Film industry in Bangladesh taking new shape

Ershad Kamol | Updated at 07:27pm on September 08, 2018

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Dorothee Wenner. — Abdullah Apu

Berlin International Film Festival delegate Dorothee Wenner, herself a filmmaker in her own right, says the Berlin-based world famous film festival is interested in promoting films and filmmakers from Bangladesh.
It is also keen to patronise them with funds and connecting them with the international movie market, with the reshaping of a ‘new Bangladeshi-film wave’ through the works of new generation filmmakers, she says.
The Berlin-based festival, widely known as Berlinale, is showing interest in Bangladeshi films and filmmakers seeing a significant development in the local film industry in the past few years, Dorothy tells New Age in an interview.
‘Bangladesh in the past few years has sent very interesting films and people to our country. Of course, we have been following what’s going on in the country’s cinema industry. We have got the impression that the film industry here is getting a new shape and we think the moment has arrived for us to stretch out instead of staying put only in Bombay but swinging over to see what’s going on in the neighbouring country,’ Dorothee said.
Berlinale’s delegate for South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, Dorothee Wenner and the festival’s consultant for South Asia Meenakshi Shedde visited Dhaka last week.
They held orientation programme on the Berlinale for the local filmmakers, producers and distributors under the five-day programme titled ‘Berlinale Spotlight Bangladesh’ and also had one-to-one discussions with the local filmmakers and producers.
The filmmakers and producers expressed interest in capitalising the opportunity offered to them by one of the most popular film festivals in the world Berlinale.
The delegates also attended similar programme on Sunday at Dhaka Doclab, a workshop and pitching programme for the aspiring filmmakers of South Asia also held last week in Dhaka.
‘I’m really happy to be here in Dhaka to introduce our festival to the Bangladeshi filmmakers and producers and to inform them about the programmes we offer for the filmmakers around the world for making Berninale diverse and vibrant. Of course as festival delegates we cannot go to each country every year but we have been in touch with individual filmmakers from Bangladesh and were following their works closely,’ Dorothee said.
She said they had seen a lot of good images coming from Bangladesh, especially in film industry. ‘So, we think it is our duty to let them know the filmmakers to apply for different programmes of Berlinale’s upcoming edition like talent campus, coproduction market, world cinema fund. We also learned about their future projects,’ said Dorothee.
Of the different segments of the Berlinale’s upcoming 69th edition, scheduled to be held in February 2019 in Berlin, deadline for the Talent Campus ended last week, feature filmmakers are required to apply by November 1 while deadline for submitting application for short films is November 15.
A separate programme was organised at Goethe-Institut in August offering application for the talent campus in Berlinale.
‘We don’t just screen films but also offer grants for the filmmakers and also help them get access to international distribution channels and film festival circuits. And our talent campus that runs during the festival offers training for the aspiring filmmakers, producers, distributors, screen writers, composers, sound engineers, DOPs, sound engineers, film critics and others related to filmmaking from around the world,’ said Dorothee.
The Berlinale delegate claims that the festival authorities understand the importance of patronising apparently small film industries of the world, which are struggling for the aggression of the big industries like Hollywood and Bollywood.
‘We want to celebrate the cultural diversity of the world through our film festival for which we give equal importance to the film industries of the economically developing countries that sometime cannot provide technical trainings and financial support to the films and filmmakers as the rich countries do,’ said Dorothee.
She said she had visited several other Asian and African countries and also invited filmmakers of countries to participate in the biggest film festival in the world in terms of number of audience attendance.
‘An average 0.5 million tickets are sold during the 10 days of the Berlinale,’ she informed.
‘We wanted to come to Dhaka last year. But, at that time the Goethe-Institut was not in operation. But, the moment has come to open our door to the Bangladeshi film industry with support from Berlinale, Gothe-Institut, Film Initiative of Bangladesh and Dhaka DocLab,’ Dorothee said.
She said she had earlier visited Bangladesh two decades back to meet her friends and enjoyed beauty and culture of Bangladesh. ‘I can’t recall the year, maybe it was in 1990 or 1991 when I visited Southern part and liked the country a lot and I was looking for an occasion for coming back here again,’ Dorothee said.
As a filmmaker, writer and curator also Dorothee celebrates cultural diversity and cross-cultural communications. Her 15 films released so far show her efforts in narrating stories from unconventional perspectives.
Her documentaries like Hollywood Killed Me (1988), Star Biz (2005) and Shanti Plus (2006) often transgress borders of traditional genres, as she uses elements of feature filmmaking when working with protagonists.
Her documentary Peace Mission (2008), premiered at International Film Festival of Toronto, won critical acclaim as it gave international audiences an insider perspective into the world of home movie production in Nigeria.
And her latest web series www.KINSHASA-COLLECTION.com (2017) celebrates cultural connections of Congo, China and Germany through the activities of three citizens of Congo to improve the image of Africa to the globe.