Achievers of 21st Dhaka International Film Festival | Sunday Observer

Achievers of 21st Dhaka International Film Festival

29 January, 2023
Anomaa Rajakaruna receives her award for the Best Documentary
Anomaa Rajakaruna receives her award for the Best Documentary

The 21st edition of the Dhaka International Film Festival (DIFF) concluded on January 22 on a high note, awarding Seyyed Morteza Fatemi-directed Iranian film ‘Bi-Madar’ (Motherless) as the Best Film this year.

As for the Bangladeshi films, the 2022 blockbuster Hawa received the Audience Award in the Cinema of the World section; while Fakhrul Arefeen Khan-directed film ‘JK 1971’ bagged the Special Audience Award, Kazi Arefin Ahmed-directed short film “Could You Be Free Yet Locked In” won the Best Short Film and Khandaker Sumon-directed Saatao (Memories of Gloomy Monsoons) won the Best Film Award by FIPRESCI Jury in the Bangladesh Panorama category.

Anomaa Rajakaruna

Eighteen awards were offered in different categories at the closing ceremony of the 21st Dhaka International Film Festival, organised by the Rainbow Film Society at the Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Auditorium of the Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka.

The closing ceremony was joined by ruling Awami League Presidium Member Matia Chowdhury, the DIFF chief patron and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh National Museum Director General Kamruzzaman, Information Secretary Humayun Kabir Khandaker, DIFF chairperson Kishwar Kamal and the DIFF festival director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal, among others.

In the Asian Cinema Competition Section, the Best Director award went to All Ghavitan for the film ‘Zendegi va Zendegi’ (Life and Life), the Best Actor went to Ikkei Watanabe for Naoki Maeda-directed film ‘Nakodo-Matchmakers’ (Marriage Counsellor), and the Best Actress went to Ketaki Narayan for Krishnendu Kalesh-directed film ‘Prappeda’ (Hawk’s Muffin).

The award for Best Script Writer went to Anik Dutta for Aparajito (The Undefeated) and the Best Cinematography award went to Artyom Anisimov for Evgeny Grigorev-directed Russian film ‘Podelniki’ (the Riot).

Women Filmmakers

As for the Women Filmmakers Section, Maria Douza-directed Greek film Akouse Me (Listen) received the award for Best Feature Film, while the Best Documentary Award went to Sri Lanka’s Anomaa Rajakaruna-directed ‘Our Mother, Grandmother, Prime Minister: Sirimavo’ and the Best Director award went to Katharina Woll for the German film Alle Wollen Geliebt Werden’ (Everybody Wants To Be Loved).

The Spiritual Films Section recognised this year’s submission with two special awards: the Best Documentary award went to Galina Evtushenko and Anna Evtushenko (Russia) directed Mahatma Haffkine while the award for Best Fiction Film went to Kamrul Ahsan Lenin directed film Ghore Fera (Home Coming Besides, the Best Children Film Badal Rahman Award went to Petr Oukropec-directed film Mazel a tajemství lesa (Martin and the Magical Forest), a joint production of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany.

Festival Director DIFF 2023
Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

From January 15, the 21st DIFF featured 252 films from 71 countries, including Bangladesh, India, China, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Sri Lanka. Bangladesh was represented through 81 films including 12 full-length feature films and 69 short and independent films.

Films were screened at the Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib auditorium (main auditorium) and Poet Sufia Kamal auditorium of the Bangladesh National Museum, National Art Gallery auditorium, Nandan Theatre open grounds and Jatiya Sangeet and Nrityakala auditorium of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), Star Cineplex (Bashundhara City) and Alliance Francaise de Dhaka (Dhanmondi) in the capital.

The nine-day 21st DIFF also featured the Ninth Dhaka International Conference on Women in Cinema 2023 at the Samson Lounge, Dhaka Club, on January 15 and 16. The four-day ‘West Meets East Screenplay Lab’ concluded at Alliance Française de Dhaka on January 18, as part of the DIFF.

Song of Jhinuk (Bangladesh), Afroza Hossain won the first place, Messenger of the Gods (Nepal), Nigam Bhandari won the second place and Swarnapuchhri (India), Ritvik Goswami won the third place.

This year, the festival hosted a day-long master class for the first time on January 21 at the Bangladesh National Museum; it was moderated by well-known Bangladeshi film critic and writer Bidhan Rebeiro.

The Rainbow Film Society has organised the Dhaka International Film Festival since 1992 with the theme Better Film, Better Audience, Better Society.

The next edition of the DIFF will be held from January 20-28 in 2024, according to festival director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal.

Best Documentary ‘Sirimavo’

‘Our Mother, Grandmother, Prime Minister: Sirimavo by Anomaa Rajakaruna, a documentary based on the biography of former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, won the Best Documentary award in Women Filmmakers section at the 21st Dhaka International Film Festival.

The documentary in both Sinhala and English was made for the 100th birth anniversary of Sri Lanka’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike who was born in 1916.

Anomaa had spent five years in the production of films since 2016. “Our Mother, Grandmother, Prime Minister: Sirimavo is the story of the first elected female Head of Government in modern history, explored through casual conversations between her two daughters, childhood recollections and reminiscences of her two grandchildren captured for the first time in a recorded audio-visual engagement, and personal accounts in conversation between two longstanding members of the Ceylon Administrative Service, who were part of her Government. 

Anomaa Rajakaruna has documented the lives of women in Sri Lanka, addressing the issues of women in armed conflict, displacement, sexual harassment and violence against women for over three decades. She has won several awards for her work, both nationally and internationally. During the past five years, she has produced over 100 short films with Sri Lankan youth. Rajakaruna is the first female editor of a cinema journal in Sri Lanka, the founder of Agenda 14 Short Film Festival and the Festival Director of Jaffna International Cinema Festival since 2015.

West Meets East Screenplay Lab winners 

The West Meets East Screenplay Lab concluded at Alliance Française de Dhaka on January 18, as part of the Dhaka International Film Festival 2023. 

Song of Jhinuk (Bangladesh), Afroza Hossain won the first place, Messenger of the Gods (Nepal), Nigam Bhandari won the second place and Swarnapuchhri (India), Ritvik Goswami won the third place. US $ 5,000 was awarded for the first place, US $ 3,000 for the first runner up and US $ 2,000 for the second runner up.

The WME Screenplay Lab started on January 15. Sixty-two projects were submitted for the Screenplay Lab from South Asia. From those, 10 projects from four countries were selected by a five-member jury. Among the 10 projects, three were from Bangladesh, four from India, two from Sri Lanka and one from Nepal. 

The selected projects were Song of Jhinuk (Bangladesh), Afroza Hossain; Fables of Forgotten Dreams (Bangladesh) Laboni Ashrafi; Necrophile (Bangladesh), Zayed Siddiki; Dhund Saleti - The Whispering Fog (India), Jasmine Kaur Roy, AbhinashRoy; Swarnapuchhri (India), Ritvik Goswami; Tale of a Yellow Bird - Halud Pakhir Kissya (India), SibasishRoy; Hug Me If You Against War (India), Upasana Banerjee; 46 Mondays (Sri Lanka) Bavaneedha Loganathan; Samosa (Sri Lanka), Nipunika Fernando; Messenger of the Gods (Nepal), Nigam Bhandari.

The 10 participants took part in the Screenplay Lab and finalised their projects at Film Hut, the South Asian film market. In the two days of cinema lab, they met producers and mentors and further developed their projects. The participants got five minutes to pitch their projects and 10 minutes for a Q and A session. 

In the jury of West Meets East were Norwegian film producer, program director Gyda Velvin Miklebust, 47th Student Academy Award finalist and Croatian film producer Dalia Alic, Bulgarian film director, screenwriter, journalist Yana Lekarska, Bangladeshi film activist and producer N Rashed Chowdhury and film Producer and editor Sameer Ahmed. 

Nina Lath Gupta, former MD of NFDC, also joined as a mentor. The other mentors were Mostofa Sarwar, Bangladeshi Film director, screenwriter; Pierre Filmon, French screenwriter, director and producer, Pouran Derakh Shandeh, Iranian film director, screenwriter. 

The co-conveners of the event were filmmaker AKA Reza Ghalib, filmmaker, TV program maker, screenwriter and film critic Sadia Khalid Reeti.

The audience
West Meets East film lab jury with winners
The winners of the West Meets East film lab