Film festival awards high schoolers for documentaries on disability, discrimination and disaster recovery

Northwestern and THIMUN Qatar encourage young people to use film as a tool for change through annual film festival

Doha, QatarApril 4, 2012 – Young filmmakers from China, Qatar and Hungary have been awarded at the first annual THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival this weekend. Their winning documentaries covered issues including disaster recovery in Japan following a tsunami, discrimination against people with disabilities, and the plight of migrant workers in the Middle East and China.

The three-day festival, sponsored by Northwestern University in Qatar and Qatar Academy’s Model UN program (THIMUN Qatar), was created to encourage high school students to use film as a tool to advocate for change in the world.  In its first international edition, the festival convened students from eight countries around the world to attend workshops, meet their peers and have their works critically assessed at the festival’s Oscar-style gala awards ceremony on March 31.

 “What makes film a powerful tool is that it does not simply communicate information; it uses a combination of language and cinematography to transmit emotion,” said Setareh Gerashi, Qatar Academy student and THIMUN Film Institute Coordinator.

The THIMUN (Model United Nations in The Hague) Foundation aims to help young people seek solutions to the world’s most outstanding problems through discussion, negotiation and debate.  The THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival brings these important contemporary issues to the screen.

“Film can connect viewers to a problem and thereby establish an effective sympathetic understanding with the audience, one that motivates action,” added Gerashi at the awards gala on Saturday evening, where judges revealed the winners for Best Poster, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Story, and Best Picture.

 The 10,000QR award for Best Picture went to Tyler Payne of the International School of Beijing for his documentary, “Chai,” on Chinese government land seizures.

Students from Qatar Malek Elzahed of Doha College and Nitin Mathew of Doha Modern Indian School received awards for Best Cinematography and Best Story, respectively. These and the remaining awards in each category were accompanied by a 2,000QR prize.

The Al Jazeera National Film Award, also granted at the gala, went to Layanne Malluhi of Qatar Academy for the best film by a director living in Qatar.  Her film, “From Victims of Poverty to Victims of Abuse,” examined a series of newspaper stories documenting the abuse of domestic workers in the Middle East region.

“We were astonished by the range and quality of documentary films and other work that students submitted for this competition,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar, “NU-Q is pleased to support this first ever international film festival for high school students along with Qatar Academy.”

In addition to providing financial support, NU-Q had its faculty serve as expert judges and lead interactive filmmaking workshops for the high schoolers during the festival.  The university’s support is “part of the institution’s commitment to educating young women and men to pursue careers in media and communication,” said Dean Dennis.

The first annual THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival was held from March 29-31 and showcased 18 documentary films directed by students from Panama, Pakistan, China, Lebanon, The Netherlands, Hungary, the USA and Qatar. Nine of the 18 finalists were from Qatar.

“This project was a great way to bring local students and their families together with media organizations and other participants from around the world,” said Emily Wilson, Manager for Community Relations at NU-Q. “Filmmaking can be a great rallying point for community activity, and that’s what we saw at this ceremony.”

In addition to the topics mentioned above, students submitted films on a wide range of issues including the Arab Spring, religious tolerance, political corruption, community service programs, the problems of youth, and environmental issues. These issues are taken from the objectives of the THIMUN Foundation.

Linda Dubock, Chair of the THIMUN Foundation, said: “This film festival is an important extension of our work; it allows students to use their creative powers to connect with the public, and especially with other young people, to make them aware of these issues and inspire them to take action.”

For more information about the THIMUN Qatar Film Festival, visit www.thimunqatar.org