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Bangladesh, The 2nd International Film Festival 1st – 16th December 2004 by Terence White, Ireland


Joyjatra

The Keys to the House

DQ-winner: Travellers and magicians
“Film For The People”

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is known as the city of mosques and muslin. The fact that it has several hundred mosques isn’t surprising as it is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Leaving the relative calm of the airport, you emerge into a maelstrom. Everybody is vying for the same space. The six lane roads which traverse the city are a veritable battleground for buses, trucks, cars, mini cabs and colourful tricycle rickshaws. This sprawling concrete metropolis is home to the International Film Festival of Bangladesh.

Now in it’s second year, the festival organisers (the Bangladesh Federation of Film Societies) managed to create a very impressive programme with limited resources. Films from 42 countries were screened over the two-week period. As well as the international competition section, there were also showcases of films by Iranian women filmmakers and retrospectives featuring the work of European and Asian filmmakers.

“Film for the People” was the theme of this year’s festival and it was heartening to see long queues outside the main festival venues. These were halls in the Public Library and National Museum converted into cinemas for the duration of the festival.

Nine films were entered into the International Competition section. As well as myself, the small IFFS jury consisted of Parasanna Vithanage (Chairman), a filmmaker from Sri Lanka and Akhtaruzzaman, a filmmaker from Bangladesh.

The Standard Charter Best Film Award went to Travellers and Magicians from Bhutan – “ A beautifully realised story within a story. Khyentse Norbu’s multi-layered and subtle film explores the universal human desire to attain our dreams.” This film also won the NETPAC Jury best film award (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema). The Standard Charter Special Mention Award went to Joyjatra from Bangladesh – “The Special Mention Award goes to Tauquir Ahmed for his skilful depiction of the quest for survival of a group of ordinary people during the struggle for national emancipation.” As well as a trophy and cash prizes, both films were awarded Don Quixote certificates from the IFFS. The IFFS Jury also awarded a commendation to Laaj from India – “The jury has decided to award a commendation to Manzu-Borah for her conviction and sincerity in portraying the story of a girl’s coming of age in poverty-stricken conditions.”

Highlights outside of the competition included the widely lauded Osama from Afghanistan, directed by Siddiq Barmak and the hugely moving Italian film House Keys. The director of House Keys, Gianni Amelio, was the subject of one of the festival retrospectives

The International Film Festival of Bangladesh is run on a purely voluntary basis and the hospitality of the hosts, and especially the team of young people responsible for the guests, was truly amazing. Sightseeing trips were organised when the jury had some free time and my attempts at Bangla (using a phrase sheet I had downloaded from the net) provoked much hilarity among the locals.
Pore dakhaa hobe! (See you later)


Terence White
Filmmaker, Ireland.