2nd International Film Festival in New York

New York Film Center organized their 2nd International Film Festival in Jackson Heights from June 19 to 21, 2014. The event was held in the afternoons. Fourteen films – three feature-length and eleven shorts – were screened at the event. Out of them, eleven from Bangladesh, one from India, one from Sri Lanka, and one from USA. Nine non-fictions, five fictions. There was a panel discussion at the closing day. A small English souvenir was published with program details. The event was entirely free.

This festival is simply a great initiative as this may showcase Bangladeshi films as well as films from other countries, encourage independent filmmakers to make responsible films, build curious audiences, make a platform to compare and compete for other film festivals.

The festival seemed like a success! Plenty of audience showed up which was encouraging. The location – Jackson Height – was convenient for people to attend. The organizers advertised the festival in local Bangladeshi newspapers, distributed postcards, arranged press conference, donors, sponsors and advertisers provided financial contribution, local Bangladeshi media outlets reported the event. There was some collaboration from Bangladesh and Sri Lankan consulate too. Even with hectic efforts, the festival was a success.

2nd International Film Festival

There are three major observations about the festival:

  • First day, the festival opened with ‘Not a Penny Not a Gun’ – a short doc by Makbul Chowdhury and ended with ‘The Drummer’ – a film by Tanvir Mokammel. The organizers asked some notable personalities to express their thoughts on the film – The Drummer – just after the screening. However, for one of  them, it was too quick to say something, he needed more time to reflect. For another it was too emotional to say anything! However, they talked few words about the film at the end. If a discussion was necessary then it could have been better if general audiences were included. Most of the time these kinds of one-sided, staged, discussion are not so interesting. The experts unintentionally make the audience bored with their ‘expert’ opinion (which was visible from the panel discussion on 2nd day). Let’s keep ‘banjona’ ‘dotona’ ‘nondon thotho’ related issues for lecture room event. The festival can be light, entertaining, inclusive, intuitive and innovative without this lecture-style discussions.
  • Next time the organizers can make sure that enough and up-to-date event information is available online. It was hard to find any information about this festival online. Even the festival’s Facebook event page did not give sufficient and timely information.
  • Cell phone, cell phone, cell phone! It is extremely rude and mega-obnoxious to let your cell phone ring loudly in the middle of a film. This happened ever day. Please audience, put your ‘ego-ring’ into silence or keep vibrating in style!

Even hectic, restless and need some effective organization, the festival was a great start. It can only go better with better planning. Cheers to all who were part of this festival. A wholehearted big congratulation to the organizers.

Following films were shown at the 2nd International Film Festival:

June 19, 2014 Screening:

Not a Penny Not a Gun by Mokbul Chowdhury, Bangladesh, 39 mins
The effort of Bangladesh in Britain during 1971 Liberation war is explored through the journey of a son searching for his father’s footsteps. His father Azizul Haque Bhuia was the convener of the Action Committee of the Liberation of Bangladesh who left England in 1972 just after a week’s of the freedom of Bangladesh. In 2006 when Azizuf Haque Bhuia passed away he was denied the recognition a of ‘Freedom Fighter’ and a state funeral which is given to freedom fighters. The local district office inform his family that they did not consider him as a ‘Freedom Fighter’ as he was abroad in 1971 and he did not fight with a Gun. A documentary for the first time captured the stories and emotions of real people that remain missing from the glorious history of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
Narmeen by Dipti Gupta, India, 18 mins
Narmeen is about the loss of identity and association in the trying times of partition of India. Noor, a young woman grieving the death of her daughter, is torn between moving to a new country and holding on the last vestiges of memory that she has. Unable to come to terms with reality, she exists in a dreamlike state. When a Sikh refugee comes in the neighborhood from the ‘other side’, Noor takes a liking for his young son. But her attempts at befriending him are blatantly thwarted by the embittered father.
Aiaao by Jaami Abdullah Farooq, Bangladesh, 13 mins
Mandi is an ethnic minority who lives in the heart of Saalban of Gazipur. Through their primitive religion was sangsarek, almost all of them migrated into Christian Religion festival, rituals – all their history and heritage are demolishing today. In 2004, Mandi people started protesting when Saalban was announced to be an echo park. In 3rd January, 2004, police attacked at their procession which resulted death of Piren and 100 more injury. The documentary tends to portray their life and struggle.
The Drummer by Tanvir Mokammel, Bangladesh, 90 mins
During the war in 1971 when Pakistan army occupied Jibon’s village, Jobon along with other villagers, tried to flee to India. On the way, the Pakistani soldiers massacred his family members. Jibon survived, and after roaming around the war-ravaged countryside, finally returned to his native village which was then being brutally ruled by the Razakars, an Islamic auxiliary force collaborating with the Pakistan army. The commander of the Razakars spared Jibon’s life on the condition that he had to play drum for his marauding force. Jibon’s situation became very ironic but his humanity and artistic instincts thrived at the end.

June 20, 2014 Screening:

Mechanism by Abid Hossain Khan, Bangladesh, 15 mins
Mechanism is an experimental documentary film about worker, nature and transformation plot, no spoken dialog, no voice over and have to be experienced viscerally first, and first analyzed because everyone sees different in them. It’s kind of exploration of technological journey in Bangladesh and the effect of transition to western style modernization has had on them.
The Strike by Farid Ahmed, Bangladesh, 20 mins
General strike, popularly known as hortal, was first demonstrated in the Indian sub continent by Gandhi as mean of protesting British colonial rule in India, but that was non-violent. From then, hortal is known as a recognized way of articulating political demand wherein the forms of demonstrating hortal have undergone a huge transformation over years. It played as a strong instrument of protest in our language movement of 1952, mass uprising of 1969, 1971 and student movement of 1990. Now a days, hortals come with violent movements, bloodshed and some time death. Hortal costs loss of $15 million each day. The film tends to compare between glorious history of hortal and its present scenario.
The Story Never Be End by Fauzia Khan, Bangladesh, 20 mins
The documentary is a social expression of women about marriage, sexuality  and childbirth. Four decades have passed after the liberation war and women advanced a lot during this time. Even now they cannot take their own  decision in case of marriage, develop career as their own, take challenging profession; earn fame both in country and abroad. But within a family, within a married life – woman still posses the same position. The story of Shukla, Shikoya, Nasrin, Ridita and Ritu in their married life not more than a wife or mother, not more than what was in their moms and grandmas life. Generation to generation, women’s position and roles are remaining same, their freedom in married life is a bird within a cage. This story is a story of other people whom are considered as second sex by Simone de Beauvoir.
Mrittika Maya (Earthen Love) by Gazi Rakaye, Bangladesh, 90 mins
Nimai Chandra Pal – best known as Khirmohan was a potter once. Presently he owns a potter homestead and a piece of  land with a banyan tree. He walks leaning on a stick – the very stick that was once used to turn his potter’s wheel. One of his hands is paralyzed now. Though he doesn’t do pottery anymore because of his old age and failing health, pottery happens to be his very life-support just the way the stick scaffolds him to walk. Khirmohan has two sons – Shatyan and Nikhil. Both stay in Dhaka. One of them works as an office support staff and the other runs a shop. They have no regard for their father’s profession – they are more willing to sell the ancestral potter homestead. For this Khirmohan doesn’t like his sons. He had a daughter who passed away.

June 21, 2014 Screening:

A Tale of the Hilsha by Polash Rosul, Bangladesh, 22 mins
In the river Meghna, the Hilsa roams freely. The fishermen’s lives rotate around this river and this fish; they cast their nets in the depths of the river and seek the meaning• of life. The river once used to yield a huge amount of Hilsa. The life-cycle of this fish was intractably tied with the lives of the fishermen, for the Hilsa was the staple source of their income. Each fisherman used to have large fishing boats and fishing nets. But conditions have changed. Today the lives of these fishermen are ensnared in the moneylender’s hands. The Hilsa fish, too, are in short supply. As the fishermen reminisce over the olden days, they are overwhelmed with emotion, and often they turn defiant in anger. A Tale of the Hilsa is a documentary that depicts the frail lives of the Hilsa fish and the Hilsa fishermen.
Bangladesher Ridoy by Saiful Wadud Helal, Bangladesh, 30 mins
Sahabag’s ganajagarana is the biggest documented peoples upraising in Bangladesh history. I took a part in this movement from my middle-class background. Looking through the Camera’s viewfinder, I tried to understand a country as old as me. Perhaps, trying to look for the dream of Bangladesh through the eyes of thousands of who came to Shahbag with a hope. Can it be possible to find that dream Bangladesh standing on the footpath of Shahbag?
Untitled by Peal Chowdhury, USA, 10 mins
‘Untitled’ is a short firm about an ordinary boy whose life was filled With happiness at first. But with the company  of bad friends he got addicted to drugs and his life took an U-turn…He lost his loved ones and involved in crimes. Thus he saw his life crumbling in front of his eyes.
The Last Rites by Yasmin Kabir, Bangladesh, 20 mins
‘The Last Rites’, a silent film by Yasmine Kabir, depicts the ship breaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh – a final destination for ships that are too old to ply the oceans any longer. Every year, hundreds of ships are sent to yards in Bangladesh. And every year, thousands of people come to these yards in search of jobs. Risking their lives to save themselves from hunger, they breathe in asbestos dust and toxic waste. The elemental struggle between man and metal figures throughout the film, as men carry the weight of steel ropes over their shoulders, pull huge parts of the vessels inland, and bear great metal plates. ‘The Last Rites’ is an allegorical portrayal of the agony of hard labor.
Artist of a Changing World by Anindo Atik, Bangladesh, 30 mins
The film tells the story of a freedom fighter and a committed war photographer Abdul Hamid Raihan. He and his camera captured and preserved the memories of the glorious war of independence in 1971. Abdul Hamid Raihan, a freelance photographer from Kushtia, begun his historical photographic journey when Bangladesh was going through its political transformation. His love for photography started purely out of curiosity at a very young age. His hobby turned him into a serious photographer during the liberation of Bangladesh. His camera became a weapon of great significance – documenting Bengali life, atrocities committed by occupation army and aftermath of a bloody war.
With you Without you by Mansee Kong, Sri Lanka, 90 mins
When lonely wife, tortured pawnbroker Sarathsiri meets and marries the beautiful, enigmatic Selvi, he thinks he has finally found a way to put his past behind him. But a chance visit from an old friend opens up wounds that threaten to tear open the barely healing fabric of a mutilated nation coming to grips with the unspeakable cost of a third year civil war. Will love help them cross the bridge? Or will the past continue to color the present?

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