The opening day of the inaugural Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) may have lacked in Hollywood star power and skipped the celeb-pack routine, but it more than made up for it by bringing acclaimed directors into its fold.
Qatar's first foray into the festival circuit was unique in the sense it brought the classes and the masses together. For instance, Hollywood A-lister Hilary Swank — the star of the opening film Amelia by Indian director Mira Nair — was missing in action.
But her absence was negated by the effusive Nair who was constantly championing the cause of powerful storytelling. "If you don't tell your own stories, nobody else will," was her credo.
Class meets mass
The outdoor public screening of Amelia was a class-meets-mass affair with more than 4,000 film lovers turning up at the Museum Of Islamic Arts ground to watch the film under the stars.
Another star that was missing in action was one of the principal artistic architects of the Tribeca Film Festival: Robert De Niro. He did not jet into Doha for the opening night but he is expected to arrive today for the closing gala. But this void was filled with his close confidante and colleague Martin Scorsese lending his support to the cinema fest.
The legendary American filmmaker Scorsese (or Marty as he is lovingly called) and an ardent activist for film preservation was delighted about the iconic Egyptian classic The Mummy — the 1969 epic that was restored to its original glory — making an on-screen comeback.
Sir Ben Kingsley and his wife Daniela Lavender presented a united front and predicted that DTFF would be a catalyst in nurturing cinematic talent in the Middle Eastern region. Bollywood was bolstered onto the world stage with art house regulars Abhay Deol and Tannishtha Chatterjee treading the digitalised red carpet.
"I have travelled quite a lot with Road, Movie. The reactions were tremendous. I hope the stop at Doha is equally rewarding," says Deol.
Arabic stars including Egyptian singer Youssra, Turkish heartthrob Kivan Tatltug, Khalid Abol Naga and Mona Wasif dialled up the glamour quotient. If the first two days are any indication, the true stars of the festival are the films that are being showcased at DTFF.
Art house actress Tannishtha Chatterjee revels in being part of no-frills films. But to walk on the red carpet wearing the same outfit twice is taking her distaste for glamorous dos a bit too far. Not so long ago, Chatterjee was seen wearing the same violet halter dress at the recently-concluded Middle East International Film Festival. She was once again spotted at the opening night wearing the same outfit.
Hartnett gets Environmentalist award
The film festival was not the only place of action. At the palatial Grand Hyatt, Hollywood heartthrob Josh Hartnett and Sir Ben Kingsley were honoured for their pioneering work in their own fields at the Doha 21st Century Leaders Awards on Friday. While Sir Ben was awarded the Outstanding Humanitarian Award for his stellar portrayal of humanitarian role models such as Mahatma Gandhi and Itzhak Stern (Schindler's List), actor Hartnett was honoured with Outstanding Environmentalist award for his pioneering work in the field of climate change. "This 21st Century Leader Award represents what I can do in the future. I have 90 years and 2 months to make a difference and I hope I can bring about environmental education in that time," says Hartnett.Sir Ben was equally thrilled at receiving the award. He thanked Richard Attenborough and Steven Spielberg for changing the cinematic landscape."Had it not been for Richard Attenborough, two thirds of this world wouldn't have known Mahatma Gandhi or perhaps wouldn't have known where India is. These roles have won me this award tonight," says Kingsley.Though Danny Boyle and Christian Colson were not present in person to collect their Outstanding Humanitarian award, a televised thank-you speech was relayed to Doha's well-heeled set.