SOAS University of London

Hafiz Ali, Once upon a Time, 2008

Hafiz Ali meditates on the contemporary medium of story-telling: cinema is not only a channel of cultural influence, but also, and particularly in Qatar, the architecture of the movie-theatres themselves has shaped and changed social habits. Hafiz’s short documentary film recounts the history of cinema in Qatar, from its introduction in the 1940s, with open-air screenings staged by oil companies for their workers (and therefore a men-only activity), to the plush theatres now incorporated into every shopping mall (making it an acceptable leisure activity for families and women). Moreover, the films themselves introduced new role-models and symbols, vistas and dreams to Qatari society, from Egyptian epics depicting historical figures of Arab pride such as Antar ibin Shaddad, to Western epics such as Titanic depicting romance and escape.

Hafiz Ali was born in 1973, in Doha, Qatar, where he now lives and works.