2 young filmmakers visit Cannes as part of this year’s “Dhaka to Cannes” initiative

Bangladesh can be happy that the International Film Initiative of Bangladesh (IFIB) and its president, Samia Zaman, for ensuring its visibility at this year's Cannes Film Festival through its "Dhaka to Cannes" programme, in partnership with the International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA).

Similar to last year's endeavours, two filmmakers, Sumon Delwar and Rezwan Shahriar Sumit, were selected this year to attend a three-day Industry Workshops programme hosted by the Marché du Film. It is a unique opportunity for the filmmakers to gain access to the international film community at the Festival and Marché du Cannes, a yearly event that draws filmmakers, distributors and financiers from around the globe.

They also got to identify some of the best practices and relevant programmes while focusing on ways in which artistic and commercial efforts can be made sustainable across local and global markets.

This year, both IFIB and IEFTA partnered with Dhaka DocLab 2017 - the first co-production project market in Bangladesh to choose one of its candidates to Cannes this year, which was won by Sumon Delwar. Sumit was selected last year but could not make the trip as his visa had arrived very late, so this year was not to be missed.

Meet the participants

Sumon Delwar was chosen via Dhaka Doc Lab where his feature documentary project, "My Sister, My Friend," received one of the awards. This partnership between IFIB and Dhaka Doc Lab is set to continue over the years, which is a great incentive to documentary filmmaking in Bangladesh, he said.

"My documentary is on a woman in a remote village of Bangladesh who got HIV/AIDS, transmitted by her deceased migrant worker husband," he added, "Determined to regain property from her in-laws, she dreams of becoming a paramedic against all odds for the future security of her three daughters."

Sumon hopes to complete the feature length documentary and release it at festivals as well as in local cinema halls.

Sumit's first feature project THE SALT IN OUR WATERS was awarded Bangladesh's National Film Grant ($62.5K), and a writing grant by Director Spike Lee in 2016. His second feature script A NEW PROPHET won Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's $100K Production Award in October 2017.

He added that the timing this year was perfect, as he got to catch up with his French producer Ilann Girard in person, who has been associated with his project since they met last year at the Co-Production Market of Film Bazaar, Goa.

Sumit said his film "Nonajoler Kabbo," for which he was selected in the program, tracks the journey of a young sculptor named Rudro who moves to a remote fishing island of Bangladesh to practice his art. Everyone welcomes him at first. He makes new friends, goes on wild boat rides and finds a creative flow unlike ever before. However, as the search for the first Hilsha fish of the season begins, Rudro realizes that his first few days were just the lull before a storm.

Responsibilities of IFIB and IEFTA

Samia Zaman, who is also an eminent director and popular TV personality, told Dhaka Courier that "IEFTA is continuing to support IFIB on our 'Dhaka to Cannes' programme. We are very happy to be able to bring two young and promising filmmakers again to Cannes."

She added that IEFTA has extended their programme this year. Through Global Film Expression, they brought 12 filmmakers from six countries, two of them from Bangladesh.

"We definitely want to continue our participation at Cannes. Hopefully we shall be able to extend our scope of engagement," she said. "We need to develop a strategy to make the most of this amazing film event taking place every year. Not only Cannes, we can create programs for other places too, as long as we are clear about what our goals are."

This is the 12th anniversary of IEFTA-supported initiatives including its Global Film Expression program. In the past, the Monaco-based organization has brought Ethiopian, Mongolian and Bangladeshi filmmakers. This is the first year for GFE filmmakers from Egypt and Palestine, and the first year of its new partnership with the Princess Grace Foundation-USA to sponsor a filmmaker in Cannes.

IEFTA, in partnership with the Marché du Film and its Producers Network and Industry Workshops programs, has set up a series of meetings with industry pros to encourage filmmakers who otherwise would have little or no access to cinema resources.

It is definitely a matter of pride that Bangladeshi filmmakers are slowly but steadily making their way into major film festivals. If only they could bring home the knowledge and insight they had gathered from the workshops and the networking sessions, they could steer Bangladeshi cinema to the next level - which is slowly, but surely, a not-so-distant reality.

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