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Ajyal Film Festival and Youth Empowerment Research Paper

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Role of the Doha Film Institute (DFI) and the Ajyal Youth Film Festival (AYFF) in facilitating youth media and self-expression

The DFI uses its graduates and other industry professionals that are already working on film and new media forms of expression as its faculty. As a result, the institute has a rich talent pool that is adequate in providing direction and mentorship to the youth joining it.

The DFI is able to deliver an excellent curriculum to the youth by working closely with journalism schools and employing journalists with exceptional qualifications achieved around the world. Consequently, its productions, forms of expressions, and overall quality of thoughtful expressions of the youth, such as those showcased at Ajyal Youth Film Festival, meet world standards in audience engagement and communication.

In addition, they meet the need to raise interest about Qatar, its opportunities, and the plight of young people, as it reaches to young people and other citizens of the world. The DFI organizes the Ajyal Film Festival to present the film products of its most talented young actors and producers to the government and the business community, as well as the rest of the world (Ajyal Youth Film Festival par. 3-4).

Support for the DFI and the AYFF come from several quarters that, apart from bankrolling its operations, also increase the relevancy and sustainability of the institute and the festival program. Supporters include government entities, multinational and regional entities, and educational organizations (Gulf Times par. 1-2).

The response by the business community and stakeholders is a testament of the good work that the DFI is doing to meet its mandate and the room for growth, as expressed by the stakeholders. The value of solidarity nurtured by the AYFF adds to the reputation of Doha as a cultural hub. Moreover, the youth will have many opportunities for career growth upon this realization.

The DFI also relies on public-private partnerships to be able to create and run programs that require and must work with government entities, but at the same time thrive under the assistance and supervision of the private sector. The AYFF gains world-renowned prestige and meets its community outreach goals using the support of private organizations and brand sponsors (Gulf Times par. 3).

With the AYFF, young people are not just being participants with their work, but they are also participating in the judgment to decide the winners (Doha Film Institute par. 2).

The youth involved and interacting with the programs of DFI develop attitudes and behaviors pertaining to entertainment in a social constructive way (Ritman par. 5). The non-Arabs in the Middle East find an opportunity to interact and learn to appreciate the localized content.

This goes against their behavior of seeking external entertainment options. They become consumers as they acclimatize to the region’s films and other entertainment opportunities. The transformation, therefore, adds to the development of the film industry in the country, because young film producers have to react and fulfill the needs of the emerging market.

The films trigger the minds of the youth, such that they develop new ideas and increase debate about the films and the ideas presented in the films. As they do so, they become more expressive in their communication from a young age. Films selected about young people also provide examples of how best to interact with the world when facing hardships or when looking at opportunities.

The films teach the value of cooperation, friendliness, and collaboration with other people in society. They help the youth to understand the meaning and importance of institutions that govern their lives. Therefore, the selected films are reliable forms of education, in addition to their entertainment value for the youth. In the case of the mature youth, life choices are some of the important things they have to live with, as they move out or prepare to move out of their parents’ homes.

Their opinions also have value to the rest of the society. Therefore, the film critic job as jurors allows the senior youth to engage with film as a contemporary art form. They look at the issues presented in films and transpose them to the actual issues in their world, with appropriate solutions for long-term prosperity of culture, values, economies, and cohesion.

Explain how the institute is training youth from the Middle East in film making in order to express themselves and tell their stories through this medium. The DFI regularly collaborates with other organizations to sponsor short films. It then asks young people to develop short films, according to the themes presented by the sponsor organization. Most of the themes deal with issues affecting society.

In a recent example, the Institute collaborated with Kahramaa to host a short film competition. The aim was to encourage conservation. One of the objectives of the competition was to bring out the challenge of water conservation in Qatar, given that the country is one of the world’s biggest consumers of water (Khatri par. 4).

The institute uses specific themes in the short film competition to encourage the youth to focus on issues and be specific in their approaches in ways that can elicit appropriate reaction from their audience. It also trains youth on the best way to use their available tools, instead of hoping for high-end tools that they may not have.

Thus, the trainings and the use of both professional and amateur equipment help the youth learn to be innovative using their resources, work within short time durations, and understand the brief nature of film projects. The aim of the DFI is to ensure that youths have an opportunity to take part in the nearly 1.6 trillion-dollar global media and entertainment industry. The global industry is organized in hubs.

Each hub is specialized in the production of media services and projects, and then the hubs distribute their content internationally (Youseff and Piane 2). DFI is helping in the creation of a hub in the Middle East for film production, consumption, and distribution. It is training production crew members in different capacities. It is also providing avenues to test their skills and learn in a real-world environment.

It does this by organizing a short film competition within the institution and organizing the AYFF, which then brings the rest of the world film industry to Doha for six days. The DFI opens up the Middle East hub to the world through the festival. It also allows local producers to participate, compete, copy, and learn from the best in films and related media from other hubs.

Young people learn to tell the beginnings, middle, and ends of stories. They also learn how to watch a film, interpret its ideas, and then express those ideas as part of their judgment about the film’s relevance using their preferred judging criteria (Ajyal Youth Film Festival 7). As filmmakers and jurors, youths receive opportunities and support to help them as they transition into adulthood.

The mission statement of the Ajyal Youth Film Festival is to empower youth through highlighting and creating discussion of films. How they do it?

The AYFF engages youth from all over the world. The festival is a representative of generations. It brings together families, cities, and individuals; therefore, it serves as a cultural exchange avenue.

It also allows youth from Qatar to learn about other eras, government systems, business opportunities, and regions. It enables them to highlight their work, to seek collaborative opportunities, and to ask for assistance based on what they are doing and what they want to do by serving as a central point for cooperation of government entities, private companies and professionals, and other film industry stakeholders in the world.

Therefore, the AYFF empowers youth by exposing them to the rest of the world. It also provides youth with training and working experience in the film industry by allowing them to participate in the competition and its judgment (Taylor 285). The youth also participate in interaction with others to expose themselves and their talents.

The festival also empowers youth by providing them with information about events, the industry, risks, rewards, and the challenges that they face and the best ways to resolve them. The festival is an opportunity for the youth to sell their products to the world. It serves as a market for the youth to find buyers of their works.

The buyers include the media stations interested in showing their work to their audiences. They also include government entities that want to sponsor the youth as part of their various programs of development, health, and community awareness, among others. They also include the businesses that want to use the film related content produced by the youth in their public relations services (Doha Film Institute par. 6).

The festival acts as an empowerment forum by allowing youths to act as jurors and to select the winning filmmaker. It allows the youth decide the most engaging and relevant content that is important to them in proactive terms. The empowerment instills a sense of accomplishment for the young people.

It also serves as a basis for them to make better decisions about their professional careers and their interactions with the rest of the film industry. It is also a foundation for increasing the consumption of film content in the nation (Gulf Times 4).

How the youth are being engaged and educated outside the classroom?

The AYFF is a festival for young peoples’ films. It offers six days of family friendly cinema from the world. It places various films in different cinemas in the same region to run throughout the duration of the festival. There have been two festivals organized annually since the inception of the program by the Doha Film Institute.

The festival presents the best films from around the world and offers them with other activities to attract as many people as possible, for cultural exchange reasons. The youth are involved in voting for the best films, which are awarded accordingly. The juries consist of young people between the ages of 8 and 21.

The young people interact with filmmakers from around the world. They have the opportunity to see how filmmakers go about doing their job and how they interact publicly. From this observation, young people are able to make an accurate view of the career that they are trying to develop.

In addition, speaking to filmmakers and listening to their presentation allow the young people to learn how ideas are created and nurtured to become films. They also learn about the different roles that professionals play in film making to ensure that it is a success. They learn how they can raise funds, the potential ways to increase publicity, and other market related information to influence their profession as film experts.

Engagement of the youth in the AYFF takes different forms, where the juries are the main form of engagement. The juries follow three age groups. There is the Mohaq for young persons aged 8 to 12 years. The young people put in the Mohaq jury category have a task to watch two short films and two full feature length films.

The other jury is called Hilal, which is for young people from the age of 13 to the age of 17. Here, young people watch four feature films. In addition, they watch two programs of shorts. Lastly, the Bader is the jury for the most senior youth in the 8 to 21 years bracket. Bader jurors watch four feature films and two programs of shorts, and then make their selection, just like jurors from Mohaq and Hilal do, at the end of the festival (Ajyal Youth Film Festival 7).

Another work of the juries is to select five Best Filmmaker awards, with the slots divided according to the watching tasks allocated to each jury. The major award is a funding for the next film for the winner.

Within Ajyal, a number of films selected come from Qatar. They are mainly independent titles and short films created from the DFI short challenges for its students. The festival capitalizes on the critical minds of young people, yet to be formed into thinking in a certain way.

The free-minded young people provide endless opportunities for filmmakers to shine on different themes. At the same time, the films challenge young people to explore their ability to make better-informed decisions and to influence the results of the festival.

The Sandbox is an event that is part of the festival, which is organized to take place as the juries work on the films. This is an interactive program where young people have hands-on access to the latest digital gadgets and widgets. They learn about the tools used in film, gaming, and other fun activities.

They also see the gadgets and tools in action and have an opportunity to learn more by asking their instructors questions, or reading more from the available pamphlets in the Sandbox. This is a place that was created to engage the youth in imagination, creativity, and innovation. The young people receive encouragement to use their minds and the gadgets (Ajyal Youth Film Festival par. 7).

Another additional event is the “Cosplay” competition, which allows the participants to dress up as characters in animation movies and show up at a cultural village within the festival (Windrum par. 2).

How the youth are in an environment that maintains an atmosphere of caring, hope and encouragement?

The youth are encouraged to embrace diversity so that they do not link it with the loss of collective responsibility, but as a form of reconciliation. Young people appreciate the diversity of views held by other participants and expressed by the films by participating in juries.

At the end of the festivals, they come out knowing that people and cultural diversity will always exist. At the same time, they learn that there are opportunities to use soft power to talk against extremism, to advance tolerance, to stand for justice, and to advocate for unity and justice as universally accepted values for bringing people together (Aftab par. 2-5).

As young people meet and debate on the main themes presented in the films, they are forced to build relationships, in spite of their cultural and ideological diversity. The youth, who represent different regions and backgrounds, gain from the collection of the young people and increase the pool of resources as individuals coming with their reasoning and ideas.

Thus, they are in a position that is useful for encouraging others to express themselves. At the same time, individuals get the support they need to realize their expressive potential, as they see hope in others in the event and in the films highlighted (Aftab par. 5). They also learn the value of care and experience it as part of the emotions presented by the films, the organizers, and the participants of the festival (ME Business Wire par. 1).

How the youth are using the skills they learned at the institute or the films they showcase at the youth film festival to represent themselves and express themselves?

The youth learn to watch critically, to crosscheck or error check, and to seek for additional meanings out of the scenes present in films. Later, they use the same knowledge when coming up with their short films, because they know these are some of the factors used by judges to pick winning films.

Films work like literature, where young people use the short films they create to communicate in a world that is dominated by images and other multimedia content. They learn to use images in a flowing manner, so that their communication is fluent, just like they would do with written content.

They tell their stories, speak about their struggles, ask questions about the world around them, and rally other people to join their cause, simply by coming up with films that move people. Young people go on to think about films after they have seen them and they start acting according to the main messages in the films. For example, the films show them that they can be friends when it really counts.

Therefore, the young people end up having exceptional friendship building skills that they use in the schools and neighborhoods to interact with other people. Other skills that young people learn are the abilities to tell their stories without having to write books. Young people learn tolerant and non-violent ways to solve their challenges.

They are exposed to films that do not use violence scenes, criminal activities, or car chases. Moreover, the young people are so caught up with the films just as adults would with other contemporary films. However, for young people, this is also a learning experience, where they learn to come up with solutions, approach the right people for help, and go out of their way to help others fight against oppression.

Above all, young people learn about self-reliance. They have to use their abilities when making judgments about winning films. The young people also have to come up with ingenious ways of using their gadgets to make films and use whatever resource is available for the short films.

The Creation and History of the Institute and the Ajyal Youth Film Festival

The DFI makes good use of the partnerships with educational institutions in Qatar to come up with ideas and resources for encouraging the consumption of local content and interaction with the local culture as a way of preserving it. This provides a soft form of regulating the society’s exposure to violent or romantic content from the rest of the world (Northwestern University par. 3).

The Doha Film Institute created the AYFF as part of the Katara DFI Cinema program. The aim of the festival is to engage the local community and to support Qatar (Saudi Gazette par. 4-5). The festival is the culmination of a series of film screenings carried out throughout the year in Qatar.

The festival and other activities of DFI are meant to increase community engagement and to allow youth and families to appreciate fun and educational environment of the film industry. The program provides free and paid screenings to youth from various backgrounds. It also selects young people to serve in various capacities in the organization of the AYFF (Rothe par. 7).

The founding motive is to instill cinema among young people. As expected, the inspiration should then allow young people to explore, discuss, and create their own dialogue using the storytelling capabilities that they learn from the films they watch via the program (Saudi Gazette par. 4). Young people are able to learn from the best works in cinema and receive inspiration from the most talented producers and actors (Ajyal Youth Film Festival par. 5).

DFI works independently as a not-for profit organization. It launched its public operations in 2010 and expanded its programs to include the AYFF after being operational for three years. The first AYFF was held in 2013, while the second one was held in 2014 (ME Business Wire par. 3). The festival is arranged as an annual activity. It is, therefore, expected to come back in 2015 and the subsequent years.

The festival, together with the short film competitions and the sponsorship programs at DFI, supports the growth of the community by increasing the industry’s knowledge and cultivating film appreciation. The DFI serves as the main instrument for creating and sustaining the Qatar film hub, in line with the development of film industry around the world as hubs.

The institute organizes the Qumra Doha Film Festival, in addition to the Ajyal Youth Film Festival. The festivals are annual reports of what the institute does throughout the operational year. They increase the exposure of the institute to its stakeholders, including government entities and business organizations working in the Middle East.

How the youths are tackling challenges in their communities?

It is helpful to understand the context of film interaction in Qatar to appreciate the AYFF, and then learn the various means in which the youth use to tackle challenges in their communities, as shown in the festival. People living in Qatar enjoy television and film. They also enjoy passing time on the Internet. Seventy (70) percent of the people in Qatar watch films that are in the English language. Out of this number, Qatari nationals make up 46 percent (North Western University in Qatar par. 6).

At the same time, other countries have vibrant local film industries, partly because they are large consumers and producers of films. As one of the entertainment capitals of the world, the United States is a major producer of entertainment content consumed by the Qataris.

However, most nationals in Qatar also rely on the Mashreq – Levant countries like Egypt, Kuwait, and Yemen for their film, music, and television content. Qatar only consumes 18 percent of its films, in comparison to a developed country like the United States. The United States consumes 55 percent of its films. Therefore, there is a challenge to ensure that Qatar also enjoys a similar ratio as the US in film production and consumption (North Western University in Qatar par. 6-8).

After getting the context of film consumption and product, the following discussion now explains that actual ways that youth are using to meet their objectives and avoid challenges (Rothe par. 4). The characters presented in the AYFF films are young and match the interests and experiences of the main audience at the festival.

For example, the main characters in the movies are youth who highlight and reflect stories representing their communities. The characters present the youth’s perspective, which is essential in allowing young people to realize their right of artistic expression. Some stories depict dark corners of childhood that cannot be expressed in other mediums, in the same way they are done in films.

Therefore, the youth are able to tell their troubles more effectively when they act them in film stories (Windrum par. 6). The festival provides a solid lineup of films with social themes. In the films, families are well represented, with many stories highlighting young people’s lives with other people serving as supporting acts to build the story.

The 2014 film lineup included titles like “The Boy and The World”, which is using animation, instead of real life pictures, apart from following the life of a boy (Vivarelli par. 3). Such films allow young people to use personification, metaphors, and imagery to go beyond the limits of written expression and to evoke additional emotions from their audiences.

They can use the extra options to increase the relevancy of a theme in a situation that would not permit it. Characters can artificially become large or small to represent non-tangible qualities of humans and communities in a way that the audience can perceive, without suffering the challenges of language barrier (Youseff and Piane 8).

Discuss the concept of bridging east and west through film

The film festival has been a tool for bringing back the heritage of Qatar. The Qatar culture is at risk of erosion and disappearance. The main reason for this risk is the minority nature of Qataris in their country. One of the ways to preserve natural culture is to ensure that it can exist sustainably among other world cultures.

Therefore, part of the work at DFI is to empower the youth, as the next generation of cultural ambassadors, to know their culture and find new ways of expressing it to the world. In the end, they are able to remain committed to their heritage, even when they are interacting with other influential cultures from around the world. With a heritage basis, the young people can represent their issues well as Qataris and find their place in the globalized world.

The AYFF, therefore, serves as a way of integrating the Qatari culture with the modern world, especially in the country where expatriates consist of a majority of the population. The youth film festival has attracted people from all over the world and has garnered international attention. The films serve as a way of fostering tolerance.

The festival also supports the outcome by feeding the interest of young people in understanding other countries’ experiences in film production, distribution, and film education. The Qatar film industry and the DFI also use the festival to seek inspiration from outside the country, to strengthen the national film industry, and to increase its diversity as it also promotes the country’s heritage.

Having many activities for young people in the festival allows the youth to be participants and influencers of the understanding between the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, or the Asian countries and the Western countries. The festival creates an appropriate room for discussion, debate, and peaceful coexistence of people from various nations in Qatar through the participation of films and people from different backgrounds (Doha Film Institute par. 4-7).


The youth have a variety of ways of expressing themselves using films, but a majority of them have no opportunities to do so. The work of the DFI in promoting film industry, supporting the work of the young people, and preserving the Qatar cultural heritage amid the influences of the Western cultures is commendable. The institute has successfully run the AYFF and it is going on with its other programs with similar success.

The DFI efforts are helping the youth to transition into adulthood as responsible, self-reliant citizens. Above all, they are tolerant and appreciative of their individuality and their diversity. The challenge for DFI and mostly the Ajyal Film Festival is to increase its publicity across the world, to make it a world-renowned annual event, and to attract not only films, but also youth participants from all over the world.

Works Cited

Aftab, Kaleem. “The National, 2014. Web.

Ajyal Youth Film Festival. . 2014. Web.

Doha Film Institute. “A Warm Welcome to the Second Edition of Ajyal Youth Film Festival.” Doha Film Institute, 2014. Web.

Gulf Times. “Gulf Times. 2014. Web.

Khatri, Shabina S. “Saving the Earth Subject of New Short Filmmaking Challenge from DFI.” Doha News, 2014. Web.

ME Business Wire. “‘Qatar is Booming, 2013. Web.

North Western University in Qatar. Entertainment Media Use in Qatar, Doha: Doha Film Institute, 2014. Print.

Northwestern University. “Northwestern Will.” Progress Report Strategic Plan. 2014. Print.

Ritman, Alex. “The Hollywood Reporter, 2014. Web.

Rothe, Nina. “‘Huffington Post Entertainment, 2014. Web.

Saudi Gazette. “Doha Film Institute Lauches The Ajyal Youth Film Series in 2014.” Saudi Gazette, 2014. Web.

Taylor, Jodie. “Queerious Youth: An Empirical Study of a Queer Youth Cultural Festival and Its Participants.” Journal of Sociology 50.3 (2014): 283-298. Print.

Vivarelli, Nick. “” 2014. Web.

Windrum, Elysia. “Six Things to Look Forward to at Qatar’s Ajyal Film Fest.” Doha News, 29 Nov. 2014. Web.

Youseff, Jeff, and Karen Piane. Opportunities and Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa Media Production Market. Doha, Qatar: Oliver Wyman, Commissioned by Dubai Film and TV Commision, 2013. Print.

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