Volume 2 Issue 39 | August 16, 2008 |


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From Insight Desk

How We Celebrated Life

Nazmus Sakib & Zahidul Naim Zakaria

The tea that day was rather refreshing. Maybe it was made really well. Or more likely it was because a weight had just been lifted off our shoulders. The press conference marking the launch for Celebrating Life had just ended. The event went off without a hitch, to the relief of the entire team. For days we had run around making phone calls, sending invitations, and hoping that everything would go alright. At the end of the event, we were all glad to look ahead to a hopefully less hectic time in the office.

At first it was not all that busy. Entries would slowly trickle in and we would record the details on our Excel database. As the presence of “Celebrating Life” increased in the media, the phone calls increased in number and so did the volume of entries. Near the final date of submission, we were faced with a literal deluge of hundreds upon hundreds of entries that left our desks resembling those of a swamped post office. It took several days to just tabulate the entries we received on the last couple of days. There was an unexpected sense of accomplishment when we were done storing all the entries in our trunks, which became a source of much inconvenience for our dear sub-editor, Abak Hussain, since we kept the trunks right behind his chair!

We were fortunate to have the guidance of the eminent jury panels of each category, many of whom had the experience of judging other contests in the past. Their experience proved invaluable, as they set up procedures that ensured that the results could be formulated in a manner that was fast, efficient, democratic and fair. While the judging process meant that we had to once again roll up our sleeves and work round the clock, we just had to look towards the judges to feel good about our tasks. They had to go through hundreds and thousands of entries and figure out which were worthy of deserving recognition, all the while knowing that the hopes and dreams of so many people were in their hands. We were all thankful that we did not have to do their job.

At last, the judging of the enormous number of submissions is nearing its end and we are approaching the mega award giving ceremony for Celebrating Life 2008. For those who still do not know, “Celebrating Life” is a competition organised by The Daily Star, and it brings together competitions for film, photography and lyrics on one platform. The initiative enjoys the support of Standard Chartered Bank. The participants of Celebrating Life, in all three categories, have brought forth images, stories and song lyrics aimed at telling good stories about Bangladesh, and after almost 6 months of waiting we have come to the end of the contest and the beginning of its festival.

Rafi Hossain, editor-in-charge of Star Insight, thought of the concept while trying to find new ways to promote these three streams of work in the media and to encourage the new generation to become more active with their hobbies. Financial support would motivate those with potential to come forward with their ideas, and consequently the competition was born. Shah Masud Imam, Head of Corporate Affairs of Standard Chartered Bank, had shared an interest in Celebrating Life and an interest in the positive showcasing of Bangladesh. He had said that Bangladesh has good future prospect for attracting foreign direct investment, but foreign investors do not consider good investment destinations only through economic conditions but also look at social and cultural indicators.

A lot of care has been taken with the entries. After the last date of submission, once we finished entering the details of each and every entry into our participant database, we uploaded the names of all the participants onto our website as well, so that all those who sent us their submission could check whether their entries have been accepted or not. Our web address is: www.celebratinglifebd.com.

The workload seemed to increase exponentially in the month of July, as we scurried through the entries, removing personal details and tagging them with identification numbers before they could be passed on to the respective jury board. Organising the judging process itself was an enormous responsibility for the team as we provided all kinds of support required to the juries starting from playing around with the projection of photographs, carrying the entries in and out and filing and re-filing them into smaller and smaller groups, recording results of the judgment and tabulating the results on the computer to calculate the highest scores. It was intense, but was as exciting as it was uplifting. Some of the photographs really touched us, and there were times when we wished we could acknowledge all the five and a half thousand photographs we had received. But of course, rules are rules and the jury boards' decision was something we all accepted.

A note on the entries:
As the numbers show, we received more documentary films than fiction films, and they were much better in quality as well. The judges responded well to the documentaries and were optimistic about more quality work being produced in this form. The fiction films were comparatively weaker, because most were still stuck in the Bengali TV drama format, but this competition was looking for films. Films and dramas are expected achieve different effects, they are different art forms and this must be reflected in the works. Nevertheless, the works show promise of doing better in the future with clearer guidelines. As for the documentaries, some of them need greater focus on the topic; many of them were quite digressive. On a greatly encouraging note, some of the first-time filmmakers with no technical experience have made very interesting films with great concepts even though the films lacked the technical soundness. Their boldness and initiative to go ahead and make films is what we see as a success. We are hopefull that these talented youngsters will make better films in the years to come.

We accepted both printed and digital submissions when it came to photographs, but the printed pictures were of a much higher aesthetic quality on average compared to the digital submissions. Most of the digital submissions were poor in terms of resolution and a few seemed to be taken for the purpose of the competition. A lot of entries were based on personal trips rather than for the sake of the image itself. And of course, a number of entries were just plain amateurish. The jury commented that even though some of the work is technically sound, there is still a general lack of creativity.

Now for the lyrics. The tremendous body of submissions made it clear that there is no shortage of aspiring poets/songwriters in Bangladesh. Many of them were lacking in the dedication and effort required to produce quality works of verse. The jury had a very tough time going through incredibly huge pile of entries. We received 8000 submissions! Our jury had extremely high standards- they really racked their brains to go through all this to find ten entries that they liked. These ten songs will be produced by eminent artistes of Bangladesh. The music will soon be available on CD.

All entries will be exhibited on the district level. All the participants are invited to the Gala Evening at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre on the 22nd of August. All entrants are requested to collect passes from The Daily Star office. Those without passes will not be allowed to enter.

We know all our readers are waiting for the results, and that the participants are praying! It won't be too long now, just another week, dear readers and participants, the winners of Celebrating Life will be announced at a gala event at China Bangladesh Friendship Convention Centre on 22nd August 2008. Keep your eyes on The Daily Star and on Channel I for the latest updates.

The panel of judges:
Tareque Masud
Catherine Masud
Moshiuddin Shaker
Nurul Alam Atique
Rafi Hossain
Shah Masud Imam
Sarwat Ahmed
Shameem Akhtar
Aasha Mehreen Amin

Abir Abdullah
Aneela Haque
Anwar Hossain
Enamul Haque
Gitanko Dutta
Hasan Saifuddin Chondon
Pavel Rahman
Shahnoor Wahid
Zafar Sobhan

Kamruzzaman Kamu
Kawsar Ahmed Chowdhury
Mohammad Rafikuzzaman
Munazir S. Karim
Munshi Wadud
Rubi Rahman
Sadia Afreen Mollick
Syed Badrul Ahsan

Selected songs to be performed by:
Syed Abdul Hadi
Shubir Nandi
Shakila Zafor
Samina Nobi
Fahmida Nobi
Bappa Mazumder
Nasim Ali Khan
Shimul Billa
and Ringtu

Music directors:
Selim Ashraf
Fuad Naser Babu
Nokib Khan
Bappa Mazumder
Fahmida Nobi
Tipu (Obscure)
Shojib Dutta
and Taposh

Submission Numbers
Films- Documentary: 62
Films- Fiction: 35
Total films: 97
Photographs: 6500 photographs from 543 participants
Lyrics: 8000 lyric entries from 543 participants



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