Establishing Bangladesh’s cinematic footprint

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Md Abid Mallick and Lubna Sharmin will represent Bangladesh under IFIB’s “Dhaka to Cannes” programme at this year’s Cannes Film Festival


IFIB’s initiatives pay off with sending 2 young filmmakers to Cannes this year


Bangladesh finally has another achievement to rejoice about, as two young filmmakers, Lubna Sharmin and Md Abid Mallick, have been chosen for International Film Initiative of Bangladesh (IFIB)’s “Dhaka to Cannes” programme, supported by International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA), which will take them to Cannes Film Festival this year. They will receive the opportunity to participate in the Producer’s Workshop hosted by the Marché du Film, a unique opportunity for them to gain access to the international film community at the Festival and Marché de Cannes, a yearly event that draws filmmakers, distributors and financiers from around the globe.


This will include three days of intensive meetings with some of the world’s most prominent filmmakers, film executives and industry power brokers, identifying best practices and relevant programs while focusing on ways in which artistic and commercial efforts can be made sustainable across local and global markets.


Samia Zaman, President of IFIB and Marco Antonio Orsini, President of IEFTA, along with renowned filmmakers and film personalities from Bangladesh like Nasiruddin Yousuf Bacchu, Abu Sayeed, Dr Zakir Hossain Raju, Ahmed Muztaba Jamal Shovon and others will attend the reception.


Lubna and Abid were selected by an international jury from a number of applications sent to the website of IFIB by young talented filmmakers of Bangladesh. The jury comprised of Mary McGuchian, writer/director/producer, Gary Springer, entertainment publicist and Alan Poul, director/producer.


How it works


Every year film-lovers look forward to the Cannes Film Festival, as it is considered a benchmark of excellence when it comes to cinemas. Which film receives the prestigious Palme d’Or is always looked up to. That being said, not everything in Cannes revolves around that particular aspect. There are a myriad of events that go on during the occasion, one of which is where one can visit the film market, more popularly known as Marché du Film in French.


Samia Zaman, President of IFIB, believes Cannes Film Festival is a very important gathering of filmmakers from around the world and it celebrates the art of cinema as well as the business of it – buying, distributing, selling etc. “After visiting the festival in last two years, I strongly suggest that every member of Bangladesh’s film community should explore Cannes and other film festivals,” she added. She thinks that continuous and sustained and strategic effort and presence is very necessary to reach out to the global film fraternity.


Lubna Sharmin is thrilled and proud to be attending the Cannes Film Festival 2017 and Producer’s Workshop. She thinks that it will help her succeed as an independent film maker and acquire practical knowledge as well as networking skills. Lubna said, “Film industry is a place where creativity meets technical skills. The Bangladesh Film Industry would benefit from more people taking part in such activities. Thanks to IEFTA and IFFIB for their joint venture to motivate filmmakers of Bangladesh.”


The International Film Initiative of Bangladesh, IFIB aims to make Bangladesh more visible in the world arena through its films that are artistically driven and thematically matured. By reaching out to world-renowned film festivals, programmers, filmmakers, critics and national and international art, cultural and film bodies, IFIB plans to make Bangladesh cinema known on the global stage.


IEFTA’s contribution


The mission of IEFTA, a Monaco-based, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, is to discover and promote emerging cinema talent from around the world, encourage dialogue between filmmakers, promote cultural diversity and international understanding, and engage the art of cinema.


When asked why Bangladesh was chosen by IEFTA, its president Marco Orsini told Dhaka Courier that on the contrary, it was Bangladesh who chose them. “Samia Zaman approached me at a private dinner for the Addis to Cannes event in Monaco describing the perfect storm in Bangladesh for such a programme,” he said, “as other organisations begin to give credit to the rich heritage of Bangladesh film and its potential in the international market place, we too saw the abilities to have a positive impact for their film community.”


As for what they expect to get out of the Dhaka to Cannes initiative, he said that the IEFTA’s goal is “to increase awareness of filmmakers from Bangladesh to the international film community as well as expand the rolodex of the filmmakers coming to Cannes. We take for granted the contacts we have established over the years with different film institutions that can green light film projects or extend distribution globally. We want to empower filmmakers from Bangladesh to be able to compete in a globalised film market.”


This is their second such initiative, the first being “From Addis to Cannes”, an initiative which ran for ten years, where they showcased the untapped talent of Ethiopian filmmakers through a similar process. Past participants have gone on to have their films shown in international festivals such as Berlin, Toronto and Venice, and sold to worldwide markets.


Strategies galore


“I noticed, let alone our films, I had to explain Bangladesh itself to many people,” said Samina, “but things have started to improve significantly. Last year “Oggatonama” of Tauquir Ahmed/Impress Telefilm and “Aynabaji” by Amitabh Reza Chowdhury/Half Stop Down were in the Market at Cannes. This is something new for our producers, and hopefully, in the coming years, it will become a regular feature of Cannes and other major festivals. If we don’t go and participate, how can we hope for international deals and international sales? This, as a concept, is part of the national film strategy of many countries. I strongly recommend all our directors and particularly the producers to be aware of the major festivals, especially where a co-production market is available or where generally major film-figures gather, and to simply go and talk about Bangladesh and films of Bangladesh. It is bound to have an impact eventually. At Cannes and other festivals, relationships are forged and new ideas are exchanged.”


When asked how Bangladeshi films can attract new audiences, she reflected on the commercial distribution process of films in Bollywood. “If a movie like Aamir Khan’s Dangal can draw more audiences than The Fate of the Furious in China, a lot can be learned from it. China is becoming a huge market potential, we can tap into that if we can strategise accordingly. Additionally, if we can target all the Bengali-speaking audience across the globe, then we will finally be able to tap into a larger audience base. Developments have been made in this regard, for example, two of Mostafa Sarwar Farooki’s films, Television and Pipra Bidya, were released on Netflix, which demonstrates that Bangladeshi films are being distributed digitally to a wider range of viewers.”


“Cannes is a large canvas,” she added, “if we can really aim for the stars. If we look at Turkey, Iran or South Korea, we see that they have a very strong domestic market, but only a few of their films travel much. For Bangladesh, currently it is essential that our films travel to film festivals, workshops and such, as we do not have a domestic market for independent films. If we can plan on sending our movies to 15-20 specific film festivals annually, it will help to create a footing for showcasing our films.


To ensure that Bangladesh maintains a consistent presence at Cannes hereafter, Samia stressed on a comprehensive strategy. “We do not yet, have an official presence at Cannes – that is to say we do not have a country pavilion or booths taken by producers or other national organisations – but these things will happen. A word of caution though, as I have seen country pavilions start and then fold the next year, we must have a comprehensive strategy about how to take our films to the rest of the world including Cannes and work according to that plan. Without a long term vision, long term success won’t be possible.”

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