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(Corrects description of partnership in paragraph 7)
By Regan E. Doherty
DOHA (Reuters Life!) - Stars including Salma Hayek, Freida Pinto and Kevin Spacey descended on Qatar this week for the second annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival, the Middle East branch of the celebrated New York event.
Headlining the festival is French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb's action-thriller "Outside the Law," set against the backdrop of the Algerian struggle for independence from France after World War Two. The film set off protests at Cannes where it was screened earlier this year.
Other highlights include Julian Schnabel's "Miral," starring Freida Pinto, Stephen Frears's "Tamara Drewe," starring Gemma Arterton, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" and Randall Wallace's "Secretariat."
The event's organizers say it aims to create a center for regional filmmakers in the Gulf Arab state through mentoring opportunities and educational initiatives.
"The festival plays an important role in supporting long-term plans to build a sustainable film industry in Qatar," said Amanda Palmer, executive director of the Doha Film Institute, created to promote a regional film industry.
"We are nurturing the new generation of filmmakers, supporting regional and international film financing and supporting the new wave in Arab filmmaking."
Doha, which has been named the Arab Capital of Culture for 2010 by UNESCO, launched the film festival last year as a partnership between Doha Film Institute, and Tribeca Enterprises, which also operates New York's Tribeca Film Festival.
Created as a way to rejuvenate lower Manhattan after the September 11, 2001 attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York has become a showcase for international films with a political edge.
Organizers said the Doha event aims to do the same, using the festival as a platform on which to shine a spotlight on Arab cinema. It will give away $400,000 in prize money for its Arab Film Competition.
"It's very important for organizations like this to exist and to use their resources toward the goal of promoting Arab cinema and filmmaking talent and taking their stories to audiences around the world," Bouchareb said.
The five-day event will close with Justin Chadwick's "The First Grader," a story about an elderly farmer in a Kenyan village who wants to enroll in a local school and learn to read.
Reporting by Regan E. Doherty; Editing by Paul Casciato