In this major chaotic capital city of Bangladesh, containing some 20 million people in very contrasting social class backgrounds (from a major poverty class to a minor elite with no money problems), distinct religions (the majority of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, even 400,000 Catholics), and a large number of people speaking only Bangla, the Dhaka International Film Festival is now in its 12th annual edition and, as always, taking place at the beginning of the year.
Without the essential support of the government, and only financed with private sponsors, the festival is a rare and strong island of culture, widening a large window on the world, followed by a large audience, mainly young people from universities and schools. Having branded the festival with the formula 'Better Film-Better Audience-Better Society', the festival fights very courageously to maintain and increase this presence of culture and aperture in a country where the cinema was damaged after the Partition of 1947 and was never again the powerful industry that Bengali film had been before. In a country existing as independent for only 40 years, the film festival is for sure the major cultural event in Bangladesh today with an international ambition underlined by the number of films screened (almost 100 features, not including shorts), in eleven sections and retrospectives, and the guests arriving from countries all over the world, even if Iran and India are the most represented. Screenings are only projected on DVD but are of a sufficient quality and screened in two large theaters, those being the Public Library and National Museum. In a country where video shops and pirate DVDs are sold in the streets, and multiplexes for blockbusters are inexorably step by step replacing the declining cinemas, the festival is a welcome place of resistance. (Hubert Niogret).
Dhaka International Film Festiva: www.dhakafilmfestival.org