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Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani: Life behind the lens:




An appreciation of subculture has continually been a convincing detail of Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani’s outlook. “I cherished looking films developing up,” he tells Esquire. “Visiting museums, historical past sites, studying approximately history, and, of route, going to the cinema.” We meet at M7, Qatar’s new innovative hub; a becoming region to image one of the u . s . a .’s […] An appreciation of subculture has continually been a convincing detail of Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani’s outlook. “I cherished looking films developing up,” he tells Esquire. “Visiting museums, historical past sites, studying approximately history, and, of route, going to the cinema.” We meet at M7, Qatar’s new innovative hub; a becoming region to image one of the u . s . a .’s maximum promising younger filmmakers. Arriving beforehand of time, he greets the Esquire group with a voice this is quiet and measured and listens carefully as main photographer Greg Adamski discusses every shot. For a person used to being in the back of the lens, that is a brand new revel in however one which his appreciation of cinematography has greater than organized him for. “I actually have continually loved writing, in particular tales”, he says. It’s a ardour that one senses permeates his being. He is a lover of words – articulate and direct. As if scripting a brand new function movie or an experimental short, he solutions thoughtfully, every phrase weighted down with significance, fluent withinside the nuances of cultural lexicon, and, as though aware of the preciousness of language, unwilling to waste a unmarried phrase. He is maximum alive while discussing subculture and his liked Qatar – carving out an formidable trajectory a good way to see him seize aspects of his historical past and produce them to global audiences via the medium of movie. When it got here to analyzing abroad, however, Al-Thani first of all settled upon advertising and management. “I felt like it'd provide me an awesome general know-how of a way to deliver a business, a way to paintings.” Things modified with the approaching of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival [DTFF]. “I changed into analyzing in D.C. on the time,” he recalls, “and I noticed that DTFF changed into going on in Doha. I’ve continually been captivated with movie and it made me experience that there has been now an possibility to do some thing with that ardour. I determined in my 2nd yr to switch into artwork college and I selected New York due to the fact I love it. It’s a metropolitan city, complete of various backgrounds, extraordinary ethnicities; a actual melting factor.” He enrolled withinside the School of Visual Arts, wherein he might move directly to achieve a BFA in Film and Video, turning into the primary Qatari ever to embark on that route in that college. What types of demanding situations got here with the sort of pioneering move? “The different college students had numerous questions for me,” he says. “Stereotypical questions that human beings frequently ask a person from the Middle East – ‘wherein is Qatar?’ – that form of thing, however it supplied me with an possibility to introduce them to my subculture, some thing that changed into formerly unknown to them.” Was there a stereotypical belief connected to what an Arab guy must making movies approximately? “No, the tutors simply desired us to jot down what we maximum felt passionately approximately. For me, that changed into sharing with my friends elements – historical past, history – of lifestyles again domestic. Not the westernised media belief of the region, an concept of our subculture visible via a western gaze, like Lawrence of Arabia or some thing. That changed into what they had been used to seeing due to the fact movies like which have such huge backing, they may be supported immensely with the aid of using the larger institutions. That’s why I’m so thankful for some thing like DTFF and the Doha Film Institute, a platform that offers help to voices withinside the Middle East and North Africa in order that we will inform our tales the manner we need to inform them, from our factor of view.” The School of Visual Arts supplied precious revel in and know-how that could facilitate Al-Thani’s destiny in movie. He changed into targeted on studying the foundations – “I knew a way to write tales however I didn’t realize a way to perform a camera, or a way to use sound, or loads of factors I surely desired and had to learn” – and at the same time as he reveals the paintings of some of global filmmakers inspiring, he has continually been decided to carve his very own narrative. “I don’t see everyone like me, who seems like me, who has my voice. I’m looking to take the revel in I garnered withinside the States and use it to supply content material right here in Qatar.” Upon returning to his homeland, after finishing his degree, he right now positioned that know-how to right use, taking on a positon at Doha Film Institute. “I met friends who had comparable goals, they desired to proportion tales from our subculture and shipping them to different places. It’s a manner of globalising our u . s . a . as well.” Since then, he has persisted to immerse himself in extraordinary aspects of the enterprise and directed, written, and produced numerous movies, maximum drastically A Tale of a Song “Shoomi La” with Al Jazeera Documentary, exploring the meaning, idea and significance in the back of the enduring poem and song, which won reputation after the Qatar country wide group received the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Elsewhere, The Fabricator, a mockumentary collection created in collaboration with main comic Hamad Al Marri, parodies the mistruths advised approximately Qatar in the course of the blockade. He has additionally finished a function movie script, which he hopes to shoot withinside the destiny and frequently attends global movie gala's as a delegate from Qatar. “I like to test out the scene, see what's working, and what's missing.” His present day project, Border, supported with the aid of using Doha Film Institute and in partnership with Edge Productions, is ready in a dystopian destiny, providing a form of heightened reality. “It’s primarily based totally on a real tale and makes a speciality of a Middle Eastern guy who desires to move again domestic however matters take a abnormal flip on the airport. It asks us to bear in mind what the destiny might also additionally appear like if the whole lot going on proper now's exaggerated.” The movie will ideal on the Ajyal Film Festival later this yr. Given that the worldwide pandemic has raised questions round education, social disparity, and sustainability, at the same time as moves like Black Lives Matter have galvanised a international verbal exchange round systemic racism, many artists are the use of this possibility to create artwork that could be a vessel for social critique, and generating works that highlight, and searching for to overcome, failings withinside the system. Artists are an increasing number of making their voices heard, handing over works that question, inform, growth attention and solidarity. Does he accept as true with that artwork has a position to play? “Yes, definitely. I actually have experimented with extraordinary genres simply to recognize what my area of interest is. When I experience in my opinion connected to a tale or topic, I need to position my complete coronary heart into it. Border offers with racism, xenophobia, and pre-decided judgements. It’s very critical to me.” Filmmaking isn't Al-Thani’s simplest innovative vehicle, having broadened his scope to encompass present day artwork. Later this yr, he'll curate an exhibition with Doha Film Institute with a focal point on Palestine, following on from his curatorial debut ultimate yr as a part of the extremely a success Outbreak exhibition at Sikkat Wadi Msheireb. Featuring thought-scary works of art from over twenty neighborhood talents, the multimedia-artwork exhibition celebrated innovation in a time of world adversity and explored how the pandemic is moving our outlook. He formerly participated withinside the [RE]ACTION exhibition in the course of Ajyal Film Festival in 2018. “I brought social test videos. I took adults and children, each male and female, and gave them a sequence of inquiries to ask every different. The questions had been approximately their extraordinary reviews in lifestyles, hobbies, and recommendation they’d need to offer every different. In the centre, I brought the ‘Emblem of Qatar’ – which embodies our strength, electricity and resilience in the course of the maximum urgent times.” He additionally contributed to the Qatar 2030 exhibition, held at AlMarkhiya Gallery ultimate yr, with a multimedia artwork set up titled Triumph. “It’s a juxtaposition of Qatar’s beyond and found in which we see the social, human, monetary and environmental achievements over a span of fifty years. Qatar again withinside the Nineteen Seventies and Qatar now.” Using strategies found out as a part of his tenure in New York, he mixed visuals of a greater anciental Qatar with the pillars of Qatar’s 2030 vision. “That’s what I took from my studies, extraordinary approaches to speak and execute ideas.” His multidisciplinary technique stems from a refusal to pigeonhole himself into simply one box. “I don't forget going to galleries and museums and feeling like there had been no borders in artwork. It’s fluid. A trainer at college in Doha as soon as advised me that there aren't anyt any policies in artwork and no motive why I must restriction myself to simply one discipline. I accept as true with that Qatar goes to be one of the main artwork locations withinside the world. There is a lot ability right here, a lot talent. My message to different artists in Qatar is to test with extraordinary media – movie, music, performance, visible artwork, anything it could be – and to position your self out there. Don’t be afraid to attain out to different artists for collaboration or help, and take the possibilities which can be presented to you. It’s like that scene in The Pursuit of Happyness, ‘Don’t ever permit any person let you know which you can’t do some thing. You were given a dream. You gotta guard it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna let you know which you can’t do it. If you need somethin’, move get it. Period.’”


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