The 16th Dhaka International Film Festival was dominated by the Turkish films as the major awards of the main competition segment of the festival, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenwriter Awards, went to the Turks.
DIFF, the biggest film festival organised in Bangladesh by Rainbow Film Society with the government support, featured 215 films from 64 countries at six venues in Dhaka from January 9 to 20.
Turkish filmmaker Kazim Oz’s feature film “Zer” was the curtain raiser of festival, which also won the Best Feature Film Award competing with 14 other entries from Asian countries like Iran, India, Philippines and others in the Asian Film Section, the main competitive segment of the festival.
The film, featuring a young Kurd’s root searching journey in Turkey being inspired by a song whispered on his ear by his dying grandmother at a New York hospital, won Tk 100,000, (US$1,200), a crest and a certificate of best film.
A five-member international jury chaired by famous Indian filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli selected the best film, best director, best actor, best actress, best screen writer and best cinematographer.
Turkish director Onur Saylak won the Best Director Award for “Daha” (More) while Filipino actor Allen Dizon won the Best Actor Award for the film “Bomba” (The Bomb) and the Best Actress Award was shared by two Iranians– Parinaz Izadyar and Mina Sadati for “Tabestan-e Dagh” (Searing Summer).
Iranian Masoud Salami won the Best Cinematographer Award for “Asphyxia” while Best Screenplay Award was shared by three Turks named Onur Saylak, Dogu Yasar Akal and Hakan Gunday for “Daha” (More).
All these individual winners received crests and certificates.
In a separate competition for only Bangladeshi films named ‘Bangladesh Panorama’, Lata Ahmed’s “Shohagir Goyna” was chosen as the best film from nine entries by a three-member International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) jury.
Tauquir Ahmed won the Best Director Award among the Bangladeshis for his film “Haldaa”, which was also the ending film of the festival. The winners received crests and certificates.
A scheduled film Kaler Putul, directed by Aka Reza Galib, was not screened at the festival as it did not get censor certificate from Bangladesh Film Censor Board.
There was no best actor, actress, cinematographer or screenwriter awards for Bangladesh Panorama.
The best short fiction award of Short and Independent Films section went to Iraqi film “The Violet”, directed by Baqer Al Rubaie, while best documentary award of the section went to the British film Continental Drift, directed by Pietro Novello.
Organisers honoured Bangladeshi film Pounopunik, directed by Khandaker Sumon, and Nepalese film A Song for Barpak, directed by Pradip Pokhrel, with special mention award for their participations in the section.
Russian film “Sofichka”, directed by Kira Kovalenko, won the best feature film award of Women Filmmakers Section, while Afghan film “Parlika”, directed by Sahraa Karimi, won the best documentary award of the section. Czech-USA joint venture Anna, directed by Petra Priborska, won the best short fiction award of Women Filmmakers Section.
The organisers honoured Norwegian film “Thank You for the Rain” and French film “Les Bigorneaux” with special mention awards for their participations in the section.
Russian film “Amun”, directed by Anar Abbasov, won beat feature in the Spiritual Film Section while Australian film “Aceh: Beyond the Tsunami”, directed by Tim Baretto, won best documentary award of the section. Tajik film “Break Through” and Iranian film “Still Yet” were honoured with special mentions.
Best Children Film Badal Rahman Award went to Iranian film “White Bridge”, directed by Ali Ghavitan, while the festival organisers honoured Indian film “Tope” (The Bait) with best audience award.
There was no award for Cinema of the World and Retrospective Sections of the festival.
Among the ancillary events, a 16-day workshop on cinema was organised jointly by International Film Critics Association of Bangladesh and Pathshala. American documentary filmmaker Ovidio Salazar conducted the eighth edition of the workshop for the budding filmmakers and critics.
A two-day international conference titled “Women in Cinema,” consisting of six seminars, continued from January 13-14 at Alliance Françoise de Dhaka.
FIPRESCI president Alin Tasciyan in her keynote paper titled “How to Sustain Gender Equality in Cinema” urged to treat female and male filmmakers equally.
“When the rules, regulations and often bad habits of the film industry are changed so as not to favour men, worship men and overrate their films then scales of justice will be balanced,” Alin’s paper reads.
We need to build a system in which Harvey Weinstein cannot dare to abuse Salma Hayek for “excellent projects like Frida”, Alin suggests, adding that a system needs to be built in which male festival directors take into consideration that they might be overrating men’s films.
“We need to create awareness among male intellectuals to focus on gender studies and be sensitive to gender issues,” the keynote paper reads.
Tajik filmmaker Dr. Sharofat M Arabova and Indian actress Aparajita Ghosh, respectively presented papers titled “The pioneering women-filmmakers in early Central Asian cinema’ and ‘Bengal could show the way to lessen gender imbalance in Indian film industry.”
Indian filmmaker Debjani Halder, Iranian cinematic researcher Nazamin Kaynejad and film educator from USA, Sydney Levine presented papers titled “Deconstructing Motherhood in Indian Cinema: A Critical Feminist Discourse” and “Women in Avant-garde Cinema” and “The perception of South Asian women by western women through cinema” on the closing day of the seminar held on January 14.
Moreover, the 1st Asian Film Critics Assembly was organised by International Film Critics Association of Bangladesh in association with International Federation of Film Critics on January 15 in which critics from 12 Asian countries including Armenia, Bangladesh, China Hong Kong, India, Iran, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Turkey presented country reports featuring current scenarios of film criticism in their respective countries.
The assembly, chaired by FIPRESCI president Alin Tasciyan and hosted by IFCAB president Robiul Hossain, called the critics to strengthen collaborations to move forward.
Nearly 100 foreign delegates including filmmakers, actors, producers, promoters and critics participated at the festival and appreciated the arrangement saying the festival had some unique characters and played a significant role in case of creating platform for aspiring filmmakers.
Celebrated Indian director-actor Aparna Sen, who is participating at the 16th edition of the festival with her film Sonata, said she had earlier taken part in the festival in 2000. ‘I’m happy to see the festival that has grown in terms of number of participation of films and foreign delegates.’
She, in her formal press conference following screening of her film “Sonata” under Women Filmmakers’ Section, however, expressed her dissatisfaction for poor projection system. “The poor projection system is hampering viewers’ enjoyment”, she said.
It is a common complain of the viewers that the poor projection system of the non-conventional venues, except for Star Cineplex, lacks visibility and makes noise for poor acoustics.
As a result, the festival, which showcased some interesting films made by talented makers, could not attract many viewers even though providing tickets with very nominal price to the students.
DIFF festival director Ahmed Muztuba Zamal admitted that the screening system at the Shawkat Osman Auditorium of the Central Public Library was not good.
Rainbow Film Society has been organsing the festival since 1992. From 2016, the festival has been organised annually and it has taken a place in the global calendar of the film festivals.