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?

Through Her Eyes: Celebrating & Inspiring Women Filmmakers In Bangladesh 7

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.

Finding Bangladesh: In search of Bangladesh’s lost legends

The second documentary of the Finding Bangladesh series, Bangladesher Harano Golpo was premiered last Friday, 26th October in KIB. Directed by Adnan M.S. Fakir, the second documentary comes out after ten long years since the first one. And it certainly lived up to the hype.

As the documentary runs on the screen, it slowly introduces to us, the lost tales and myths of Bangladesh. Makara, the mythological creature, Gazi and his army of tigers and Bonbibi, the guardian of Sundarbans, all come to life in the captivating narrative of the documentary. The journey takes us on a thrilling ride through our own mythology and history. Often in the tone of complaint and occasional comic relief.

In terms of its content, Bangladesher Harano Golpo deserves nothing less than a solid five-star rating.

In 76 minutes of its runtime, we learn more about Bangladesh and its rich tales than any history books have ever taught us. The Finding Bangladesh team has spared no expense in researching and crafting the stories beautifully. Animations and skilled cinematography bought the legends to life as the team take us through 17 historical locations across Southern Bangladesh.

But one might criticise it for its incoherent style of narrative. The sudden English narratives in the middle of continuous Bangla seemed to have served no apparent purpose. And Safdar Doctor’s comic relieves were enjoyable but it continued to break the immersion.

Nevertheless, Bangladesher Harano Golpo has been an enthralling journey through our history and legends. It serves its overall purpose with a fine touch of expertise, that is, to aware and educate us of our own heritage. The effort of Adnan M.S. Fakir and his team in digging out our roots and the tremendous amount of research that went into making it is commendable, to say the least. We eagerly look forward to what the misfits on the loo on wheels bring us next.

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.

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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.

Sincerely Yours, Dhaka: Bangladeshi anthology in Busan Film Festival

“Sincerely Yours, Dhaka”, a Bangladeshi anthology film, has been selected to screen at Busan International Film Festival, this October.

Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in South Korea is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia, recognizing outstanding film making for the last 22 years.  “Sincerely Yours, Dhaka” is the only entry from Bangladesh. It has been selected in the festival’s “A Window on Asian Cinema” section which highlights different styles and visions within Asian cinema.

The film is the first anthology film of Bangladesh, made up of 11 short films by 11 young Bangladeshi filmmakers. The filmmakers are Abdullah Al Noor, Golam Kibria Farooki, Krishnendu Chattopadhyay, Mahmudul Islam, Md Rabiul Alam, Mir Mukarram Hossain, Nuhash Humayun, Rahat Rahman, Syed Ahmed Shawki, Syed Saleh Ahmed Sobhan and Tanvir Ahsan.

Ranging from bizarre, heartwarming to heartbreaking, this anthology film will take the audience on a bittersweet journey through Dhaka City. A background actor who’ll do anything to be the star. A wannabe gangster who’s out to prove himself. Two young girls who just want to get a drink in a city where alcohol’s illegal. An attempted murder, a stolen car, a refugee crisis – these stories make up Sincerely Yours, Dhaka.
Sincerely Yours, Dhaka is a love letter to a city that is often difficult to love.

11 vignettes by 11 Bangladeshi filmmakers come together to tell fragmented stories about one character – Dhaka City itself.

The film is Produced by Impress Telefilms. It is currently in post-production and will be released in Bangladesh as soon as the censor board gives clearance.

It is a proud achievement for the industry and the nation, for the efforts of young Bangladeshi directors to be recognized, on their first go of this genre and format, on an international platform.