The Short Film Lab, sponsored under the Community Grants Program of the US Embassy, Doha Mission, is now entering its second phase: the production of 14 short films.
The participants, aged 15 to 21, are young women from across Qatar who have spent the first phase refining their film ideas. They were chosen from 63 applicants and after a lengthy selection process that included a face-to-face interview in which each participant pitched their story idea in three minutes.
The Short Film Lab includes a two-part training and mentorship program to support the artistic and professional development of its young, civic-minded female content creators who are residents and citizens of Qatar.
Through a series of connected screenwriting and filmmaking workshops, the lab fostered the individual and community development of aspiring content creators in topical areas important to community building and global engagement. .
As a group, the films represent the central concerns of this age group, including explorations of mental health issues, parental neglect, toxic environments and bullying.
Phase two will see everyone move from writing scripts to shooting their original concepts. This includes a training session on lights, camera and sound equipment. Participants create their scripts with the help of friends, family and each other. A member of the laboratory even acts in his project.
Writing, directing and editing their own films are part of the soft skills development and cultural transfer objectives of this programme. Run by long-time community member and resident of Qatar, herself a novelist and filmmaker, Dr Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, describes the lab as “a chance for young women to learn the skills of digital storytelling”.
Supported by experienced NGO worker Samantha McCourt and Ukrainian-American documentary filmmaker Christina Paschyn, it is an all-female-led project that shows young women the possibilities for self-expression and cultural commitment. They are joined by eight female film mentors spread across the Mena region. These include a mix of documentary and storytellers, including Mariam al-Dubhani, Nouf al-Sulaiti, Muna Nur, Aleesandr El Chanti, Waad Shafi, Suzannah Mirghani, Dana Atrach and Fateema al-Hamaydeh Miller.
The inclusion of these mentors further underscores the transfer of knowledge about story-making and artistic expression that is the goal of the Short Film Lab.
A public screening is scheduled for May. Some films will be submitted to international film festivals in the Mena region and beyond.