Busan 2012: Festival Closer 'Television' Ushers in New Era for Bangladeshi Cinema

Television (film still) - H 2012

Director Mostofa Farooki's wry comic drama reflects the South Asian film sector's move toward mainstream entertainment.

Television may take its name from an an old-fashioned character who believes TV is evil, but this year’s Busan closer also mirrors a more forward-thinking trend in the film sector in Bangladesh: the development of homegrown movies from telefilms.

Beginning about 10 years ago, the advent of satellite TV has allowed filmmakers to experiment with new styles working for the small screen. “There is no film school in Bangladesh, so we had to learn from their mistakes,” said Television director Mostofa Farooki. "About 20 young filmmakers have become established names and created a huge audience for the genre. We hope we can channel this energy from TV to the big screen. We are still trying to create our own syntax, own vocabulary, own visual style. We are still trying to find our own way of expression.” 

Television was selected by BIFF for the Asian Cinema Fund in 2000 and received postproduction support from Korean giant CJ Powercast. “The selection really gave me a boost and the confidence [to make the film], and plus it gave me the money, which is of course essential,” Farooki added.

He said he still cannot define the genre of the film, which mixes comedy, drama and satire to tell the story about religious views and generational gaps. Actress Nusrat Imrose Tisha, who is married to Farooki, said she was excited to show how the roles of Bangladeshi women are changing through Television.

The film also pushed the envelope a bit, by featuring a non-professional actor in the lead role: Shahir Kazi Huda, an environmental consultant who had done small stints in films and commercials, had to quit his job and undergo rigorous training to create his character, including picking up a local dialect. “I am very honored for the opportunity to work on the movie,” said Huda.

BIFF director Lee Yong-kwan says Television was an easy choice as the closing film.

“It was first of all very entertaining as a movie, in both its subject matter and storytelling. It was selected by not only BIFF but also representative experts from around Asia for the Asian Cinema Fund, for a reason,” he said. “A new trend can be industry-related or artistic, and the fact that a country is creating domestic films through telecinema is monumental. BIFF felt compelled to showcase this movement.”

Farooki, whose feature Third Person Singular Number premiered at BIFF in 2009, says he is inspired by a large number of filmmakers, from Korea’s Kim Ki-duk and Lee Chang-dong to Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-Hsien and France’s Robert Bresson.

Lee pointed out that Television in turn offers Korean filmmakers something to learn about satire, which isn’t particularly a forte for local movies.

“Bangladesh is creating new waves in cinema and I am looking forward to the audience’s reaction when they see the film during the closing ceremony on Saturday. Such films allow us to endorse foreign cultures and to promote communication among Asians,” he said.