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Alumni lauded for producing award-winning film

Work highlights vandalism, tribalism in a Qatari boys’ school

Gulf News

Manama: Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) has heaped praise on three of its alumni for producing a short film that won the “Made in Qatar” Award at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

Bader, produced by Sara Al Saadi, Maaria Assami and student Latifa Abdullah Al Darwish, highlights the complexities of vandalism, tribalism and identity in a local boys’ school that are captured and explained through the wide-eyed philosophy of a ten year old Qatari boy, Bader.

The ten minute film caught the spotlight for the portrayal of identity struggle in Qatari schools.

Shown in his traditional thobe and at times in his FC Barcelona jersey, Bader, a student, turns to poetry as a tool to help him overcome the social and disciplinary challenges he faces at his elementary school.

“We were very surprised to win the award, especially since we were competing against feature length films,” said Sara who served as president of NU-Q’s student government for two years and received the Hamad Bin Khalifa University President’s Award earlier this year. “We are delighted that people enjoyed the film, and this experience has really motivated us to continue working on more documentaries.”

NU-Q Dean and CEO Everette Dennis described the achievement as “a milestone in NU-Q’s contribution to Qatar’s creative industry.”

The three young women had decided to pursue a film about education concerns in Qatar as an independent study under the supervision of Tim Wilkerson, Assistant Professor at NU-Q. Wilkerson encouraged them to find a character that could convey these concerns rather than focusing on the traditional ‘topical’ approach to documentary production.

“The documentary is a very nice observational style piece that shows the reality of schools in Qatar facing overcrowded classrooms, overburdened teachers, and an ever-changing landscape with regard to the language of instruction,” Wilkerson said.

“What stands out in the film is the feeling that many teachers in Qatar have a difficult time keeping order in their classes and motivating students. But in the end, the connections that Bader and his friends have to their own linguistic heritage, through their folk poetry, helps to give them purpose and a focus,” he said.

“Made in Qatar” also gave special mention to Lyrics Revolt, another documentary produced by NU-Q alumni –Shannon Farhoud, Ashlene Ramadan, Melanie Fridgant and Rana Khaled Al-Khatib.

Four films produced by NU-Q students were selected for the “Made in Qatar” showcase, out of the 70 total submissions received.

“Northwestern University in Qatar is proud to see our students and alumni already making their mark on the local media scene,” Dennis said. “We believe that both NU-Q’s journalism and communication programmes will continue to produce some of Qatar’s freshest voices in storytelling.”

In addition to co-hosting the opening night of the DTFF “Made in Qatar” series, NU-Q joined hands with Doha Film Institute to support the development of Qatar’s media industry through a number of joint activities, including a community outreach initiative on DTFF Family Days that allowed families to take a hand at broadcasting news from a real broadcast set at Katara, a statement from the university said.