Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 60 minutes
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Liz Mermin’s documentary, which was originally broadcast on the BBC, follows the five-member team from Qatar as it makes its first-ever appearance at the World Schools Debating Championship. Since Qatar is new to the concept of British parliamentary debate, the team’s coach is imported from the U.K.: 22-year-old Alex Just, a former president of the Oxford Union. But, then again, the team itself reflects the peculiar Qatari demographics where 80% of residents are foreign born: except for one young man who is half-Qatari and half-Lebanese, the other team members are foreign born.
The film follows the teenage debaters – three girls and two boys – as they undergo rigorous training in London and Doha before embarking to Washington for the international championship. The idea of young men and women collaborating as equals on a major project is clearly progressive for the Arab world – but, ultimately, nobody watching this film is going to be fooled.
“Team Qatar” comes across like a clumsy propaganda piece that casually ignores the sad fact that this Persian Gulf emirate has no history of allowing the basic elements that enable debate: freedom of speech, media and assembly. Even worse, the team members are fairly boring, their coach is utterly obnoxious, and the climactic debate tournament is a dreary exercise in supercilious posturing. And in view of the ongoing pro-democracy uprisings in the Islamic world, this 2008-lensed piece is painfully outdated.
But there is one thing here that qualifies as good news: Mermin’s original film has been shorn by a half-hour for its U.S. release. The less we see of “Team Qatar,” the better!
Posted on April 6, 2011 in Reviews by Phil Hall
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- BETWEEN THE WHITE LINES
- COMMITTING POETRY IN TIMES OF WAR
- THANKS TO GRAVITY
- DEBATE TEAM
- ROCKS WITH WINGS
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