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Filmmaking Lab

Filmmaking Lab with Rithy Panh (2024-2025)

Start date:
Sep 01, 2024
Ability Level:
Intermediate to Advanced

Making a film is much more than simply capturing what surrounds us. It can be a way of understanding the world, a tool to make it a better place, and an art form where you can find and express your own voice.

Throughout this year-long programme, filmmakers will gain first-hand experience working alongside Oscar-nominated documentarian Rithy Panh to advance their projects. The world-renowned storyteller will guide participants in his method of narration, working with memory, culture, and identity to gain an in-depth understanding of personal traditions, celebrations, community, and oral histories. His teaching techniques build on the foundations of cultural memory to capture ephemeral moments through film. Participants will be encouraged to deepen their own narratives that explore the idea of identity and origins by truly living, working, and breathing with their subjects.

This lab runs from 1 September 2024 to September 2025 with in-person and online sessions and is designed for emerging filmmakers working on their next short or first feature film. Those with documentary, fiction, and hybrid projects at the development, production, or early editing* stages may apply.

Programme Introduction by Rithy Panh

“The essential is always threatened by the insignificant”, wrote the poet René Char. In this new era of globalisation, his sentiment now seems to resonate with even more depth. The endless flow of information made possible by digital media brings with it countless benefits, but also contains many irrelevant distractions. Society is changing rapidly; views are changing, and economic development is accelerating. For centuries, since the drawings of the cave of Lescot, humanity has experienced art in two dimensions. Now mankind is entering the epoch of virtual reality, but what do we do with this new and powerful technology? How can we integrate this medium into our art without losing our roots and identity? It is on this reflection that the workshop will be built so that each participant not only discovers the relevant digital techniques, but also learns how to question their narrative in order to stay true to their content.

The secret to authenticity lies in the approach of the filmmaker, in that they do not seek to make films about people, but with them. This means living with them, doing things with them, listening to them, giving them a voice. Only by working with the protagonists will their films bear true witness to the subject and the changing nature of today. The workshop will develop within participants this ability to look outward from the inside and pay close attention to language. Every culture has its own grace. We must capture these moments now, and perhaps later, when this kind of process has become ingrained, we can build the foundations of a cultural memory. This memory will be especially vivid and meaningful, as it is told by men and women – faithful witnesses of a time. Every community needs to know their roots to help them invent their future together, and this workshop will raise appreciation of the diversity of cultures within each community.

Schedule and Course Format

Application Deadline: 14 July 2024

Participation Fee (per project): 2,800 QAR

Language: English

Group Size: Up to 10 participants

Programme Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Dates: September 2024 – September 2025 (including in-person and online sessions)

Session Calendar:

  • In-Person Session 1: 1-12 September 2024

    Note: This is the last in-person session for the previous participant cohort, and the first session for the new group. Projects from the previous group will share their experience and work toward finalizing their projects. For new lab projects, this session will focus on research or development, deepening the project proposals and creating a roadmap for progress.

  • Online Sessions: 15 September – 15 December 2024
  • In-Person Session 2: mid-January 2025
  • Online Sessions: Mid-January – Mid March
  • In-Person Session 3: April 2025
  • Online Sessions: April – October 2025
  • In-Person Session 4: September 2025

    This last session will include the newly admitted project participants from the 2025-2026 cycle. Participants who wish to continue with the next cycle should re-apply. Participants who have finished their films or have not re-applied present their current material and final updates.

In-Person Session Format:

During these intensive sessions, participants are immersed in the process of creative filmmaking under the close guidance of master filmmaker Rithy Panh. Participating filmmakers attend group sessions and one-on-one meetings at the DFI production villa 6 days per week, engaging in constant dialogue with Rithy and fellow lab participants, with the support of the DFI training and production teams. Participants also have access to DFI equipment and production facilities throughout the lab.

Each in-person session lasts approximately 10 days. In-person session components may include:

  • Theoretical discussion and tutorials
    • Looking inside yourself: what do you want to talk about?
    • Looking outside yourself: discovering reality
    • Ethics in filmmaking
    • Overview of the creative process, from idea to the final product
    • The relationship between you and reality during the process
    • The relationship between your goal as a filmmaker and the expected final product
  • Developing a visual and narrative style
    • Analyzing and viewing films as reference
  • Development participants’ project proposals
  • Writing a treatment
  • Practical training and technical exercises
  • How to scout for locations and subjects
  • Shot lists and shooting plans
  • Watching and reviewing rushes
  • Developing a finance plan and budget
  • Shooting and analysis of rushes
  • Editing and post-production

Online Session Format:

Participants typically have weekly online one-on-one meetings with Rithy Panh during the online sessions. The frequency of these meetings varies according to the pace of development and stage of each project.

During the online mentorship periods, participating filmmakers work independently on their films, advancing with developing their ideas, pre-production, shooting, editing, or post-production (colour grading or sound design) depending on their project’s needs. Throughout this work, Participants stay in touch with Rithy and the DFI Training team to submit updates such as location scouting photos, shoot schedule, links to new footage or cuts, etc. and receive guidance on the next steps. Participants in Doha may request to book DFI equipment and facilities as needed.


  • Applicants must have made at least one previous short film.
  • Independent filmmakers or project teams consisting of director, producer, and/or editor are welcome to apply.
  • Filmmakers must apply with a short film in development or production, or a first feature film project in development, production, or early editing. Eligible genres: documentary, fiction, hybrid.
  • Applicants from Qatar and the MENA region including the diaspora, as well as DFI grantees (from any region), are prioritized for participation.
  • Qatar residents are encouraged to apply.
  • Applicants from emerging countries and regions are also encouraged to apply.

Submission Requirements

Please email the attachments below to

  1. Application document (as one file in PDF format) which includes:
    • Basic project information:
      • Title
      • Genre
      • Estimated duration
      • Countries of production
      • Project stage (development / production / editing)
    • Project synopsis
    • Film proposal/treatment
    • Short biography of each team member + email and phone contacts for each
    • A brief letter of intention (maximum one page):
      • Explaining motivation for applying to the lab
      • Mentioning country of residence and filming location(s) (if different)
    • Link(s) to director’s previous work and/or artistic portfolio
    • Visual references, location images, cast or film subject profiles, or other supplementary material (as available / applicable)
    • Financing or budget information (if available)
    • Production calendar (if available)
    • For feature films at the early editing stage: link to selected clips or sequences.
  2. Passport or Qatar ID copy of each main project team member (director, producer, editor)

Selection of Candidates

Candidates whose work shows promise will be shortlisted. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview with the Institute and the lead lab mentor. Due to limited capacity, submission of materials does not guarantee admission into the programme. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance status as soon as possible after the submission deadline passes and all materials have been reviewed by the selection committee.


The importance of participation in this class cannot be overstated. Students should be prepared for every class and should always have their materials with them for presentation, discussion, and in-class workshops, and should be prepared to contribute ideas or ask questions in every session. They should demonstrate the self-discipline, commitment and respect toward others that is necessary for successful creative explorations and film production within a team. They should show initiative, take responsibility for their own work, and be able to solve problems when plans do not turn out as expected.

Meet the Mentor

Rithy Panh
Lead Mentor, Filmmaker

Rithy Panh is a filmmaker, writer and producer born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His work focuses primarily on the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge régime in his homeland. He has directed numerous internationally acclaimed films, including ‘The Rice People’, which was selected for the Official Competition of the Festival de Cannes in 1994, and ‘The Missing Picture’, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Grand Prix in the Un Certain Regard section at the Festival de Cannes. He then directed ‘France is our Mother Country’ (2014), ‘Exile’ (Cannes Film Festival 2016), ‘Graves Without a Name’ (Venice, Telluride, and Toronto Film Festivals 2018) and ‘Irradiated’ (official competition), which won the Documentary Award at Berlinale 2020. Rithy Panh recently won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for his stop-motion animation ‘Everything Will Be OK’ at Berlinale 2022. He is also a principal founder of the Cambodian Film Commission, an industry development organisation that includes the CFC Film Lab, a professional film training programme for Cambodians.

In collaboration with: Bophana Center, Cambodia.