“I wanted to filmthe real people”
Bangaldeshi film director Kamar Ahmad Simon's documentary “Shunte Ki Pao! (Are You Listening!) is now traversing the international film festival circuit. Between October 3-6, it will be screened at Film Southasia 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Described as a “visual symphony and an ode to life”, the critically acclaimed “Shunte Ki Pao!” won the prestigious Grand Prix at the 35th Festival Cinema du Reel, in Paris earlier this year.
The Daily Star spoke to Simon on the film's making:
How was “Shunte Ki Pao!” conceived?
Kamar: Tidal surge (Aila) on May 25, 2009 displaced a million people in the coastal belts of Bangladesh. Right after, within months there was this 'Hopenhegen' summit on Climate Change held in Copenhagen. The newspapers coincided with the global buzz and the local visuals of the 'Aila' affected region. The whole scenario was very surreal for me! As a filmmaker, I felt obliged to know and frame the film of the real people.
How did you come across the characters?
Kamar: In search of my film, I started travelling back and forth deep in the coastal belts on local boats. And it was after three months and travelling a stretch of around 200 kilometers, I landed in the film location and the characters framed in “Are You Listening!”
How did they respond to being filmed?
Kamar: At first, the entire village was thrilled with the idea of being filmed. They even started competing with each other to be the 'Hero' of the film! My approach was very slow and I needed to do the research first… and I only started the main shooting when they started losing interest! But once they understood, they were the best of the cast, you can't even expect in fiction!
The film was Bangladesh-centric yet obviously had a universal appeal.. How did you achieve that?
Kamar: If you look carefully at the film, there is no attempt to please nor to pity or sell! I stayed in the remotest possible village for 20 months (on and off) and awards were the last thing on my mind! For any medium of art, something is never out fashioned I believe… the desire for dignity, the urge for existence!
What is your reaction to the overwhelming recognition that has come your way?
Kamar: I am overwhelmed with the recognition that came my way! It made that a different world possible!'
What do you think gave you the edge over other documentary filmmakers?
Kamar: When I was making the film, I was not thinking of the genre… 'Documentary' or 'Fiction'. I wanted to capture the life-excerpts as truthfully as possible.
What are you working on now?
Kamar: I have a couple of ideas on the table, but for me “Are You Listening!” is yet to be done. Even though the film is doing great in the international festival circuit, I am yet to take it to the home audience, and I mean the real masses! I am working with a university network across the country and planning to take the film to the remotest audience possible.