DOHA, Qatar — U.S. service members experienced the first annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, Oct. 29. Qatar Museums Authority, in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival, is showcasing the most innovative Arabic and international films during a four-day celebration of community, education and culture.
“I’m beside myself right now — I love it that I came here,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Priscilla Sanchez, from Paterson, N.J. “I’ve been to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. It’s a big event and they’re not always easy to get in to.” Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 to spur economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Part of the festival’s mission statement focuses on reaching out to the international film community. On behalf of the founders, Rosenthal and Hatkoff greeted the Qatar audience to share their appreciation for the newfound partnership.
“Qatar picked the perfect setting,” said Sanchez. “The lighting around the museum is so beautiful.” The Qatar Museum of Islamic Art is a structural masterpiece designed by acclaimed architect I. M. Pei. Situated along the Gulf waters, the museum’s massive and elegant geometric shapes glistened with bright blue lights during the twilight grand opening of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
Movie makers and celebrities from around the world walked down a digital red carpet as the evening events began. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra performed 100 years of cinema classics from the museum’s spacious waterfront property, as thousands of beach chairs filled with festival supporters. Qatari actors and actresses performed short theatrical episodes based on Arabic traditions.
After video presentations explaining the inception of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and remarks by officials, a cinematic screen, 24 meters wide and 10 meters tall, advanced for an open-air screening of “Amelia,” by director Mira Nair. The movie illustrates the life of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, staring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere. Nair introduced her movie and told the audience: “In cinema, we annihilate distances in culture.”
“Qatar captured the same spirit and atmosphere as New York City,” said Sanchez, while watching fireworks launch from behind the museum after the film ended. “Everyone was watching an American movie, about our history, and they were really into it. Just like the Tribeca Film Festival back home, where we watch foreign movies with great interest.”
“That was amazing — the museum, the palm trees, the lighting,” said Private David Varnum, from Bath, Maine, who was enjoying a brief pass from Iraq by participating in the U.S. Central Command rest and recuperation pass program at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. “Everyone was laid back and having a good time. It was history in the making and it’s cool to be a part of that.”