Magazine article Screen International

Mostofa S. Farooki

Magazine article Screen International

Mostofa S. Farooki

Article excerpt

Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa S. Farooki's Television received a warm response when it screened as the closing film of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) last week.

The film follows a well-meaning, if slightly misguided, village elder who has banned all moving images, including television, as un-Islamic. When the villagers rebel, the horrified elder embarks on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. But unable to complete his journey, he discovers that television may not be so bad after all.

While avoiding clichés about poverty and rural life, the Bengali-language film explores the clash between generations with their different attitudes towards technology and religion. The film is typical of a new generation of Bangladeshi filmmakers who orbit around Farooki's Dhaka-based production house Chabial.

Produced by Chabial and Star Cineplex Bangladesh, with Germany's Mogador Film on board as co-producer, Television received support from BIFF's Asian Cinema Fund and the Goteborg film fund.

How did you get started as a filmmaker?

I made my first film Bachelor in 2002. I regard my first two films as an education process, as I'd never been to any university or assisted any director. At that time I had no video monitor, and couldn't really see anything, so it was difficult for me to understand the medium. But content and story-wise, Bachelor created a huge stir amongst the youth audience.

I consider Third Person Singular Number, which I made in 2009, as my first real film. It had a kind of discomforting subject for the Bangladesh audience as it's about a spirited, independent young woman, who lives with her boyfriend without being married. It had more than one million admissions to the theatres. We have a big population.

What's the current state of the Bangladeshi film industry?

Traditionally, the Bangladeshi industry used to produce about 80 films a year, but it's now around 40 and most are really bad Bollywood copies. When satellite TV came to Bangladesh in '99, we aspiring young filmmakers decided to start making short telefilms on digital for really low budgets.

Our telefilms were aired in prime-time on satellite and immediately created a huge stir in the market. Bangladesh has an evolving economy, so there's a booming middle class, and our young audience started watching those telefilms and buying our DVDs and VCDs. One production used to sell around 300,000 copies. This really helped us create the audience base for a new kind of cinema.

All over the world it happened that television killed cinema, but in Bangladesh, television helped give birth to a new cinema. …

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