Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

National Film Day is part of a bigger picture

Says Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, ndc, Information Secretary

Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon

Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon

National Film Day was celebrated — for the second consecutive year since the Bangladesh Government declared a special day for the local film industry — amid much fanfare earlier this month.

What prompted the government to take this initiative? Like films, there’s a back-story here as well. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, Secretary to the Ministry of Information, Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, ndc provided an insight into the initiative and more.

“Declaring and celebrating National Film Day is part of a bigger picture,” says Mamoon. “When alternative mediums [for viewing films] like DVD and the Internet became very popular, global cinema faced a threat. The film industries in the west and India managed to recover, as the respective industries have strong footing. In our country, apart from that, the threat to cinema came from several directions: growing trend of vulgarity in films and piracy.

“As per the Bangladesh Government’s ‘Vision 2021’, cinema has a big role to play. Movies embody all forms of art [music, poetry, drama etc] and have the biggest impact on the masses. Naturally, the government has plans to develop the film industry. We had done extensive research to generate ideas on how to accomplish this goal. Under the leadership of M. Hamid, a committee of stakeholders suggested a three-tier plan: short, medium and long-term.

“Under the short-term plan, we have undertaken a Taka 59 crore project to give Bangladesh Film Development Corporation [BFDC] a drastic makeover so that our filmmakers don’t feel the need to go abroad.

“The most important aspect of the mid-term plan is declaring Bangladeshi cinema as an industry. In the process, we considered all phases of a film — from the studio to theatre. We understand that the traditional movie theatres are losing their appeal, making way for cineplexes. So, we will provide each new cineplex a 5-year tax holiday to encourage construction of more movie screening venues. Hopefully this would draw the audiences back to the movies. Providing quality training to directors, actors, cinematographers and other technicians is another significant aspect of this plan. We intend to set up a film and TV institute. We hope that we’d be able to present a bill in this regard at the Parliament. To preserve and study films, a state of the art archive is a must. The archive in Agargaon, Dhaka will get a major makeover as well; it will house a cineplex, seminar room, and will have better preservation and training facilities. JICA is providing funds for this project. To enable audiences and filmmakers the opportunity to watch films from around the globe, we have reworked the ‘Film Club Act’. We understand that filmmaking is a costly process, and have increased the number of films that would receive government grant: 6 films [including 2 for children]. We are also introducing a grant for short films [Taka 10 lakh], as we feel that this medium has become much popular and powerful.

“Unless the nation becomes more aware and interested in our films, none of our plans would work. So, we came up with the idea of celebrating Bangladeshi films on a particular day with rally, discussion, film screenings and special programmes.”

Why April 3? “On April 3, 1957, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as the Minister of Industries and Commerce of East Pakistan, introduced the East Pakistan Film Development Corporation Bill at the Constituent Assembly. We wanted to celebrate that historic moment when our film had its institutional beginning,” Mamoon’s response.

“A positive outcome of all these initiatives is that private houses are gradually investing more in films. If the creation of more cineplexes can be included in this trend, our film industry will surely get a big break,” the Information Secretary added.

“Now let’s come to the long-term plan. We have plans to develop a 105-acre film city in Kabirpur. This plan, however, won’t be viable at this moment; the infrastructure needs to be improved first. We are working on the master plan,” Mamoon says.