Acclaimed Bangladeshi film critic Ahmed Muztaba Zamal went as a Fipresci jury in the section where “Matir Moyna” was awarded in 2002. The Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Editor Sadia Khalid will be joining the same jury in this year’s Cannes Film Festival
Many Bangladeshi news media outlets have reported in recent years that quite a few Bangladeshi films have been selected or invited to the Cannes Film Festival. Yet none of them were official selections by the festival. These film-makers have used the reputation of the festival as their promotional ‘stunt.’ These film-makers have hid the difference between the festival’s market segment, professional screening, and festival screening, according to a recent investigative report published by Bangla Tribune.
There are numerous theatres near the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the central venue for the Cannes Film Festival. Bangladeshi film-makers have used this opportunity and rented these theatres to screen their movies during the festival. These are mainly market screenings (Marché du Film) and have no relation to the main festival. So, publishing headlines like “Bangladeshi film goes to Cannes” or “Bangladeshi film gets official selection at Cannes,” without confirming it, is completely unethical.
The only Bangladeshi film which won an actual title at the Cannes Film Festival, is internationally acclaimed Bangladeshi film-maker, Tareque Masud’s “Matir Moyna - The Clay Bird.” The film won the Fipresci prize in the Director's Fortnight segment of Cannes Film Festival 2002, for its “authentic, moving, and delicate portrayal of a country struggling for its democratic rights.”
Acclaimed Bangladeshi film critic Ahmed Muztaba Zamal went as a Fipresci jury in the section where “Matir Moyna” was awarded in 2002. The Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Editor Sadia Khalid will be joining the same jury in this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The official selection categories of the festivals are: “In Competition (films competing for the grand prize Palme d'Or), Un Certain Regard (films selected from cultures near and far), Out of Competition (films which are officially selected but do not compete for the main prize), and Special Screenings.
The films selected for the 72nd edition of the grand event has already been announced, and no Bangladeshi films were on the lists.
Parallel Sections of the festival were introduced as alternative programmes dedicated to discovering other aspects of cinema. International Critics' Week was added to Parallel Sections in 1962 and has focused on discovering new talents and showcasing first and second feature films by directors from all over the world. Directors' Fortnight (judged by International Federation of Film Critics - Fipresci) was later added in 1969 and has cast its lot with the avant-garde, even as it created a breeding ground where the Cannes Festival would regularly find its prestigious auteurs.
This year’s festival director and world famous Mexican film director and producer, Alejandro González Iñárritu, also went under spotlight from the Parallel Section. Other renowned filmmakers discovered in this segment at Cannes, are Gaspar Noe, Wong Kar Wai, Bernardo Bertolucci, and many more.
In 2016, Bangladesh was represented a bit differently in the Cannes Classics category. The restored version of 1958 Urdu film, “Jago Hua Savera - The Day Shall Dawn.” The film, directed by AJ Kardar, features renowned Bangladeshi actor and film-maker, Khan Ataur Rahman.
In 2010, Ritwik Ghatak’s “Titas Ekti Nodir Naam - A River Called Titas,” produced by veteran Bangladeshi film producer Habibur Rahman Khan, was selected in the Cannes Classic category.
Bangladeshi film-makers Tauquir Ahmed’s “Oggatonama - The Unnamed,” and Amitabh Reza Chaudhury’s “Aynabaji” were screened in Marche du Film (the film market section of Cannes Film Festival) in 2016. Bangladeshi news outlets confused this with official selections at Cannes. Moreover, Ananta Jalil’s “Nisshartho Bhalobasha: What is Love!” claimed to have got an official selection at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, but in reality it was just a market screening. Jaaz Multimedia’s “Poramon 2,” opened at the Cannes’ Marche du Film segment last year. Four of these films were screened in Cannes’ commercial segment, Marche du Film, for a fee.
Bangladeshi film-maker Tauquir Ahmed told Bangla Tribune: “Cannes is a global film market. So anyone can take their films there. If anyone writes or thinks of it as an official selection that is his/her misconception. That is all I can say about this.”
A lot of Bangladeshi short films were previously selected in the Short Film Corner segment of the festival, but those were not official screenings as well. They are considered professional screenings.
Jashim Ahmed, director of “Daag,” which was selected in 2017’s Short Film corner, told Bangla Tribune: “Taking your film to the Cannes’ Short Film Corner is not an achievement, but the platform provides the film-maker, scope for international distribution, which is a huge boost for their filmmaking career. But claiming to have gotten an official selection by attending a Cannes’ film market screening, is demeaning to the film-makers themselves.”
Film-maker Samia Zaman has been coordinating another program from the 70th edition of the festival: “Dhaka to Cannes.” The program is dedicated to help emerging Bangladeshi film-makers and is being organized by the International Emerging Film Talent Initiative (IEFTA). This also is not an official program of Cannes.
The only other positive projection in Cannes, after “Matir Moyna,” was “Day After Tomorrow” by acclaimed filmmaker and screenwriter, Kamar Ahmed Simon, of “Shunte Ki Pao” fame. The project was invited to La Atelier at Cannes 2017, as one of 15 promising scripts. Another Bangladeshi screenplay selected in this year’s La Atelier category, was young filmmaker Mahde Hasan’s “Sand City.” Yet these too are recognitions from Cannes, but not official selections.
Promising young film-makers like Simon and Mahde will perhaps eventually hoist the Bangladeshi flag on the global stage of the Cannes Film Festival, and local news outlets will one day write headlines like, “Bangladesh actually got selected at Cannes this time.”