Lawsuits against and bans on films, the arbitrariness of the Bangladesh Film Censor Board, a lack of appropriate policies and irrational provisions in the proposed film certification law are diminishing the country's film industry, said leading actors, producers and directors.
Seeking freedom of expression in Bangladeshi films and media content, they issued a five-point demand to the government at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Thursday.
The demands include immediate withdrawal of the case filed against the film "Hawa" and a clear explanation for not giving the censor clearance to the film "Shonibar Bikel" even after three years.
Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, the director of the movie "Shonibar Bikel", said, "I do not know why the Censor Board has not cleared it even after so many days. I want to know the reason."
Filmmakers at the event demanded that the Censor Board should be abolished and a modern and inclusive film certification law should be formulated in consultation with all stakeholders.
Controversy arose over a starling bird – Shalik – used in the movie "Hawa". A case was filed against director Mejbaur Rahman Sumon for violating the Wildlife Conservation and Safety Act in his film.
The film features a scene where a shalik bird is shown inside a cage. At one point during the film, the bird is killed and eaten by a character named Chaan Manjhi, played by Chanchal Chowdhury, on a boat. But the killing scene was not explicitly shown in the film. The case was filed on this ground.
Mejbaur Suman said, "The bird was used in the film figuratively. We have clearly mentioned that in the disclaimer at the beginning of the film. After capturing the scene of the bird, we released it into the wild."
Filmmakers and artists also demanded to formulate a modern and inclusive OTT policy subject to discussions with all stakeholders.
Discussions have to be made with the relevant authorities before filing any case related to the film or content, they said.
Stating that a film cannot be made under terms and conditions, actress Jaya Ahsan said, "If this continues, film production will stop. We won't be able to tell our stories."
Echoing the same, filmmaker Amitabh Reza Chowdhury said, "We feel depressed and scared when we go to work now. We may not be able to make movies anymore."
Referring to the lack of appropriate policies and the absurdity of the proposed film certification law, producer Julhas Zubair said, "We want policies, not regulations. With arbitrary bans and regulations, we are losing interest in the work and the industry growing smaller in size."
"Film is a promising industry. If developed properly, this industry can generate income of Tk50,000-100,000 crore annually," he added.
Film industry insiders will hold a roundtable in September and submit a memorandum to the information minister to realise the demands and to protest the mounting pressure on Bangladeshi films.
Nasiruddin Yousuff Bachchu, Tariq Anam Khan, Morshedul Islam, Shampa Reza, Afsana Mimi, Nurul Alam Atique, Masum Reza, Zahid Hasan, Chanchal Chowdhury, Piplu R Khan, Iresh Zaker, Ajmeri Haque Bandhan, Zakia Bari Mom, Afnan Nisho and many others in art and culture were present at the news conference.