(San Francisco, CA) – In September 2008, five teenagers – a Qatari, an Iraqi, a Syrian-Armenian, a Pakistani, and an Iranian – journeyed to Washington, D.C. from the Middle East to join teens from around the world in an intensely competitive, if somewhat arcane, annual ritual: the World Schools Debating Championships. Well aware that their region is associated, in Western minds, with oil, money, and jihad, they are determined to show that they are not closed-minded extremists. They are also determined to win. The team is full of charismatic, intelligent, global teens with strong views, immense curiosity, and boundless ambition, which – for ten intense weeks – they direct towards mastering the arcane strategies of British parliamentary debate. Quirky and endearing, entertaining and informative, Team Qatar offers a window into the rapidly growing global culture of the Arab world, and its relation to the West. Team Qatar will premiere nationally on PBS WORLD’s Global Voices, an international themed documentary series, on Sunday, August 1, at 10pm (check local listings). The program will be available for online streaming beginning Monday, August 2, on PBS Video (http://video.pbs.org/program/1478905970/).
Only 20 percent of Qatari residents are actually from Qatar, and the team reflects this: It’s made up of Tina, an Iranian girl who has lived in Canada and the USA; Vartan, a Syrian-Armenian who has lived in Qatar most of his life; Fatima, an energetic girl from Northern Iraq; Ayesha, a bubbly, athletic tomboy from Pakistan; and finally Talal, the sole Qatari national on the team. Will Team Qatar overcome their inexperience and hold their own against the sarcastic English, stylish Argentines, and ferocious Australians —all with years of practice reducing lesser teams to tears? How will they deal with America? What will they make of Team Israel?
In their minds, what’s at stake is the chance to demonstrate their skills as modern, free-thinking Muslims to the rest of the world. Through this strange journey, the team offers a look into a country that is increasingly taking a leading role in Middle Eastern diplomacy, economics, and politics.
About the Filmmaker
Liz Mermin’s documentary features explore a variety of subjects, including the personality quirks of charismatic Irish racehorses (Horses), culture-clashes between American and Afghan hairdressers (The Beauty Academy of Kabul), and the complex relationship between a Bollywood director, a vigilante cop, and a movie star with ties to terrorists (Shot In Bombay). She’s made five films for BBC/Storyville (the aforementioned films plus Team Qatar and Office Tigers), three of which were released in cinemas, and co-directed her first film (On Hostile Ground), which screened theatrically in the US.
She’s also directed/produced and edited documentaries and PSAs for many American broadcasters (including Sundance Channel, PBS, and ABC). Mermin has degrees in literature and cultural anthropology, and was a 2006 Renew Media fellow. Her interest in film began when she was a Fulbright scholar in Dakar, Senegal, where she wrote about African cinema. A former New Yorker, she now lives in London.
About Global Voices
Global Voices is produced by ITVS International and began airing on the PBS WORLD digital channel on Sunday, April 26, 2009. This 26-week series brings internationally themed documentaries made by both U.S.-based and international filmmakers to a national audience. This season, the series will feature the U.S. premieres of six documentaries funded by ITVS International, as well as encore broadcasts of other acclaimed ITVS programs. In addition to the PBS WORLD broadcast, select episodes will be available online, post broadcast—via iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, and on PBS’s Video player through http://video.pbs.org. For the complete lineup and schedule, visit www.pbs.org/globalvoices/. For more information about PBS WORLD visit http://www.pbs.org/pbsworld/. More information about ITVS International is available online at http://www.itvs.org/international.
Krissy Bailey, ITVS, 415-356-8383, ext. 254 Krissy_Bailey@itvs.org