As a Bangladeshi filmmaker, I am frustrated, regretful and aggrieved: Farooki
Hansal Mehta's "Faraaz", inspired by the Gulshan Holey Artisan Bakery attack, is set to receive its world premiere at the London Film Festival, scheduled to be organised between Oct 5, 2022 and Oct 16, 2022.
Whereas Mostafa Sarwar Farooki's "Shonibar Bikel", loosely based on the same incident, has been banned by the Bangladesh Film Censor Board (BFCB), claiming that it would damage Bangladesh's reputation.
In response to the declaration, Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, a renowned Bangladeshi director, expressed his frustration over the matter.
The censor board denied the theatrical release of "Shonibar Bikel", a decision that the movie's director criticized as "unhealthy for artistic expression". "If this kind of censorship keeps happening, soon our storytellers, scriptwriters will be in fear of producing original content and lose their creative freedom," Farooki said.
"Shonibar Bikel" has been awaiting approval from BFCB for the last three years. Recently, Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud said that the movie needs to feature some other attributes. This was the first time that he commented on this issue.
"If the director and producers adhere to the BFCB's suggestions, the movie will face no hindrance for a theatrical release," the minister said. "We will notify the director and producer of the film soon," added the minister.
Previously, BFCB remarked that the film, which is a Bangladesh-German co-production, could incite religious fervour in the Muslim-majority nation of 165 million. Over the last three years, Farooki has been unable to get an answer to why his film is not getting the censor certificate for release in Bangladeshi theaters.
Talking to The Daily Star, director of the film, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, compared this phenomena to requiring them to rewrite the script of the already completed movie, and addressed that this type of censorship affects the artistic freedom of creators.
"There is no way we can bring about or add new aspects to the film as it was a 'a one-shot film'," he said. "However, we did not receive any official notification on this regard and I do not believe that the information minister asked us to reshoot and add new aspects to the movie."
"I feel that it might be a misrepresentation of his words or he might be suggesting to annex something else to our film. Whatever that might be, we are waiting to receive an official note in this regard," he added.
Commenting on the world premier of Hansal Mehta's Faraaz, Farooki said that he is happy that Mehta is being able to arrange a theatrical release of his film in his home country and at the London Film Festival; however, at the same time he is disconsolate that that the makers of "Shonibar Bikel" could not do the same.
"I am frustrated, regretful and aggrieved as a Bangladeshi filmmaker that we have not been able to release our film for the last three years," Farooki stated.
"The film 'Faraaz', contains the real characters who were present at the Holey Artisan incident. Whereas, our film is only inspired by the incident and contains no direct indication to the actual event or characters. It is completely a work of fiction," he states.
"Storytellers are bound to take inspiration from real events. Since when did it become a crime?" Farooki said.
"I believe the ban is a product of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the film. I have been talking to several responsible authorities under the censor board and I can affirm that very few of the censor board are vouching for the ban," he added.
"I am hopeful that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and BFCB will soon provide the clearance certificate for 'Shonibar Bikel'," Farooki further mentioned.
The title of the film translates to "Saturday Afternoon", and dramatizes the July 2016 attack on an upmarket cafe by militants who killed 22 of their hostages, including 18 foreigners.