"The theme and essence of independence, liberation, human and human rights - these are majestic aspects, not only in our Bangladesh but in the whole world, surrounding our ethnicity, our culture - the entire societal infrastructure. On the other hand - films, be it the feature films or the documentaries - are the pivotal mediums that are dedicated to project different aspects to the audiences through the magic of presenting storylines. This Liberation DocFest is wholeheartedly showcasing these important aspects every year, and this kind of exceptional dedication is highly commendable," said by none other than the eminent thespian of the country and former Cultural Affairs Minister, Asaduzzaman Noor.

In a recent interview to DC following the award-giving ceremony of the 8th edition of Liberation DocFest-2020 on Saturday, January 23 at the Liberation War Museum (LWM) in the capital - the journeyman in Bangladesh's arts and entertainment arena who is fondly known as the 'Baker Bhai' to his admirers, expressed his viewpoints on the unique festival. The ceremony, also joined by Liberation War Museum trustee Mofidul Hoque and festival director Tareq Ahmed, was arranged as a rendezvous - commemorating the first-ever virtual film festival in South Asia during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic era.

"This entire situation is new to the whole world - and we all had to cope with this. The circumstances, this year - was very challenging. However, the 8th Liberation DocFest-2020 has generated a new idea on how to consolidate our strength in this unfortunate time of the ongoing global pandemic. A tremendous festival like this, organised by the Liberation War Museum and the brilliant youth-based team of LWM with its focus on developing a healthy cine-culture and keeping the documentary filmmaking practice in the society - I truly admire the whole initiative and all enthusiasts associated with it," Noor, also a member of the Board of Trustees of LWM, praised the effort of the organizers.

Congratulating the award recipients at the ceremony, Liberation War Museum trustee Mofidul Hoque thanked all participating filmmakers and hardworking volunteers for coming up with the determination to overcome the challenges amid pandemic through bringing hope in the darkness.

"Filmmakers from over 50 countries joined in this first-ever virtually hosted film festival in South Asia, which is a very significant achievement for us all. In this unprecedented and unthinkable time of the ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19, the festival became an international example that will carry forward the solidarity of the world," he said.

Thanking the Cosmos Foundation and UNB, Hoque said Cosmos Foundation and UNB always come forward to support the Liberation War Museum and because of their tremendous support, the festival became an international standard festival of documentary films.

Hoque also mentioned that the festival was a part of the birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and next year it will be celebrating the 50 years anniversary of Bangladesh's Independence.

According to the director of Liberation DocFest director Tareq Ahmed, the DocFest is dedicatedly catering to a great number of promising projects every year and the number is growing. A total of 1800 films from 112 countries were submitted in the 8th DocFest till late March of 2020, and a total of 200 films were selected from the list till April. Finally, 83 films were screened throughout the five-day festival. The next festival is going to take place in the upcoming April in a hybrid format, he confirmed to DC.

The 2020 festival were primarily scheduled to take place from April 02 to April 06, however, plans got shifted due to the surge and global lockdown of COVID-19. Finally, the festival commenced on June 16 and wrapped up on June 20 with a concluding and award-giving ceremony via Zoom. That closing ceremony was attended by Noor himself, along with liberation war affairs ministry secretary Aminul Islam Khan, International Theatre Institute (ITI) president and noted theatre personality Ramendu Majumdar, cultural personality and Dhaka DocLab chairman Nasiruddin Yousuff, media partner United News of Bangladesh's director Nahar Khan, festival director Tareq Ahmed and Liberation War Museum Trustee Mofidul Hoque along with participating filmmakers, jury board members and the organisers.

Earlier, the DocFest was virtually inaugurated on June 16 by acclaimed Bangladeshi filmmaker and freedom fighter Syed Salahuddin Zaki while Enayetullah Khan, Cosmos Foundation Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of UNB and Dhaka Courier, was also present in the inauguration ceremony, saying he is delighted to get the opportunity to extend cooperation for the festival. He said it is certainly a great matter of joy that Cosmos Foundation and United News of Bangladesh (UNB) got associated with the 8th Liberation DocFest. "The prime focus of this year's festival is birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This festival is part of the celebrations," Khan said at the inauguration.

The festival showcased film under the sections namely 'National Competitive Section: Documenting 1971' and beyond, 'International Competitive Section', non-competitive section namely 'Cinema of the World', 'Exposition of Young Film Talents', 'One Minute Film Competition for Students' and 'Special Packages'. The 'Cinema of the World' section featured films from across the globe. Documentary films on the country's founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and leaders from different third world countries were screened under the section 'Bangabandhu and other icons of national liberation in the third world' and the package named 'Northeast is not far way: Documentaries of Northeast India' featured documentaries from Eastern India.

Speakers and organisers expressed their heartiest gratitude to the festival's organising partner Cosmos Foundation and media partner UNB for their support in both the arrangement and operation of this year's festival.

At the virtual concluding ceremony on June 20, UNB director Nahar Khan, also vice president of Cosmos Group, said: "It was truly a wonderful opportunity for UNB and Cosmos Foundation to be the media and organising partner of this first-ever virtually hosted film festival in South Asia. My heartiest congratulations to our magnificent digital team, all the filmmakers, organisers, volunteers and the Liberation War Museum for making this festival such a remarkable success. We are very much looking forward to collaborating the 9th edition as it was an absolutely pleasurable journey this year."

'Khunti (Road to Roots)', a Bangladesh-India joint collaboration as the winner in the 'National Competition' category. Md Zahirul Hassan, as the director of the project, received the crest and a certificate from the iconic thespian on January 23's award-giving ceremony. Expressing his excitement, Zahirul said: "It's been such an honour to receive the award from our 'Baker Bhai' - the Asaduzzaman Noor (MP). Khunti (Road to Roots) being selected as the best film in the 'National Competition' category at the 8th Liberation DocFest is a tremendous matter of joy and pride for all the associated cast and crew members behind this special creation, and this journey of togetherness towards success shall continue."

Representing the 'International Competition' category, 'Highways of Life', a film from India by director Amar Maibam, was nominated as the winner. As Amar could not join the ceremony by himself, his cousin Maibam Sadhan received the crest and a certificate on behalf of the filmmaker. Apart from these two major awards, two Youth Jury Awards were also presented in the ceremony. Director Farid Ahmed received his Youth Jury Award in the 'National Competition' for his film 'True False and A Revolution' and Italian filmmaker Monica Manganelli (could not join in person) was announced as the recipient of the award for 'BUTTERFLIES IN BERLIN - Diary of a Soul split in two', as part of the 'International Competition' section - while 'GALENA' by Ezzatollah Parvazeh (Iran) was also awarded as the Special Mention in the 'International Competition' category. Recipients on behalf of the last two awardees were present and received the respective awards at the ceremony, hosted by festival programmer Shariful Shaon.

Caption: Chief Guest and former Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, Liberation War Museum trustee Mofidul Hoque and festival director Tareq Ahmed, along with the participating filmmakers, volunteers and associates of 8th Liberation DocFest-2020 at the award-giving ceremony at the Liberation War Museum (LWM) in the capital on January 23.

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