BUSAN: Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki cried when told that his film about a village elder's fight against the influence of television would this year close Asia's biggest film festival.
“My eyes were full of tears,” said Farooki, who was in Seoul working on post production when news came through that the world premier of his film “Television” would conclude the 17th Busan International Film Festival.
“People don't know Bangladesh as a film-making country so it really means a lot, not only for me but for all the young Bangladeshi filmmakers. I knew everyone would be celebrating.” It will be the first time a Bangladeshi film has closed the festival, an honour previously taken by some of Asia's most acclaimed directors including Hong Kong's Wong Kar-Wai in 2000 with “In the Mood for Love” and China's Zhang Yimou with “Not One Less” in 1999.
It also serves as considerable recognition for the 39-year-old director who has just four films under his belt, and who says his path into the industry was forged by a combination of accident and desire.
“The first short film I made was to impress a girl,” Farooki told AFP on the sidelines of the festival. “But then she left me, so I got involved with a new relationship and that was with cinema.”
Having first tried to sate his artistic ambitions by dabbling in writing and theatre, Farooki came to international attention in 2003 with “Bachelor”, which travelled to festivals in Rome and Mumbai.
“I tried so many things but I failed. I was a terrible student,” he said.
“I never made it to university. I was a drop out. I tend to learn through experience so my first two films were my educational process. It was like I had jumped in the water to learn how to swim.” What makes Farooki's work different is its contemporary take on the lives and troubles of young Bangladeshis, as opposed to the Bollywood copies or pirated films that dominate its cinema.
His gritty drama “Third Person Singular Number” (2009) was seen by more than one million people in his homeland, said the director.
Farooki said Bangladeshi cinema was currently undergoing a major upheaval with production numbers more than halved over the past decade from 80 to around 35 films per year.
“We are seeing a transitional process,” he said. “But real filmmakers are coming in and they are making real films, not just trying to copy Bollywood.”Critics who caught early preview screenings of “Television” in Busan were left charmed by the comedy-drama, and impressed by Farooki's talents.
The film opens with a local elder (Shahir Kazi Huda) trying to enforce a ban on televisions in his village, and expands to touch on the clash between generations and their interests.
“It's a conflict between the traditional and modern world and this takes place everywhere,” said Farooki of his film.
The director said his own cinematic education had come, ironically, thanks to the rampant piracy that has given young Bangladeshis the opportunity to see films from all over the world.
“Thanks to piracy we really started to learn about film language,” said Farooki. “But no one thought we could make films, or that if we did, that people would come to see them.”
Farooki's successes are fast helping alter such opinions, with a growing band of young filmmakers in the country and an audience eager to see their films.
Another Bangladeshi filmmaker, Abu Shahed Emon, was at Busan this year with his short documentary “The Container”, which is vying for the Asian Short Film Award. Farooki said more filmmakers were ready to follow in their path.
“I hope the film gives people a new look at Bangladesh,” he said.
“From an audience and a filmmaker's point of view we have a bright future. So many young people are making interesting videos and television films,” he said.
“With support from top festivals like Busan and a little bit of support from our government, I hope this energy will be channeled on to the big screen.”
Once Farooki had finished his post-production work on “Television”, he returned to a huge celebration in Bangladesh. He said his Busan experience had given him further confidence about his own talents.
“I don't want to be a filmmaker who presents an exotic picture of a part of the world that people are not familiar with,” he said.
“First and foremost I am a storyteller. I want to tell stories with all their complexities, where there is no black and white, no good and bad guy. I want to discover the complexities of the human condition.”