“Made in Bangladesh” to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival

2019 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is starting in a week. And “Made in Bangladesh”, a film by Bangladeshi filmmaker Rubaiyat Hossain, is going to be premiered at the TIFF 2019, under the Contemporary World Cinema category.

What is TIFF

“Made in Bangladesh” to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival

Founded in 1976, Toronto International Film Festival has now become one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world. TIFF is providing the platform for aspiring filmmakers to kick start their careers and the opportunity to showcase their new works.

There are about 12 types of programmes and categories in TIFF. Films of narrative style which are usually made by young established directors fall under TIFF’s category: “Contemporary World Cinema”.

This year marks the 44th edition of TIFF.  It’s a 10-day festival, from 5 September 2019 to 15 September 2019.

About “Made in Bangladesh”

“Made in Bangladesh” to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival

“Made in Bangladesh” is Rubaiyat Hossain’s third feature-length film.

The protagonist of the film is a worker of the ready-made garment (RMG) sector named Shimu. The character is based on a real-life person who acted as a consultant throughout the making of the film.

“Made in Bangladesh” is the story of Bangladesh’s RMG sector. How this sector empowers women, how it makes them financially independent and provides them socio-economic independence. On-screen, the film laments the obstacles female workers face and also celebrates their success.

Read more: French movie “Fahim” to portray the story of Bangladeshi chess prodigy

All about women empowerment

“Made in Bangladesh” to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival

The film talks about women empowerment in every way possible. The director herself is a woman. So is the production designer, sound editor, cinematographer and art director.

“One of the things I’m proud of about the film is that all the major departments were headed by women”

Said Rubaiyat Hossain.

Production Information

“Made in Bangladesh” to be premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival

The film, which began its production phase on 17th April 2019, chose different locations of Dhaka and Gazipur of Bangladesh as shooting spots and continued for around 36 days.

The film is co-produced by Bangladesh, France, Denmark, and Portugal. It was also financed by France’s CNC fund, Norway’s Sørfond plus, the EU’s Eurimages fund and Denmark’s Danish Film Institute fund. Pyramid International is the French distributor and international sales agent for the film.

A big step for Bangladeshi films

Not saying there are no good films being made in our country. Of course, a handful of really good films have been made in the last century. Watching them, people in Bangladesh have been growing a better taste in the moving pictures. And “Made in Bangladesh” helps this process to gain momentum.

TIFF 2019 premiering “Made in Bangladesh’ is indeed a huge move forward for Bangladeshi films.

It is promising and hopeful for the young aspiring filmmakers. Especially, the story on screen and behind the camera is motivating for all women.

Bangladesh premier

Rubaiyat Hossain has expressed her anticipations that “Made in Bangladesh’ will be soon premiered at the Dhaka Internation Film Festival. She also expects for a local distributor to make her film commercially available to Bangladeshi audience through cinema halls. 

We cannot wait to watch it!

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Live From Dhaka: A man’s journey through the bleak underbelly of Dhaka

As a young adult who’s been born and brought up in Dhaka, much of our generation view the city in rose-tinted glasses online or in media. In the age of social media, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t familiar with aesthetic photos of Dhaka from numerous Instagram posts or through popular song lyrics. #JadhurShohor. But the stark reality is that living in this city is much grimmer than it might seem. The dog eat dog nature of Dhaka has been beautifully portrayed in the recently released film “Live from Dhaka.

Nothing but the truth

Written and Directed by Abdullah Mohammad Saad, “Live from Dhaka”, chronicles the days of Sazzad, the protagonist played by Mostafa Monwar, and his miserable state of life in the city of Dhaka. Sazzad being unemployed and partially handicapped is seen as a guy down on his luck after losing most of his money when the Dhaka Stock Exchange crashes.  In addition to his own physical and economic woes, he is being hounded by loan sharks and has to deal with his younger brother who’s plagued by addiction. Although receiving some support and solace within his girlfriend Rehana, played by Tasnova Tamanna, Sazzad decides to cut all his losses and permanently move to Russia.

A grim depiction of Dhaka

But as events transpire, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to escape the gritty reality of Dhaka. The harsh bleakness of his situations was beautifully portrayed in black and white throughout the movie before some very beautiful backdrops of Dhaka.

The film also didn’t shy away from showing the darker underbelly of Dhaka.

By the end of the film, you really start feeling for the protagonist but also reminded of how he is isn’t that different from everyone else.

The verdict

The acclaimed independent film has been gaining much hype among Bangladeshi film enthusiast back since 2016. It had premiered in a number of International Film festivals around the world and winning Best Actor and Best Director awards at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) in 2016. The Film was finally released in Dhaka, Bangladesh in Bashundhara City Star Cineplex, on March 29. With stunning visuals, gripping story and comfortable runtime of 1hr and 31mins, you should definitely catch this tale about our beloved Dhaka.

Get your tickets from here

Komola rocket: the floating montage of misery, lust and greed

Komola Rocket, the Bangladeshi drama film entirely shot in a vintage steamer, has landed on Netflix earlier this year. As a ferry vessel enthusiast, the film was a long overdue one for me. Here’s my two cents about this 112 minute feature film that have made its way to international film festivals and earned accolades as well.

The brilliant minds behind

Based on short stories (‘Moulik’ and ‘Cyprus’) by esteemed writer Shahaduzzaman, Komola Rocket is the debut directorial venture of Noor Imran Mithu. Mithu previously worked with Mostofa Sarwar Farooki as an assistant director and was the lead actor in ‘Pipra Bidya’. Mithun merged two stories of his favourite writer and turned it into a script for Komola rocket. As interesting as it may sound, the film was shot in a century-old steamer and locations range from Sadarghat to the river beds of Khulna.

The plot

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

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Rocket, a very old steamer where queen Elizabeth once onboarded (not kidding), starts its journey from Sadarghat towards Khulna. With a crazy mix of passengers, rocket moves toward Meghna river. We see a packed vessel where every passenger has a story worth listening.

From circus freaks to corrupt business magnate, the stark contrast in social class is the heart of Komola rocket.

Atik, an idiosyncratic man is going to Khulna on a hideout to spare himself from an arson conspiracy. He meets a dysfunctional family he would rather not involve with. The family consists a couple with a child and a young woman. Atik, ever so edgy, also stumbles upon a weirdo called Mofizul. Camouflaging as a poet and kabiraj, Mofizul runs a prostitution ring in the steamer. Atik is bewildered when Mofizul mistakes him for a client, but he gets used to his fawning.

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We see a narcissist young girl who secretly mates with her boyfriend, not knowing Atik is right beside her room. Atik seems uninterested. His only concern is to withdraw insurance money for fire attack at his factory. It is clearly implied that Atik is the mastermind behind this sabotage. Fatefully enough, a distraught man named Monsur also onboarded rocket with a corpse. His wife was burnt alive at a factory fire tragedy and he’s going to bury her at their native village. Monsur meets Atik, not knowing he’s the owner of the very factory where his wife died.

The subtle messages

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There are other supporting characters who appear once in a while, aptly reflecting our social conscience.

Unemployment, cheating husband, rotting dead bodies- Komola rocket explores it all.

In the final act of the film, the steamer gets stuck in a ridge and it stands still in the middle of the river. Food supplies in the rocket shrinks soon. people from VIP cabin to freeloaders- all stand in line with a hungry stomach to eat overpriced dinner. The movie ends on a depressing note. We don’t see where the characters end up; we only see their misery, lust and greed.

What works and what doesn’t

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Komola rocket sees Tauqir Ahmed and Mosharraf Karim sharing the silver screen for the second time. Atik and Mofizul are played by Tauqir and Mosharraf respectively. Samia Syed, a Lux-Channel I superstar contestant appears as the narcissistic girl. Other acting credits include Joyraaj, Sheoti, Dominic Gomez etc. One thing I have to highlight about this film is the pristine cinematography. There are several drone shots of the rocket which I significantly liked. Noor Imran Mithu gets a pass for his first direction. If I have to nitpick anything about Komola rocket, then it should be the dialogue. I think the dialogues could have been a bit relevant and matured with the context. Overall, Komola rocket should be on your watchlist as one of the few decent Bengali language movies out there.

Check out other Bangladeshi films streaming on Netflix. ‘Television’ and ‘Pipra bidya’ are some of the popular titles you will currently find on this website.

“Fagun Haway” explores 1952 in a new light with brilliant storytelling

“রাষ্ট্রভাষা বাংলা চাই, বাংলা চাই, বাংলা চাই!” – We sat there in the theatre with goosebumps, mesmerized how a scene with people shouting words could be so simple yet so powerful.

Fagun Haway is a movie about our Language Movement of 1952, inspired by Tito Rahman’s book “Bou Kotha Kou”. Directed by Tauquir Ahmed, the film features the extremely talented Nusrat Imrose Tisha and Siam Ahmed in the lead roles.

“Fagun Haway might seem like a quite serious film regarding ’52, but there is plenty of mainstream entertainment values embedded. It has romance, family drama and of course, humor”

The lead actor of the film Siam Ahmed added in an interview with Prothom Alo,

and indeed, we could not agree more.

The story

The movie starts by introducing the main characters- Dipti (Tisha), a medical college student, Nasir (Siam), a Dhaka university student and Pakistani police officer Jamshed Ali Khan (Yashpal Sharma) arriving in a ferryboat to the village of Chandranagar in East Pakistan.

Nasir and Dipti share beautiful moments on-screen- they become friends while working for a stage-play on Dinbandhu Mitra’s ‘Nil Darpan’ and soon fall in love. Meanwhile, the new officer at the police station, grumpy Jamshed Ali unfairly treats everyone. He not only forces people to speak Urdu, but also shows grave hatred towards anything related to Bangla language- from signboards written in Bangla to our people to even a mere bird humming the tune of “Bou Kotha Kou” simply because it’s Bangla.

Overall, the movie makes you go through a mixture of emotions. You laugh helplessly at the funny dialogues or hilarious expressions of Faruk Ahmed as a moulavi, you get angry and curse the Pakistanis for their cruelty towards East Pakistani people, you smile ear to ear as you see the two lovers unite, you sympathize with the Bangali police officers and the people for the torture they face, you sigh, seeing the irrational demands of Jamshed Ali Khan and most importantly, you feel the pride as the young rebels march on the streets of Chandranagar. Fagun Haway truly is a cinematic masterpiece that makes you feel as if you are a part of the journey itself!

The cinematography and acting

"Fagun Haway" shows an unexplored side of 1952 with brilliant storytelling

In addition to the story and concept of the movie, the cinematography and attention to details definitely won my heart! The recreation of Bangladesh from the 1950s was phenomenal. Starting from how Dipti(Tisha) wore sarees with a shorter aanchol similar to women in those days to how Tauquir Ahmed bought the Volkswagen 1954 model simply because the owner wouldn’t let him use it otherwise- every little detail was admirable. The costumes, the rural houses, tea-stalls and setups, the cinematic filters and color grading were aesthetically pleasing and take you back to the 1950s. Moreover, the rural Bangladeshi scenes shot with drones was stunning!

Tisha and Siam portrayed their characters beautifully in the film. Yashpal Sharma also fit his character perfectly and his acting as the evil police officer was spot-on. Saju Khadem, Faruk Ahmed, Abul Hayat and Fazlur Rahman Babu also blended in their characters beautifully.

The verdict

"Fagun Haway" shows an unexplored side of 1952 with brilliant storytelling

Fagun Haway was quite different from the conventional movies of today.

It was a beautiful watch, with various elements blended together that worked perfectly!

More movies on such historic events of our country should be made to infuse nationalism and patriotism into the mindsets of the new generation.

Fagun Haway is playing on Star Cineplex now; book your tickets and do not miss the opportunity to experience the glimpse of our struggle for our mother tongue (and a wonderful cinematic experience)!

Through Her Eyes: Celebrating and inspiring women filmmakers in Bangladesh

Women have been making films from the beginning of film production history but when it comes to nam a few, we realize how strikingly less number of women are prominent in the field than men filmmakers around the world. In Bangladesh, we currently see a number of women filmmakers actively creating and working in all genres of filmmaking; women like Samia Zaman, Meher Afroz Shaon and  Shuchanda only to name a few. These women set an example for female film enthusiasts around the world given how it still remains a challenge for a woman to be a film director and continue to create in this line of work. ‘Through Her Eyes’ is an attempt to inspire women in this field and celebrate those who carved out that opportunity for themselves despite the challenges.

What is Through Her Eyes?

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In cooperation with the International Film Initiative of Bangladesh (IFIB), Goethe-Institut Bangladesh, launched a new film screening and discussion series “Through Her Eyes – A space to watch and discuss films with women filmmakers of Bangladesh” on Sunday, 20th January, 2019 at 5 PM.

It is a series of screening sessions of movies directed by prominent Bangladeshi women filmmakers, followed by discussion sessions with them, the entry being free for all.

They will be screening a movie on every third Sunday of each month at the Goethe-Institut auditorium at 5 pm for everyone to join and celebrate & inspire women in the film industry. It is undoubtedly an amazing opportunity for both male and female film enthusiasts, students, academics, professionals and people from all walks of life to come together to watch award-winning films by women filmmakers currently working in Bangladesh and to interact with them directly at the end of the screening.

What happened on the first day?

As part of the initiative, the first day included a screening of the film “Under Construction” directed by Rubaiyat Hossain that was followed by a highly interactive Q&A session held at Goethe-Institut Bangladesh auditorium. The film is a realistic representation of the life of a modern Muslim woman struggling to find herself in the sprawl of male-dominated urban Bangladesh.

Film synopsis:

Still from the film Under Construction

In the constantly changing dynamic city of Dhaka, Roya, an actress in her early thirties, has to face her first challenge. She has been playing the same part repeatedly for years now, working for a stage director who now thinks she’s getting too old in spite of her young age. She enters a deep introspection about her life, her desires, her art and her place in the patriarchal society. Rubaiyat Hossain’s film Under Construction provides the portrait of a woman, whose life is still under construction.

The guests were clearly impressed by the emphasis on the details in the film and the story itself. One of the guests, Nadira who aspires to be a filmmaker told us she was overwhelmed to see a woman just like her creating something so brilliant. “The film was so impressively time-frame focused and realistic; the details were so carefully worked on. It was amazing!” she told us.

Why you should definitely go:

“The film inspired me to keep moving, no matter where life takes us. What really matters the most is if you’re still doing what you love”

Said Sadia who also told us that every moment of the event was worth it to her.

Besides the chance for us to come together and watch amazing creations of these inspiring women, the monthly programme will also be a space for young filmmakers, academics, film enthusiasts to engage in discussions, to learn about opportunities and career paths to critically interrogate societal relations. Moreover, the event promotes networking and will help us find out about the industry and important aspects for rising filmmakers like what kind of challenges should young filmmakers be ready for and what role can others play in this. What’s better? It’s free! So if you want to spend a Sunday evening watching something worthwhile, this is it!

Find out more about the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2099870576979355/

Keep an eye on the page of Goethe-Institut Bangladesh for the upcoming screening next month. Here’s the link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/goetheinstitut.bangladesh/ 

About the director of Under Construction:

Rubaiyat Hossain, one of Bangladesh’s handful of female filmmakers is known for her critically acclaimed debut feature film Meherjaan (2011) which due to its anti-war narrative, and critic of masculine nationalism from a feminine point of view, faced political and cultural outrage in Bangladesh. It was stripped down fromtheatres across the country only a week after its release and is still prohibited from being screened. While Under Construction (2015) is her second film that has won several national and international awards, she just finished the shoot for her upcoming film Made In Bangladesh.

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Having completed her B.A. in Women Studies from Smith College, USA and M.A. in South Asian Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, she is currently attending the Tisch School of Arts at New York University in Cinema Studies while living between Dhaka and New York making films. Besides being a filmmaker, she is an interdisciplinary research scholar and has worked for prominent women’s rights NGOs in Bangladesh like Ain O Shalish Kendra, Naripokkho and The Asia Foundation. Moreover, she was the assistant coordinator for the first international workshop of Sexuality and Rights organized by BRAC School of Public Health in 2007 and has also worked as a part-time lecturer in the Department of Economics and Social Sciences at BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Bhawal King: back from the dead

The just-released trailer for the upcoming Indian film of Srijit Mukherjee, Ek Je Chilo Raja, is worth all the hype. Here’s why. The movie is a biopic of the infamous Bhawal King, who in the 1920s, presumably came back from the dead as a monk, to reclaim his kingdom from the British. The movie also doubles as a brilliant courtroom drama about one of the longest running court trials in Indian history.

Ramendra Narayan Roy was the second prince of the Bhawal zamindars in Bengal, a part of which is modern day Bangladesh. He was popular among his subjects and spent a lavish lifestyle hunting, in festivities and in the company of women. In 1909, he contracted syphilis and went to Darjeeling for further treatment. He presumably died there and was cremated. His young wife Bibhabati Deb later moved to Dhaka to live with her brother. The remaining Bhawal princes died later on and the British took over the Bhawal estate. Tragic, but the story is only about to begin.

bhawal raja case
Raja Ramendra Narayan

One fine day in 1920, a Sanyasi covered in ashes arrives at the Buckland Bund in Dhaka, near the Ruplal House. He sits on the street, meditating for four months and attracts public attention. Under public pressure, the Sanyasi reveals that he is Ramendra Narayan Roy, the second prince of Bhawal. To prove his identity, he even discloses private information of the prince which only the prince himself or those close to him knew. Many of the relatives, though doubtful at first, later recognizes him and accepts him.

On 29 May 1921, the claimant arrives at the Bhawal estate with two lawyers to meet the district magistrate and collector J. H. Lindsay, who recorded his claim.

ek je chilo raja jawa ahsan
Popular Bangladeshi actress Jaya Ahsan plays a significant role in “Ek Je Chilo Raja”.

Amid much public row, the British government eventually filed a case terming the claimant as an imposter. And thus began the infamous Bhawal case, one of the longest running trials in Indian judicial history. The trial ran for 16 years without a final verdict. The claimant, who insisted that he was the returned king, died of a stroke before the trial ended. The government could never prove that he was an imposter.

Jishu Sengupta stars as the Bhawal prince in the upcoming movie. Anjan Dutta and Jaya Ahsan also appear in prominent roles. The biopic is set to be released on 12th October 2018.

We’ll bring you an official review of the film after it is released.