Bangladesh lags behind in cinematic excellence at the Oscars
As Hungary’s ‘Son of Saul’ took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, it nailed the already-destined coffin for Bangladesh’s Oscars aspirations this year.
Not that debutant Abu Shahed Emon’s ‘Jalaler Golpo’ was nominated in the final five, but it blew the candle on Bangladesh’s hopes of ever reaching the big show, for the eleventh time.
Starting off with late Tareque Masud’s ‘Matir Moyna’ as Bangladesh’s first official submission for the Oscars in 2002, talented filmmakers such as Humayun Ahmed, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki and several others have been unsuccessful in breaking this barrier.
“It really is disheartening,” said Abu Said, an aspiring filmmaker. “When I watch Humayun sir’s ‘Shyamol Chhaya’ or Farooki sir’s ‘Television’, I feel that Bangladesh has come a long way in terms of traditional filmmaking and plotlines, but we also see films from other countries with half the budget we have and half the production skills, all bagging Oscars left and right.”
So what seems to hold our pictures back when it matters the most? Ananta Jalil? Highly unlikely. The content is where the deficiency lies the most, according to experts.
Pijush Bandyopadhaya, eminent actor and former managing director of Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC), said in a recent interview that lack of government cooperation in dishing out more grants to talented filmmakers is keeping the industry from moving forward.
As the film industry slowly recovers from the stigma of vulgarity, piracy and obscene films, plagiarism takes center-stage as today’s films by Shakib Khan and other actors are mired in allegations of blatantly copying South Indian movie plots.
Criticisms of a different kind have been lurched against Ananta Jalil, who makes movies for box office revenue rather than cinematic prowess. Whistles and claps from the audience is what motivate him to do movies, rather than striving for a cinematic beauty.
Lack of appreciation towards the directors is also a demotivating factor of sorts. Md. Nazrul Islam, a filmmaker and close associate of Afsana Mimi and her production house Krishnochura, gave the example of Tareque Masud’s ‘Runway’, where he personally took helm of taking his reels and traveling all over the country to exhibit his film at a minimum price.
The word-of-mouth policy helped in gathering audience appreciation for the movie and steered them towards the movie theater, an action which reverberated the pulse of film-lovers and brought them back to halls, the existence of Bashundhara City’s Star Cineples and Jamuna Future Park’s Blockbuster Cinema is proof of the ‘bankability’ of good films.
All this does not mean that Bangladeshis have zero experience of knowing how receiving an Oscar feels like. Software engineer Nafees Bin Zafar received a Scientific and Technical Academy Award in 2007 for his work on fluid simulation in the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’. He is currently working as the principal engineer in hit movie franchises such as Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.
But as directors experiment more and more with storylines and production values, we can only hope that we can rival our neighbour, India, which has three official Oscar nominations (Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan) in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and even surpass their figures in the near future.