Mahfouz: AJB DOC and AJD Industry are rapidly emerging as significant global festivals and platforms

Ahmed Mahfouz, Director of Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, reflects on the success of the AJD Industry platform and the AJB DOC festival, as well as comments on the development of the documentary industry in the region.

Mahfouz: AJB DOC and AJD Industry are rapidly emerging as significant global festivals and platforms

Author: Lejla Kajić

The morning following the opening of the sixth AJB DOC Film Festival, saw the launch of the second edition of the AJD Industry Days platform in the pleasant atmosphere of “Kamerni teatar 55”. 

Over the course of three days, a total of 22 projects will be presented within three categories, competing for several co-production awards worth $70,000.

Increased interest among film professionals in participating in AJD Industry  

This year's edition has attracted a larger number of decision-makers, who serve as crucial comission editors, as well as a higher number of applications for participation. Ahmed Mahfouz, Director of Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, believes that this is one of the primary indicators of the Industry platform’s growth and development. 

"In addition to hosting the first edition, we made significant efforts to promote the AJD Industry Days event on influential global platforms. We have strived to increase visibility at prominent global film festivals to attract more film professionals. I am pleased that the number of decision-makers is on the rise, as it signifies their recognition of our platform as the space to discover high-quality projects. I am proud that over 70 of them have participated this year," Mahfouz remarks. 

He further expresses his extreme satisfaction with the festival’s ability to attract a substantial number of prominent co-production figures and provide them with high-quality content in the form of concise and well-presented themes and stories. 

"Their time is valuable, not in a financial sense, but in terms of the quality of their opinions and suggestions and, ultimately, their presence. We are deeply grateful and pleased that they have taken the time to participate in this year's Industry Days," he comments. 

Project applications submitted from over 50 countries 

The AJD Industry team received more than 170 applications from 52 countries and selected a total of 22 projects, categorized as: Main Pitch (8), Work in Progress (8), and Balkan Stars (6). 

"In addition to the fact that we attracted more comission editors this year, I am proud to highlight the increased presence of filmmakers from different countries. For example, unlike the previous edition of the Industry Days and, in general, the content that Al Jazeera Documentary focused on in the past, this year we have included more films that take an artistic approach to topics, not just journalistic ones," he continues. 

Mahfouz emphasizes that Al Jazeera Documentary is committed to providing extensive support to Al Jazeera Balkans in promoting documentary filmmaking in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region.

"Alongside the fantastic Sarajevo Film Festival, which, although it also includes documentary films, primarily focuses on feature films, it is essential to establish platforms through which the documentary industry in this region can flourish. I am delighted to see that the AJB DOC Film Festival and AJD Industry Days are growing year by year, evolving into stronger brands that can stand shoulder to shoulder with larger film festivals in the region and worldwide," he says. 

The growth of the AJB DOC Film Festival 

The first two evenings of the sixth edition of AJB DOC witnessed record attendance, with more than 650 guests attending the evening documentary screenings. Mahfouz reflects on the festival's beginnings and highlights one of its most significant editions, the third, which took place in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We often look back at 2020. and firmly believe that, if we were able to host the festival and attract a large number of people back then, it will be hard for anything else to impede our progress. The festival continues to grow year after year, as evidenced by the increasing interest from the local audience and the growing number of applications we receive. It is not only expanding in terms of numbers but also in terms of diversity of topics we cover. Initially, we focused on reports and stories on pressing issues, but now we feature a variety of stories that attract people with different interests," he says. 

In conclusion, Mahfouz expresses his belief that AJB DOC will become one of the most prominent brands in the region in the next two to three years and looks forward to further exploring and promoting the art of documentary filmmaking.