Scandar Copti, Community Outreach Programmer Doha Tribeca Film Festival
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival was formed through a strategic partnership by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and CEO Abdulla Al Najjar of the Qatar Museums Authority and the Tribeca Film Festival Founders, Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff, and Robert De Niro. The arrangement was spearheaded by DTFF Executive Director Amanda Palmer. Uniquely Qatari in its identity, the festival is modelled on the success of Tribeca Film Festival’s dedication to engage the local community and promote filmmaking talent. In its inaugural year, Doha’s first international film festival will celebrate the best of Arabic and international cinema. Its ongoing aim will be to inspire, engage and educate a new generation of cinema appreciation locally; discover, mentor and fund regional filmmaking talent; foster a community through art and entertainment; and encourage open discussion and debate.
Scandar Copti biography
Copti is a Palestinian filmmaker born and raised in Jaffa, and is responsible for developing local community programmes within the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF). After leaving his profession as a mechanical engineer to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a filmmaker, his first full-length feature film ‘Ajami’ won the Camera d’Or Special Mention at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the Wolgin Award for Best Full-Length Feature Film at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2009. After studying acting and scriptwriting, Copti made ‘The Truth’, a 12-minute mockumentary produced by the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival to national and international acclaim. Since then, Copti has written, directed and edited several fiction, documentary and experimental short films. Here he discusses his involvement in the DTFF with Men’s Passion’s Simon Balsom.
SB: The DTFF is a great initiative, and your own work within the Festival, nurturing Qatar’s first filmmakers through the one-minute films series, has provided an opportunity to involve the local community.
SC: We’ve had two workshops, in these we worked for a week to write the screenplays, learned how to direct and to shoot them, to edit them, and then screened them. For the first workshop we had five Qataris, one Egyptian who was born in Qatar and one American who is working in Qatar.
SB: And how will you follow these two workshops up?
SC: We’re planning an animation workshop - one for kids and their parents, and one for adults only. We’re also planning acting workshops for those who are interested in acting in cinema, or those who want to be directors or who want to learn new techniques or improvisation.
SB: Clearly the people in Qatar are very supportive of you in this programme, and have enjoyed the results. Is there any prospect of the one minute movies reaching a wider audience?
SC: Well, they already do. They are on our website, and on our Facebook page. So, it’s true that these films were created by the Qatari community, and now they are going back to the Qatari community. To support this we’ve put together what we’ve called ‘screening kits’ - this is the movies on DVDs which we’ve left in hotels and other places across Doha. People can pick them up and take them home. These screening kits are free, and we’ve already had to re-issue sets as the take up on them has been so fast.
SB: Have you felt that censorship has restricted the movies creativity?
SC: No, I think people have felt very free to express themselves as they would choose. Anyway, we have censorship all around the world. Sometimes it is more transparent than at other times. I don’t think it has really put boundaries around people or their work - of course we all have to respect our culture, and there are some things that societies simply don’t find acceptable. This isn’t censorship. This is morality. Sometimes the challenge is to deliver a message in a less oblique way.
SB: How did the selection procedure work for those who made the movies? I hear you had a large number of applicants?
SC: We did. Our first task was to study their proposals and to get it down to five people who would move forward and take part in the workshop. But the quality of proposals was so outstanding that immediately we saw we had to find a way that we could accommodate more than five, so we made it seven, and then added another workshop.
You can check out the one minute movies at
DTFF will run from October 29 to November 1, and is being produced by Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) in collaboration with Tribeca Film Festival.
DTFF will include approximately 30 films, as well as special events. In its four days in Doha, DTFF will centre its events around the city’s renowned Museum of Islamic Arts.