With deep beats echoing down the Katara Esplanade, a couple hundred 20- and 30-somethings crowded together last night, answering rapper Omar Offendum in one voice.
“If I asked you what’s Damascus like?” the Syrian American hip hop artist would sing. “It’s like a glimpse into the afterlife!” his audience would reply.
The performances – part of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival’s ”Made in Qatar” program and co-organized by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) – paid tribute to the evening’s films, which focused on reflection and revolution.
Entitled “New Hopes,” the lineup featured four locally-produced short films and the nearly-hour long documentary on hip hop in the Arabic Spring “Lyrics Revolt,” which was filmed and edited by four recent NU-Q grads.
DTFF will debut three more “Made in Qatar” showcases this week:
- “Through Their Eyes,” showing on Nov. 20 and 23, which includes 10 films about “a generation eager to express itself;”
- “Angel in June,” scheduled on Nov. 20, a standalone film of the same name; and
- “Thriller Night” on Nov. 21, featuring three Qatari-made films about madness and zombies.
As the NU-Q team traveled the Middle East, they learned how artists used music as a motivator, educator and a tool for change during the Arab Spring, explained Shannon Farhoud, one of the four filmmakers (and a former student of mine):
“We didn’t really know much about Arab hip hop but… [the artists] taught us a lot and they let us into their world. They really showed us the meaning of Arab hip hop and the role they played in the Arab revolutions.”
Lyrics Revolt took a deeper look at the Arab music scene, a year and a half after Farhoud and then third-year journalism students Ashlene Ramadan and Rana Khaled Al Khatib premiered the documentary “Broken Records – The Rise of Arab Hip-Hop” at Qatar Foundation’s Student Center with performances by some of the performers from the film, including Offendum.
Broken Records went on to win “Most Promising Film” at last year’s Al Jazeera Documentary Film Festival.
The other four films screened last night were “His Name,” “Hystoria,” “January 28,” and “Transient.”
In the four-minute film “His Name”, first-time director Hend Fakhroo focuses on her relationship with the man who cleans her street. As she explains, she’s waved to him for years, even had a conversation with him once, but never learned his name.
“Hystoria”, directed by Youssef Jabre, is a film inspired by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and centers on a man who is trying dearly to concentrate on his book. But a fly buzzing around him continues to be a nuisance, and muted images of violence from the Arab Spring play across his TV.
The film “January 28” takes on the Egyptian revolution much more directly. The filmmaker, Sherif Milad Youssef, dedicated the film to those who died fighting for the ousting of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The six-minute film is oriented around a delivery boy arrested by Egyptian police for protesting, and asked to explain what he was doing in Tahrir Square.
“Transient” was the fourth locally-produced film in the showcase, and the only one by non-Arab directors. Filipino filmmakers Robert Arlou DeGuzman and Kennedy Somera said they hoped it would show that experiences in Doha are not that different wherever you come from. Opening with the Adhan and a prayer, “Transient” meshes dream-like scenery with narration and a forlorn expat reflecting on home and how time begins to lose meaning separated from your family and friends.
Were you at the show? What did you think of the films and the concert?
Credit: Photo of Omar Offendum by Omar Chatriwala, still from “His Name” courtesy of Doha Film Institute.