From Into Film to Ajyal

31 Jan 2018 BY Molly Harding

7 mins
Ajyal Film Festival, Qatar
Ajyal Film Festival, Qatar

Documentary filmmaker and young reporter alumni, Molly Harding (21), was recently given a truly unique opportunity when she was invited to be a juror for the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Qatar. It is absolutely amazing to see one of our alumni achieve such success and influence in the wider film industry. Even better is that she decided to document her experience in the Middle East to share with the wider Into Film community, which you can check out below.

I was lucky enough to join Into Film at 17, and had a great time being a member of the young reporter programme for two years. During this time I was sent to red carpets, presented online shows and worked closely with the wonderful Into Film team. I saw a variety of fantastic films and met some amazing people on the programme, and it's continued to give me a fantastic insight into the industry I hope to work in.

As for being an Into Film Young Reporter alumni, it has its perks, but this was elevated to a whole new level when the monthly newsletter ended up giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a week as a juror at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Qatar.

The Middle East has always been a mysterious, troubled and fascinating section of the world in my eyes. As a young documentary filmmaker, travelling and experiencing new cultures is imperative in not only exposing me to new stories and ways of life, but also providing fresh wisdom and perspectives that are crucial to developing as a storyteller. When an opportunity like this one was presented, I applied immediately but not expecting success. Fast forward three weeks and I'm wondering around the Katara Cutural Village, the home of Ajyal Film Festival, in awe of the art and surroundings I was able to be immersed in over the course of the programme.

Being a one of the ‘UK Delegate Youth Jurors' sounded like a daunting task, but actually consisted of watching a vast array of international short and feature length films, attending expert talks on contemporary human and media issues, and having the time to explore the city of Doha; a rich and rapidly developing place with many progressive and artistic values at its core. The festival comprised three age categories, with each juror voting on their favoured short and feature film. The event culminated in a lively awards ceremony, attended by none other than the King of Qatar, where the winners were crowned and the event was given an inspiring conclusion.

As a juror for the mature 18-21 category, my group focused on films with more challenging themes and provocative subject matters. My usually stoic self was left on the brink of tears at an astounding 'out of competition' documentary feature film titled Even When I Fall, focusing on the aftermath of child trafficking from Nepal to circuses in India. In terms of the competing features, the animated treasure Loving Vincent took home the ‘Best Film' crown, but it was refreshing to see the Iranian film Disappearance premiered for the competition amidst controversy over its subject matter and subsequent ban in its native country.

All of the screenings were accompanied by audience Q&As with the filmmakers, which broke down the barriers of spectatorship, and allowed for any burning questions about the film or its production to be resolved by those who know best. The short film category was made up of sixteen films ranging from a Swedish animated satirical musical starring singing fish, to a truly gut wrenching short based on the true events of a terrorist bus hijacking in Narobi named All of Us, which took home the award for ‘Best Short'. There was little more to ask for in terms of variety, and every day you'd leave, (to the ridiculously swish five star hotel the Doha Film Institute provided) feeling even more empowered than the day before.

Opportunities like attending this festival are rare but achievable. The chance to meet other spirited young filmmakers and individuals from around the world was just as valuable as meeting the filmmakers, and of course the chance to ride a camel was also a bonus! What I took home with me from the festival was a rejuvenated enthusiasm for the arts, and fresh understandings of new cultures and religions. These experiences are ones which make us grow as people as well as practitioners, and the Ajyal Youth Film Festival is truly a one of a kind event that will influence me for a long time to come. Cheers for that email Into Film! 

Student Filmmaker, Molly Harding

Molly Harding, Filmmaker and Young Reporter alumna

Molly is an Into Film Young Reporter alumna, as well as a media student specialising in documentary production. Molly's films deal with sensitive and important issues affecting our world today, as she hopes to one day work as an independent factual filmmaker.

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