Robert De Niro Teams With Qatar For Tribeca Film Festival Doha

12/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

DOHA, Qatar — Qatar has teamed up with Robert De Niro and other founders of New York's Tribeca Film Festival to host a similar annual event starting next year in this small, oil-rich Persian Gulf nation.

The announcement is part of a broader trend of rival, wealthy Gulf countries launching high-profile cultural and sporting events to attract international attention and outside investment.

"The Tribeca Film Festival Doha is destined to become a major annual event in world cinema," said Abdullah al-Najjar, the head of the Qatar Museums Authority, which is leading the effort from the Qatari side.

The oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, launched its first film festival last year _ competing for attention with a similar event in its fifth year in the rival city of Dubai.

The organizers of the Doha festival, which will be held for the first time in November 2009, said they hope it will build up understanding between Arabs and the rest of the international community.

"We hope that film will not only be used as a form of entertainment at Tribeca Film Festival Doha but play a role in bridging cultures closer together," De Niro said in a statement issued Sunday announcing the initiative. "By learning each other's stories, we can see how much we share in common as well as explore and better understand our differences."

The festival in Qatar will be modeled after the original in New York City, which is going into its eighth year. The event will feature about 40 movies by both established filmmakers and newly discovered talent. The festival has also been designed to feature the local Qatari community, as well as broader Arab culture.

Many countries in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates, censor films and occasionally ban entire movies. It is unclear how censorship might affect the festival in Qatar.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2001 by De Niro, film producer Jane Rosenthal and her husband, Craig Hatkoff, in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The festival's initial purpose was to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture.

"In addition to the positive cultural implications, this initiative (in Qatar) underscores the enormous potential of the entertainment market in the Middle East and the strategic importance of the region to the future of the film industry," said Hatkoff, a real estate investor and philanthropist.