The ongoing 19th edition of Dhaka International Film Festival (DIFF) is being held for the first time in a hybrid format combining due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, and LagVelki.com, country’s first online pay-per-view movie streaming platform, is streaming the movies online as the official virtual platform of this festival.
Describing the journey behind the partnership, LagVelki’s founder Shariful Islam Shaon told UNB that this is a great opportunity for a Bangladeshi streaming startup, led and operated by the film-loving youths of the nation.
“DIFF is one of the biggest film festivals in the world and the biggest in our country since its beginning. For the first time ever, this festival is using a streaming platform as the 19th edition is being observed in a hybrid format, and we are proud to be its official broadcasting partner,” Shaon told UNB.
Sharing the story on how LagVelki got connected with DIFF, Shaon shared: “Noted filmmaker Abu Shehed Emon got us connected with DIFF, after the Liberation DocFest back in July 2020. Although DIFF director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal knew of our start-up, we officially began to discuss a possible partnership back in October. We presented our plan, and made official agreement in late December that LagVelki is going to stream 126 foreign films at the 19th Dhaka International Film Festival as its first-ever official virtual partner.”
“The entire working process was hectic, but we took it as a learning experience. Compressing 126 films and uploading on our website, making promo materials for each film and ensuring constant customer support for the virtual moviegoers was challenging, yet we successfully completed our tasks,” Shaon added.
When asked about the limitations, he mentioned that LagVelki only received permission to project foreign films at this year’s DIFF, however, the platform is expecting to project both local and international films in future editions of DIFF.
“OTT (Over-the-top) platforms are the future and already Bangladeshi films are being showcased at many OTT sites. As a local startup which initiated to support local films and filmmakers, we expect to have more professional engagements from our film professionals so that we can reach to more local audiences with our local films”.
Speaking of local audiences, Shaon also informed that the movies can only be watched from Bangladesh, as there are regional blockages for other countries. Local audiences can enjoy a full-length feature film at tk 50 and Short film at tk 20 for 6 hours after purchase. Payment can be made through any means of digital payment method available in Bangladesh including BKash, Nagad, Rocket and more.
“As a part of the new-hybrid-normalcy, we are receiving overwhelmingly good responses from our audiences - especially from the educated film enthusiasts, researchers, teachers and scholars who are being able to watch these films from anywhere in the country which was needed during this pandemic. This accessibility was not available to our audiences before.”
DIFF always had its special preferences for children through its various initiatives, and Shaon informed that LagVelki also followed the same - as its showcasing multiple films for children as the target audiences every day. “Many guardians were concerned on bringing their children in this festival which has always celebrated the presence of a significant number of child audiences every year - and keeping that in mind, we designed the festival with multiple international films to enthrall our child audiences,” Shaon told UNB.
Lagvelki has a total of five members in the core team led by Shariful Shaon, and 16 members in the digital team mostly from film & computer Science background. These young film lovers are working to reach this platform all over Bangladesh, cutting the middle-men during film distribution and channeling the money directly to the producers and filmmakers.
Shaon mentioned that LagVelki has received blessings and spiritual guidance from leading film scholars and cultural activists in Bangladesh, including Mofidul Hoque, Nasir Uddin Yousuf, Tareq Ahmed, Samia Zaman, Abu Shahed Emon and more.
As one of the rising startups, LagVelki became one of the top 3 winners as part of the #StartKoro bootcamp in July 2020, which was designed in a way that the participants have gone through a full cycle of learning, ideating, developing and launching a digital product or a startup. The winners received a total of $1500 USD ads credits from Facebook Developer Circle Dhaka, Preneur Lab Trust, UNDP Youth Co:Lab, UNCDF, Startup Bangladesh, FNF Bangladesh and bdapps by Robi Axiata Limited in the month-long boot camp was attended by 874 registered participants.
Being the first pay-per-movie site in Bangladesh, LagVelki is committed to bring cult classics to award-winning masterpieces and flourish the true form of visual arts without compromising the artist's views, thoughts & philosophical aspects, according to Shaon and his team.