Will ‘Saturday Afternoon’ ever see a theatrical release?
Our film industry is relishing a new wave of life, steering the audiences back towards it. In recent times, films like "Poran" and "Hawa" have often been going houseful in theatres, breaking individual records for halls around the country.
There are a number of films that are slated to get approval from the censor board, while some are preparing for release. In this race, many have forgotten about films that never saw the light of day, which includes Mostofa Sarwar Farooki's "Saturday Afternoon".
Based on the gruesome terrorist attack in Dhaka's Holey Artisan Bakery in 2016, the 83-minute film was shot in one take.
Farooki submitted the project to the censor board on January 9, 2019. After reviewing the film, the board members had expressed their impressions as mostly positive to several media outlets at that time. Mushfiqur Rahman Gulzar was one of the jury members to appreciate the film.
A day later, however, controversy started brewing over social media about how the film might hurt religious sentiments of Muslims in the country, owing to Zahid Hasan's beard and Nusrat Imrose Tisha's hijab.
The film was scheduled to be re-screened by the censor board on January 15, 2019. Peculiarly, they denied the film's theatrical release, on the grounds that it may deepen the religious divide in the country, and distort Bangladesh's image globally.
Bangladeshi artistes, in this regard, have raised their voices against this verdict several times. Recently, the issue was raised once again, on social media. Many also claimed that the censor board is still following the rules under the Film Act of 1963 – and have demanded to reform the outdated act.
Moreover, there is no specific reason why the film was 'rejected' on the second screening by the Film Censor Board of Bangladesh. In a recent live video conversation with Shahriar Nazim Joy, Farooki described the whole scenario, stating that if there were any genuine issue– it would have been raised in the first screening. Why would a second screening be warranted then?
The film filed an appeal against the verdict given by the censor board. The appeal was headed by Nasir Uddin Yusuff, Morshedul Islam and Abdul Gaffar, in support of Farooki. Since then, three years and seven months have passed, without any response from the authorities.
Despite not being granted a theatrical release in Bangladesh, the film went on to impress international critics, jury and audiences. It was reviewed by prestigious outlets like Hollywood Reporter and Variety. "Saturday Afternoon" won the Russian Film Critics Jury Prize and the Komersant Prize at Moscow International Film Festival in 2019. It also grabbed the NETPAC Award and High School Award at Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema in 2020.
Hollywood Reporter published --"Unfortunately, it has been banned in Bangladesh on the grounds it could "damage the country's reputation" and incite religious hatred. The only thing this Bangladesh-Germany co-prod could do to the country's reputation is improve it, and its (the film's) plea for religious tolerance is nothing short of touching."
The film, is a Bangladesh-Germany joint production, is produced by Jaaz Multimedia, Chabial and and co-produced by Tandem Productions (Germany).
Besides "Saturday Afternoon", filmmakers Enamul Karim Nirjhor's "Nomuna" and Nazrul Islam Khan's "Rana Plaza" are also waiting for responses from the Film Censor Board of Bangladesh.