastern, coming of age documentary rated 15 years and above (Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 8:30pm, Katara Building 12 Theatre A and Saturday, Dec. 6 at2:45pm, Katara Building 12 Theatre B); and
  • Speed Sisters, a documentary based on the region’s first all-female motor racing team, will be making its world debut at Ajyal. Depicting the realities of a war-torn West Bank, the documentary explores how sport helps the racers escape the traumas of life under Israeli military occupation.

Speed Sisters
Speed Sisters

Speed Sisters is among the festival’s opening night line under an invitation only viewing. But those eager to watch the world premiere can catch a screening of it on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 10:30pm, Katara Building 16 Drama Theatre.

Family weekend

This year a specially made family weekend has been organized at the Katara Esplanade where families will be “awed and inspired.”

Parents and children of all ages can enjoy the Ajyal Game Center, experience how a TV network functions and star in their own films at the Ajyal Studio, DFI has confirmed.

Live performances by local and international youths are set to take place on stage, too.

The family weekend will take place on Friday, Dec. 5 from 2pm to 11pm and Saturday, Dec. 6 from 2pm to 10pm.

Cosplay competition

Ajyal has partnered with AnimeQtr to host a competition for all anime, video game, movie and marvel lovers.

To compete, fans must dress up as a character from one of the listed categories and turn up to Katara Cultural Village in their costume.

The competition will take place on Friday, Dec. 5 from 2pm to 3:30pm. The event is limited to the first 25 people to register.

To do so, email AnimeQtr@hotmail.com with your name, telephone number, age and character.

The best dressed cosplay will win a Playstation 4 console, courtesy of Fifty One East.


Tickets to attend the array of films are currently on sale at the following locations:

  • Ajyal Festival Booth, City Center Mall
    Saturday to Wedneday, 2pm to 9pm
    Thursday to Friday, 2pm to 10pm
  • Ajyal Katara Main Box Office, Katara Building 12
    Nov. 28 to 30 from 1pm to 8pm
    Dec. 1 to 5 from 1pm to 10pm
    Dec. 6 from 10am to 10pm

During the festival (Dec. 1 to 6), the box office located at Katara Building 16 opens approximately one hour prior to an event’s start time for people wanting to purchase last minute tickets.

For sold-out screenings, a Rush Sales line will be formed at the event venue approximately 45 minutes prior. Admission will begin five minutes before the event’s start time and is based on availability. Rush Sales are cash only and are limited to one ticket per person, DFI has said.

For more information about the event, check out the Ajyal Youth Film Festival film guide here.

Do you plan to attend the festival? Thoughts?


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6 years ago

I guess with zero comments after ten hours of posting, no one is looking forward to this that reads Doha News

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Ever tried to drive to and from Katara? Why would you bother with all that traffic and usual poor arrogant driving behaviour to watch a film when you can stream something in the comfort of your home whilst enjoying a cold one?

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

I thought it was just me! I’m not going anywhere near Katara until they fix the wretched roads up that end of town. Katara has gone from being a nice place to go for a meal to an absolute nightmare. It’s easier to get parked at Souq Waqif (and that’s really saying something).

I won’t be sitting in traffic for hours and hours to visit a ‘Youth Film Festival’.

If the organizers want people to attend, why not organize another DFI style festival, with movies for adults?

6 years ago

My couch.

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