Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tareque and Catherine Masud at Cannes 2008

The Daily Star reports today that Tareque and Catherine Masud will attend the Cannes film festival this year.

Filmmakers Tareque Masud and Catherine Masud have been invited to the 61st Cannes Film Festival 2008 (May 15-25) to take part in the 40th anniversary celebrations of the "Directors' Fortnight" section of the festival, says a press release.

Their film Matir Moina premiered at Cannes in 2002. It was the opening film of the Fortnight, and was awarded with the International Critics' Prize as 'Best Film' in the section.


At Cannes Tareque and Catherine Masud will be in talks with several European co-producers and distributors in connection with their current project, a film set against the backdrop of the partition of Bengal in 1947. The French Embassy and the France-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFB) have also extended generous support to make the Masuds' trip to Cannes a success.

A new Masud film!?! This is great news. I'm particularly interested to see their interpretation of the 1947 partition. Many Bangla films center on the 1971 liberation war (and rightly so), but one must look back to the 1947 partition to begin to understand the context of 1971.

I would also encourage bideshis interested in the history of the 1947 partition to watch Deepa Mehta's film Earth. This is a Hindi film and actually takes place in the west (specifically, Lahore). But, while not a film about Bengal, the film does incorporate some important points about communalism and community.

I'm certainly looking forward to a new film by the Masud team. Both Matir Moina and Ontarjatra are excellent. I'm also glad to see that Bangladeshi cinema is getting recognized at such a prestigious festival. Hopefully this will lead to more attention on a sadly overlooked goldmine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Movie Review: A Fairy Tale (Rupkothar Golpo)

I recently watched a newly acquired copy of A Fairy Tale (Bangla title: Rupkothar Golpo), a film by director Toukir Ahmed.

A Fairy Tale stars Humayun Faridi, Chanchal, Toukir, Shumi, Mamunur Rashid, and Fima, and tells the story of a man experiencing a string of bad luck, who comes to care for a small baby while the mother goes off with a truck driver. The mother is a woman who came to Dhaka in search of her missing husband, only to find herself abandoned to the streets with no way to support herself or her baby.

The film is not your typical American fairy tale, and is certainly not for children. There are no secret princes or fairy godmothers coming to the rescue. Instead, viewers are presented a fairly gritty (though sometimes comical) display of urban reality as two young adults try to find themselves and their place in the world.

The DVD is distributed by the Dhaka company Laser Vision, which means that outside Bangladesh your best bet is to find your nearest Bangladesh imports shop, or look online.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bangladesh Embassy Open House

This past weekend the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington, D.C. had an open house for people to come and visit and learn more about Bangladesh. We arrived at about noon and found a line of people waiting to get in. We quickly made our way to the theatre in the Embassy to see a performance of Bangladeshi song and dance.

We learned that in the two hours prior to our arrival, almost a thousand people had arrived! The songs were beautifully sung by a group of five women, and dances were performed by two local cultural organizations: Dhrupod and the D.C. branch of Jago Art Center, a Dhaka cultural organization.

The songs and dances were beautiful and well performed, and received much applause from the predominantly American audience. I took photographs, but, unfortunately, I only had my BlackBerry to take photos with and the quality is not very good. I am trying to clean them up and, if I can make any worth viewing, I will post them later.

In addition to the songs and dances, the Embassy had prepared a taste of Bangladeshi cuisine for people to sample, and a table where women could get mehndi on their hands. This was very popular, and for the next few weeks, Washington, D.C. will be full of American women wearing mehndi. There were also a video tour, and exhibits of art and Bangladeshi export items. One of the export items on display was a box of Ispahani tea. This is, let me assure you, my fellow Americans, the best tea. You have to seek out a Bangladesh import store to find it, but it's worth the hunt.

Here's an old TV advert for Ispahani. Don't worry about the translation. All you need to know is, this tea rules.

The Bangladesh Embassy's open house was a smashing success, and special thanks and congratulations to Ambassador H.E. M. Humayun Kabir for putting together such a great introduction to Bangladesh. I think most people arrived at the open house not really knowing very much about Bangladesh, but they left having had a glimpse of the beauty of a really great nation and culture.

Let's hope the success of this event leads the embassy to hold more cultural programs to help build stronger ties between our two countries.