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Doha Film Institute’s Documentary Filmmaking Workshop Captures the Rich History of Pearl Fishing in Qatar

May 29, 2010 — Education

The newly launched Doha Film Institute (DFI) will train four aspiring filmmakers to capture the history of Qatar, by filming the inaugural Pearl Diving Competition, which will be held this week in Doha from June 1-4.

The Doha Film Institute, which was officially launched in the Cannes Film Festival and was founded by Sheikha Mayassa Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa, is Qatar’s first year-round international cultural film organisation dedicated to film appreciation, education, financing, production and to building a long term sustainable film industry in Qatar. It is the umbrella organization that oversees the Doha Tribeca Film Festival which is being held between October 26-30 this year.

With culture, education and the community at its foundation, DFI will support the Doha Marine Festival’s Pearl Diving competition and called upon aspiring Qatari filmmakers to capture this historic event. “This workshop has been designed to achieve a dual purpose of teaching the skill of documentary filmmaking, as well as encouraging young people to participate in telling genuine stories about the region and their history,” said DFI’s Executive Director Amanda Palmer.

The students, Mohamed Al-Ibrahim, Ali Al-Ansari, Umer Shabib, and Salman Al-Muhannadi, will learn from the best in the industry – the workshop will be conducted by Al Jazeera’s own veteran documentary filmmaker Omar Khalifa. Khalifa, director of the documentary-style miniseries Shades of Doha, will give students an intensive course, covering the full spectrum of documentary film, from the basics of researching the story and location, to crafting the narrative of the work.

“The birth of the Doha Film Institute is an astounding achievement for Qatar, and its education initiative is the first phase of realising that achievement. Opening a door for young, creative aspiring filmmakers will feed their talent and help to bring their ideas to life. To have an institution that promotes film and film development in Doha is tremendous, but to have one that invests heavily in nurturing young talent is a triumph that will fire up Qatar’s film industry to internationally acclaimed levels,” stated Khalifa.

As part of the process of developing a script, the students will talk to a pearl expert, who will teach them about pearls as a precious jewellery item and the history of Qatar in terms of the pearl trade – which is part and parcel of the Qatari heritage and culture. They will also learn about the diving process, one of the Gulf’s oldest trades, and focus on the divers, their lives and technique.

“My family has a background in fishing and pearl diving but I didn’t know much about it. Being a part of this documentary team is going to make them really proud,” said Salman Al-Muhannadi.

The first-hand experience will also teach students the physical demands of filmmaking, where the students and DFI team will camp on Al Saflia Island during the three filming days of June 1 to 3. The final editing will start on June 5 and the students will present their documentaries soon thereafter.

DFI’s Educational programmes offer an array of filmmaking year-round workshops which aim to empower and inspire a new generation of Qatari filmmakers. To participate in DFI’s upcoming workshops, email

About the Doha Film Institute
The Doha Film Institute is Qatar’s first international organisation dedicated to film appreciation and education with the ultimate goal of making Qatar a cultural centre with a sustainable film industry. As a year-round organisation, DFI supports various cultural, educational and funding activities including film production and financing, cultural partnerships and education programming. DFI’s leadership includes Founder and Board Chair H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Vice Chair H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Fahad Al-Thani, Vice Chair H.E. Dr. Hassan Al-Nimah, and Executive Director Amanda Palmer.