When the ‘Extraction’ team came to film in Bangladesh, the shooting of the major part of the movie had already been done by that time. A very small team (B unit team) came to Bangladesh for some aerial shots and street scenes . They could have skipped that but since they wanted to show a city named ‘Dhaka’, they came here in their own interests. We tried our best to highlight Dhaka and whole of Bangladesh to them. We prepared a write-up on Bangladesh’s traditions, dance, music, food, lifestyle, language and overall culture and gave that to the ‘Extraction’ team.
I want to mention three things here: Firstly, they could have been more careful in the use of Bangla in the film, they could have taken help of an expert. They sought our help about this and we were also interested. But, later, they completed the task selecting a person on their own. The Bangla language they have used in ‘Extraction’ is not of Bangladesh.
Secondly, though the shooting was not done in Bangladesh, they could have found good actors from Bangladesh for the characters living in ‘Dhaka’. But we are not spokespersons of Netflix. They do not disclose their screenplay without a few very important actors. Naturally we were not involved with the screenplay and the production. We just facilitated their shooting in Dhaka.
Thirdly, showing so many firearms, even being handed to children, could have a negative impact.
The rest of the film is just fictional . The US film industry has repeated here what they did in cases of Mexico, Columbia, India, Pakistan, Russia, China. They showed the characters from their own country as a hero with superhuman qualities against those countries.
Bangladesh branding will have to be done with our own cinema
Redwan Rony, director
The fact that ‘Bangladesh’ was the plot of a Hollywood movie created a sense of euphoria over the last one year. Eexpectations grew more when a still photo went viral on social media, ‘Thor’ actor Chris Hemsworth waits by a CNG-run auto-rickshaw on a Dhaka road. Though it was the first direction of Sam Hargrave, spectators, especially the Marvel-fans, were waiting for a boom as the Russo brothers (Anthony Russo and Joe Russo) were involved as producers of the project. Finally, the film got released on 24 April. Since its been streaming on Netflix, the film became a hot topic on Facebook replacing coronavirus issue. At the same time, the inflated expectations were deflated.
Spectators do not think twice about an action-packed ‘popcorn’ film like Extraction showing impossible action scenes. Everyone will acknowledge the action scenes of the film are fantabulous. Why then the deflation?
It was the misrepresentation of Dhaka that the Bangladeshi spectators could not digest. Dhaka-dwellers do not speak Bangla that way, they do not listen to Hindi songs of 90’s all day, the law enforcement agencies do not die in a herd to save any 'godfather'.
Once I shared my hotel room with a Columbian. At the very beginning of our introduction I informed him that ‘Narcos’ is my favourite TV series. With a disdainful look, he said, “This ‘Narcos’ has damaged our dignity. Above all, we don’t know how to react about the way ‘Pablo Escobar’ speaks Spanish!”
Many people are saying, why are you trying to find out reality in a work of fiction? We must keep in mind, looking for reality and looking for a minimum of reasons to believe in time, space and roles of actors are two different things. Superman is a fully fictional film. Still, have you seen any of the Americans speaking in Ugandan language? They speak nothing but in English! Superman is not a docu-film. Then what is the use of the reality of language? Whether its fantasy or documentary, the reality of location’s culture, acting, time and other things are kept closer. Of course, the director defines the magnitude of closeness with the reality. At the end of the day, a mistake is a mistake, even in fantasy. I heard, the producers hired a dialect coach from Bangladesh so that the actors’ language, dialogue throwing, pronunciation sounds like that of Bangladesh. What’s the reason? It’s the intention to do the work perfectly. Then, why the language became that of West Bengal of India in the film?
Either the Bangladeshi dialect coach could not make the Extraction director understand, or the producers presented Bangladesh as India wanted to present for business or political reasons. I also heard that a culture expert was hired so that the culture of Dhaka is not misrepresented in the film. But unfortunately, the expert was an Indian!
I think, mistakes in costume design, in CNG-run auto-rickshaw and in other props are the results of wrong research of the costume director and art director. No true director will want to convey wrong information through his films. But it happens for some purposes, maybe political or business.
There’s nothing to be happy about a pat on the back by a rich elderly brother. Of course, such representation of Bangladesh maligns its brand image. Those who do not know about Bangladesh, would think the message about Bangladesh’s law enforcement agency as a real one. Maybe they would never come to visit Bangladesh and get a wrong impression of the country after watching Extraction. Even, many of us thought the same for almost all through our lives after watching foreign movies. The wrong impressions were shattered when we visited those countries. Maybe for the first time we are realising the sorrows of Mexico, Columbia and African countries who have long been misrepresented in Hollywood films.
Let me share an experience I gathered during one of my travels. Once I shared my hotel room with a Columbian. At the very beginning of our introduction I informed him that ‘Narcos’ is my favourite TV series. With a disdainful look, he said, “This ‘Narcos’ has damaged our dignity. Above all, we don’t know how to react about the way ‘Pablo Escobar’ speaks Spanish!”
However, we have to brand Bangladesh with our own films. Korean films are so strong that a few misrepresentations in second or third grade Hollywood films do not scratch their image.
It won’t make our films stronger if we are asked to swim with hands and feet tied. Creative freedom is necessary for our directors, the way people of Bangladesh watch ‘Fifty Shades of Freed’ or ‘Extraction’ on Netflix without any hindrance. If the censor board restricts too much, does't allow this to be done or that to be shown, surely directors from another country will misrepresent the country.
What did they do!
Moutusi Biswas, Actor
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, for the last few days, Facebook was buzzing with Netflix’s Hollywood film ‘Extraction’. After watching the film, I reacted sharply and posted a video on my immediate reactions on a YouTube channel (turtle can fly) jointly run by director Afzal Hossain Munna and me. After two days, I have taken up pen and paper, knowing that many will try to hit me virtually.
The film showed the law enforcement agencies of an independent country of South Asia moves at the wink of a don! The clothes of the villain and his cohorts is like that of a drug lord of South America or some remote African areas
While watching the trailer, I once thought I would not watch ‘Extraction’. It almost followed the 90’s template of cheap Hollywood films. But I was a bit interested because of good actors like Chris Hemsworth, Pankaj Tripathi and Randeep Huda.
The story of the film is about rescuing an adolescent boy who was kidnapped from India and a three-way clash during the rescue mission. Marvel Universe’s Joe Russo thought of making a film based on the graphic novel ‘See you dad’. Sam Hargrave directed the film under his supervision.
Though there is a wonderful one-take action scene, this was nothing that new. Almost nothing attracted my attention except a few drone shots of Dhaka. But alas! Which Dhaka was this? Which was the bridge? How has the forest come near the bridge? Mistakes of Bangla spelling abound on CNG-run auto-rickshaws and signboards and everyone listening to 90’s Hindi songs! But they claimed the film was made in context of the present time. Though film is fictional, but the cinematic world has to be created in ‘make-believe’ way!
The film showed the law enforcement agencies of an independent country of South Asia moves at the wink of a don! The clothes of the villain and his cohorts is like that of a drug lord of South America or some remote African areas. Their pronunciation of Bangla also so strange. Who in Bangladesh pronounces Bangla in that way?
In today’s world, there is not much difference between a film and reality. In some cases, reality is more cinematic than cinema itself. This is why movies and reality influence each other deeply. Projection of Bangladesh in the film has hurt me a lot. Undeniably, though this is a work of fiction it will influence the global thoughts on Bangladesh
We must not forget the bigger studios are such perfectionists that even if they show an alien, they create a new language for that. But we could not find an iota of research in the film. The question is, what did they do? How could a film made for international audience make so many mistakes in so many departments?
Last but not the least, there are those who tried to enjoy the film despite all of the disgusting and laughable things only because of Netfilx and Russo Brothers. Yet these people also trolled many scenes of Bangla films. Why is this dual standard?
As a Bangladeshi, I was hurt
Gausul Alam Shaon, producer
Just watched Netflix’s new film ‘Extraction’, a typical action-flick of Hollywood. The protagonist is Chris Hemsworth of 'Thor', who played the role of a mercenary in the film. He kills people taking money and has no sense of morality at all. A clichéd character of modern Hollywood films. However, strange coincidences turn the character into a humane one and through melodrama it becomes magnanimous. This justifies all his past misdeeds and people also feel for the ‘hero’ at the end of the film.
Authenticity is the yardstick of mastery of such an average modern Hollywood commercial flick. That means authentic settings, roles, art direction, dialogue and intonation etc. And, the mantra of success is to unwind an impossible story standing on the authentic context. In this age of globalisation, while saying that improbable story, if the projected cultural reality of any community becomes a bit concocted, that also does not create a problem. At this age of Facebook, the length of people’s memory is equal to their newsfeed. This is why Netflix hase the guts to claim the whole incident of the film was in Dhaka though they took a few drone shots in Dhaka only. In many such films in the past, those were shot at a make-believe set. It is not that the film has to be shot in Dhaka but at the very least it has to be make-believe, isn’t it? And, Netflix cannot do this at all because it earns billions of taka without paying any tax. This is why they should have had a selfish-kind of accountability to this country. But for some strange reason, Dhaka-dwellers in ‘Extraction’ have been talking like the people of Kolkata. No one listens to anything except Hindi songs. You’ll not find anything of Dhaka including the roads and home of the antagonist.
One of my relatives has written, “I don’t accept the city as Dhaka where there is no G-Corolla or Axio.” Above all, you don’t have the chance to say I did not notice or made a mistake. And, who has written such trash Bangla dialogues? Unbelievable!
In today’s world, there is not much difference between a film and reality. In some cases, reality is more cinematic than cinema itself. This is why movies and reality influence each other deeply. Projection of Bangladesh in the film has hurt me a lot. Undeniably, though this is a work of fiction it will influence the global thoughts on Bangladesh.
* The piece, published in Prothom Alo supplement Ananda Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza