An Event for Bangladeshi Film Lovers

in 8th Dhaka International Film Festival

by Shaheen Kabir

The 8th Dhaka International Film Festival 2004, organized by the Rainbow Film Society of Dhaka, was held from 15th to 23rd January, 2004. The slogan of the festival was “Better Films, Better Audience, Better Society”. Over one hundred films from different countries of the world were shown. There were films from Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, from Germany, France, Switzerland, U.S.A., Canada and Russia, from Egypt and Tunisia, from Sri Lanka, China, Iran, Pakistan and India. Films from the Scandinavian countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden were one of the main attractions. For the first time the Dhaka cine-lovers had the opportunity to see a Latin American film from Colombia. Works of renowned German film director Fassbinder, great Polish film maker Krzysztof Zanussi and distinguished Indian film maker Shyam Benegal were shown in the retrospective segment of the Festival. A selection of the full length feature films of Sergei Bondarchuk were also screened. A number of Swiss feature films as well as short films and documentary films were shown in the Country Focus section. Another interesting feature of the festival was the screening of children’s films. Altogether seven children films were screened.

Among the films that the audience liked very much and wanted to see more than once were “Women’s Prison” (Iran), “Swaraaj” (India), “Adhiar” (Bangladesh), “Secret Love” (Switzerland), “Hold My Heart” (Norway), “Raghu Romeo” (India), “The Flag” (Indonesia) and “Harivillu” (India). The films at the festival were shown at the auditoriums of Central Public Library and the National Museum, in three regular cinema halls and at the Russian Cultural Centre and the Goethe Institute. There were four to five shows everyday at all these venues which attracted large crowds. The Dhaka Festival this year has positively succeeded in creating a lot of enthusiasm among the film lovers, cine-goers and the film activists of the country.

A good number of renowned filmmakers, critics, journalists, actors and actresses from different parts of the world had attended the festival as delegates. To name only a few, Roland Reber of Germany, Adoor Gopalakrishnan of India, Father Gaston Roberge (Canada/India), Ms. Amita Malik (India), Nan Achnas (Indonesia), Ansu Sur (India) and others. There were a few women directors who had come to the festivals with their films. Nan Achnas’s “The Flag”, Manju Borah’s “Akashitobar Kothabe”, Ananya Chattarjee’s “Dwitiya Paksha” were among the audience favourites.

The main festival venue, the Central Public Library complex for the last nine days had become vibrant with the lively presence of the foreign delegates and the local film makers and activists. One important feature of the festival was the warm participation and involvement of the young members of different film societies and cine-clubs of the country. There was an open forum where film makers, critics, actors and actresses and film activists, from both home and abroad, participated throughout the festival, talking, exchanging views and ideas, giving interviews to the press and TV channels and getting to know each other.

Besides screenings of movies, an important event of the festival was the seminar on “Globalization and Film” organized by the International Film Critics Association of Bangladesh (IFCAB). The seminar was presided over by IFCAB President Professor Kabir Chowdhury. The theme paper of the seminar was presented by Shaheen Kabir (Bangladesh) while Father Gaston Roberge presented an interesting paper on Film as Accidental Documentary, and Roland Reber on Man, Society and Cinema. Bojidar Manov (Bulgaria) could not unfortunately attend the festival, but sent his paper, titled “Ozu Centenary and the Globalisation of Film”. Bojidar Manov’s paper was read out in the seminar. The main issues that the paper writers addressed and which were discussed by the participants covered issues of harmonization of ideas and values versus cultural relativism, cultural identity versus diversity, free movement of films versus restrictions, piracy, censorship and global standards in the context of globalization today. Debates and discussions on issues of censorship and funds for making alternative films were carried over beyond the seminar on to the open forum till the last day of the festival. The festival also afforded an opportunity to the mainstreaming filmmakers of Bangladesh of interacting with makers of alternative films from different countries, including that of the host country.

On January 23rd, the concluding day of the festival, The International Critics Award (FIPRESCI Prize) was announced and the winner was “Sulang Kirilli” (The Wind Bird, Sri Lanka, 2002) by Inoka Sathyangani. The official jury of the festival announced their awards for the best film (“Sulang Kirilli”, Srilanka), best director (Anwar Jamal for “Swaraaj”, India), best actor (Vijay Raj in “Raghu Romeo”, India), best actress (Damitha Abirathin in “Sulang Kirilli”, Sri Lanka). The NETPAC award for the best film went to “Swaraaj” (The Little Republic, India). The Special Audience Award went to “Tehran 7 am” by Amir Sahab Rajavian (Iran) and the Audience award to “Akashitober Kothabe” by Monju Borah (India). The best Juvenile Audience Award went to “Harivillu” (The Rainbow by Dr. B. Nasing Rao, India). The Rainbow Film Festival Award went to “The First Night” by Luis Alberto Restrepo (Colombia).

After the award giving ceremony two films, “The First Night” (Colombia) by Luis Alberto Restrepo and “Matir Moyna” (The Clay Bird, Bangladesh) by Tareque Masud were shown to the audience. And with that the Dhaka festival came to an end.