Views Bangladesh

Views Bangladesh Logo

Dhaka International Film Festival was vibrantly alive in this winter

Khondokar Md  Jakir

Khondokar Md Jakir

Tue, 30 Jan 24

Every year in January, the weather in our country is relatively cold. And this year, the winter is more intense compared to the past years. Amidst the winter, I took the metro from Sher-e-Bangla Nagar to Shahbag. The sole purpose - to watch a film at the Dhaka International Film Festival. It's not just about watching a movie actually. Even meeting with familiar friends seems to have another purpose. However, this time at the fair, I didn't come across someone familiar to such an extent. And many of the festival organizers are new faces to me. Since there was no hassle with tickets this time, I went inside to watch the movie after checking the schedule. Inside, at the Sufia Kamal Auditorium in the National Museum, there is no vacant seat. Effortfully, I managed to find a seat. After the movie ended, I met with some familiar faces, and I also had the opportunity to meet with the festival director, Ahmed Mujtaba Jamal.

My connection with this film festival spans almost 20 years. During my university days, driven by the desire to watch diverse films from home and abroad, I used to come to the festival. Later, I used to work voluntarily and watch movies for free. Subsequently, I worked as a bulletin staff member for the film festival, and finally, I was the editor of the festival's daily bulletin 'Utsab Protidin.' Due to busyness, I have now become just a spectator. As a result, when I attend the festival, I feel nostalgic. I see the volunteers, observe the busyness of the bulletin staff, and try to understand the pressure on the festival director, Shovon Bhai. The Dhaka International Film Festival, organized by the Rainbow Film Society, has stepped into its 22nd edition this time. Established in 1992, this festival, although initially held biennially, has been regular since 2016. Following the principles of 'aesthetic Cinema, Thoughtful Audience, Enlightened Society,' this year's festival has also been organized.

Spanning 9 days from January 20, this festival showcases a total of 252 films from 74 different countries in 10 different categories at the National Museum, Shilpakala Academy, Alliance Française, and the Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Special guests at the inaugural ceremony included renowned actress Sharmila Tagore from the neighboring subcontinent, Mokammel Hossain, Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Transport, and Tourism, and Yu Leiwen, Cultural Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka. After the inaugural ceremony, the Iranian director Murtaza Atash Jamjam's film 'Fereshte' was screened. Before the screening, the filmmakers and actors exchanged greetings with the audience on stage. "After 'Fereshte,' there was the film 'Mujib: Ekti Jatir Roopokar’ (An Architect of the Nation,') jointly produced by Bangladesh and India, directed by Shyam Benegal."
One of the attractions of this year's festival was the masterclass by the globally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, known for popular films such as 'Children of Heaven,' 'Baran,' and 'Song of Sparrows.' In two separate sessions of the masterclass, Chinese filmmaker Shi Chuan, Deputy Chair of the Shanghai Film Association, and Indian producer, actor, and singer Anjan Dutt, shared their thoughts under the moderation of Bangladesh film critic Bidhan Riberu. Sharmila Tagore served as a jury member at the festival. In a press conference, she shared her experiences in Bangladeshi cinema and her interactions with the Prime Minister. Apart from this, after the screening of the film 'Chalchitra Akhon,' filmmaker-actor-singer Anjan Dutt interacted directly with the audience.

In previous years, although the main venue of the festival was the Shawkat Osman Milonayoton at the National Library, this time, the main courtyard of the Bangladesh National Museum is transformed into the central space for cultural activities due to the renovation work in the library building. There, the presentation was adorned with the ambiance of films and filmmakers, with banners and lighting that were eye-catching. However, there are many arguments and debates about this festival of creating a platform between Bangladeshi audience and filmmakers with filmmakers from various countries and their films. Sometimes criticism is made that the festival fails to attract audiences. Again, at times, it is discussed why there is such little participation of local filmmakers in such an international festival? Is the participation and importance of domestic producers not at all in the Dhaka Film Festival? As the international film festivals in other countries of the world are expanded, is this festival in Dhaka as expanded?
The activities of the film organizations in Bangladesh, remain limited, but despite these constraints, there is a lack of significant contributions towards audience development. The spontaneity of filmmakers, activists, and celebrations within the realm of alternative cinema has gradually waned over time. In earlier days, regular film screenings used to take place at cultural centers such as Alliance Française, Russian Cultural Center, Iranian Cultural Center, Goethe Institute, and Indian diplomatic missions in Bangladesh. Although events are being organized nowadays, there is often a lack of audience attendance. This may be due to the easy availability of movies, especially through CDs, DVDs and OTT. In many cases, the audience for cinema is reduced. So, isn’t it normal for there to be fewer viewers for films at festivals?

The question may arise, the way we prepare to be a film maker, do we prepare for the screening of a movie or arrange a festival or participate in a festival? The absence of appreciation in the film industry makes it difficult to find volunteers or bulletin workers for festivals. I have experienced this challenge when participating in festivals. Festival organizer Shobhon Bhai has often emphasized that during festivals, careful attention needs to be given to numerous details, and efforts must be made to seek sponsors. It's easy to criticize how a festival is organized if you're on the outside, but understanding the intricacies is challenging. Despite all the challenges, Shobhon Bhai has made various efforts to creatively organize the festival. Sometimes it takes on a retrospective theme, at other times a focus on women's sessions, and occasionally featuring masterclasses. He passionately loves the festival and consistently works towards making it a memorable event every year.

Several film festivals take place in Dhaka, including the Children's Film Festival, the Short and Independent Film Festival, among others. However, the Dhaka International Film Festival is considered the main film festival. The reason for this is probably the participation of all types of films and the presence of foreign producers. In this festival, not only our films represent themselves, but films from foreign countries also gain significance. Many films showcased in this festival may not have had the opportunity to be screened in theaters in our country. Looking at the list of films for this year, it becomes apparent that alongside films from various countries and languages, Bangladesh has showcased a total of 13 feature films in Panorama this year. Among these, apart from ‘Mujib: The Making of a Nation’ there are films with titles such as ‘Shahana,’ ‘Nona Pani,’ ‘Monolok,’ ‘Muntasir,’ ‘Ajob Chele,’ ‘Iti Chitro,’ ‘Just A Joke Darling,’ ‘Lilaboti Nag,’ ‘Megher Kapat,’ ‘Sabitri,’ and ‘Ichhamati.’ The audience has had the opportunity to watch these films for free, adding to the diversity of the viewing experience.

On rainy days, the crowd of spectators reminds us of that very statement. Because the cinema halls were filled to the brim when films from Bangladesh and Kolkata were being screened. Many also thoroughly enjoy the musical arrangements, particularly those by Anjan Dutt. Like before, one of the other attractions of the festival this time was the script Lab and the International Women Film Conference. The two-day event featured six sessions. Additionally, another attraction of the festival was Wide Ankle with a focus on Chinese cinema. Sixteen films from China were showcased during the event. Among other sections, there were the Asian Competition section, the Retrospective section, Tribute, Bangladesh Panorama, Cinema of the World, Children's Film, Spiritual Films, Short and Independent Films, and Women's Film section.

At the end of the festival, everyone is eager to know the award results, which movie won the Best Award?
On January 28th, Sunday, it was the last day of the Dhaka International Film Festival. On this day, the films that received awards, as well as the names of the directors and artists, were announced. So, in the 22nd Dhaka International Film Festival, the Best Film in the Asian Film Competition section was the Chinese film 'The Cord of Life.

The Mandarin-language film was directed by Kuiyao Sixui. Jagath Manuwara received the Best Director award for the Sri Lankan film 'Whispering Mountains.' The Best Script award went to Mahiddin Mujaffar from Tajikistan for the film 'Dove.' The Best Cinematographer award was received by Maytie Afrin for 'In the Time of Floods.' Anjan Dutt was honored as the Best Actor for his remarkable performance in the film 'Chalchitra Akhon.' Badema from China won the Best Actress award for her performance in the film 'The Cord of Life'. In the Asian Competition section, the Special Jury Mention award went to the Kazakhstani film 'Happiness,' directed by Askar Uzabaev.

Apart from that, Afreen Khanam received a Special Jury Mention for her acting in the film 'Maiti Afrin—In the Time of Floods,' directed by Angels Relis. The film was produced through a joint collaboration between Bangladesh, France, and Greece. In the Bangladesh Panorama Feature Film category, the award went to Partho Prasad's film 'Sabitri.' In the Bangladesh Panorama Talent category, the film 'The Winning' by Vaishakhi Samaddar won the FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Short Film. In this category, the first runner-up is Shubhashish Sinha's 'Inaphi,' and the second runner-up is Ziaul Haque Raju's 'Ontoheen Pothe'.
Indian filmmaker Vipul Sharma's movie 'Prabhas' won the Badal Rahman Award in the children's cinema category among other awards. The Audience Award went to the Bangladesh-India collaborative production ‘Mujib: The Making of a Nation’ directed by Shyam Benegal. Abhijit Shreedas's ‘Bijoyer pore’ has won the Special Audience Award. In the spiritual category, the best feature film is "There and Back" produced by Oleg Asadulin from Russia. The best documentary film is "Kunanfinda: The Land of Death" from Cuba. The producer of the documentary film is Hansel Leiva Fanego. In this category, "Surat," produced by Golam Rabbani, has received a Special Mention Award. In the Women Filmmakers category, the best feature film is "Junks and Dolls" from Iran, produced by Manijeh Hekmat.

In the same category, the best documentary film is ‘Passang: In the Shadow of Everest’ from the United States, directed by Nancy Svendsen. The best producer is Goyenong Mu-No from South Korea. He received an award for the film "How to Get Your Man Pregnant." In this category, the film ‘Mukti’ from Bangladesh has received a Special Mention Award. The producer of ‘Mukti’ is Chaitali Samadder. Majid Majidi expressed that presenting awards to the winners from Bangladesh in the Panorama section has given him a fantastic feeling at the festival. During this time, he said, ‘Cinema plays a crucial role in society. It speaks for the silenced voices in cinema. I am delighted to see the participation of many young filmmakers in this festival. I hope Bangladeshi cinema will shine on the international stage’.

State minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mohammad Ali Arafat said, ‘I believe that this festival has presented progressive representations of various cultures. The kind of society we envision is supported by such festivals.’ Shahriar Alam, a Member of Parliament and the chief patron of the festival, has conveyed that a wide audience enjoyed this year's festival. The festival director, Ahmed Muztaba Jamal, has announced that the 23rd edition of the Dhaka International Film Festival will take place from January 11 to 19, 2025. He expressed hope that everyone will be able to attend the festival during that period.

Author: Former Bulletin Editor, Festival Daily, Dhaka International Film Festival

Leave A Comment

You need login first to leave a comment

Trending Views