In short, they they told the media conference that Damocles' sword has been hanging over their heads and controlling the creative activities in the country. The nation that waged war as their freedom, including the freedom of expression, was chained and came into existence, has lost its freedom to tell stories these days. The film directors are facing hindrance from the censor board, lawsuits, the Digital Security Act (DSA), several laws under the process of passage and the allegation of hurting someone’s religious sentiment.
The film directors and artistes have called for a removal of the hindrances to create an environment free for creative pursuit and the country.
Censor and censorship have been hindering our development in different ways. Not only the censor board, censor has become a universal tool these days. Observing your activities it cannot be denied that you have been creating obstructions on our ways of development regularly
In a written statement they said after 50 years of independence, the country’s culture, progress and medium of art are facing a threat. The arena of art and culture is now a victim of parochialism, lack of global outlook and a strange political game.
While mentioning the gradually increasing legal threats and other issues in the last few years, they said overall a strange situation is prevailing in the art medium including film in the country.
Addressing the government, they said in the written statement, “Censor and censorship have been hindering our development in different ways. Not only the censor board, censor has become a universal tool these days. Observing your activities it cannot be denied that you have been creating obstructions on our ways of development regularly.”
On behalf of the directors, film director Piplu R Khan read out the written statement at the media conference.
The recent experiences about director Mejbaur Rahman Sumon's film ‘Hawa’ and Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s ‘Shanibar Bikel’ was highlighted at the conference. Hawa director Mejbaur Rahman Sumon has been sued as he shows a bird in a cage and one of the characters eats the bird in the film. The censor board has not given NOC to Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Shanibar Bikel, a film inspired by the Holey Artisan incidents, in the last three years. Neither has the board explained the reason so far.
I didn’t even know why our film was not given NOC from the censor board. A work of art is like a headlight; you would not know what danger is lurking ahead if you switch the headlight off
Drawing on these examples, they strongly demanded removing all types of legal and administrative barriers and ‘barbed wire of control’ for making films in the country. They also demanded inclusion of stakeholders in film certification law.
According to filmmaker Kamar Ahmad Simon, the Film Certification Act-2019 (draft) has given illogical amount of authority to deputy commissioners, certification board and board chairman to postpone a film show and not issuing certificate to a film. He said, “The ghosts of British, Pakistan or autocratic governments can’t stay in Bangladesh.”
At the media conference, filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki said, “I didn’t even know why our film was not given NOC from the censor board. A work of art is like a headlight; you would not know what danger is lurking ahead if you switch the headlight off.”
Mejbaur Rahman Sumon said, “How can a law for real life crime be applied to a film character? The bird was released in our film, now we have entered the cage.”
Artiste Jaya Ahsan said, “Can art be bound by conditions? Can a film be made on condition? What does the forest department do when deforestation is actually taking place, animals are subjected to inhumane behaviour? Film (industry) will die in the country very soon if only law abiding citizens can be shown.”
A five-point demand was made from the media conference. The demands are – 1. Revoking the lawsuit filed against the film ‘Hawa’ under the Bangladesh wild life (preservation) act immediately; 2. Providing clear explanation for not issuing certificate to ‘Shanibar Bikel’ from the censor board; 3. Cancelling the Bangladesh censor board and composing a modern and inclusive film certification act after discussion with the stakeholders; 4. Composing a modern and inclusive policy for the OTT platform after discussion with the stakeholders; and 5. Discussing with the concerned authority before filing any lawsuit regarding any film or its content.
The organisers said they will submit a memorandum to the information and broadcasting minister about the demands.
Among the directors Nasir Uddin Yusuf, Morshedul Islam, Nurul Islam Atiq, Gias Uddin Selim, Amitav Reza Chowdhury, Matia Banu Shuku, Redwan Rony, Abu Shahed Imon, Adnan Al Rajib, Syed Ahmed Shawki, Bidhan Riberu, Shibu Kumar Shil were present at the conference.
Among the artistes, Tariq Anam Khan, Shampa Reza, Afsana Mimi, Zahid Hasan, Chanchal Chowdhury, Iresh Zaker, Jyotika Jyoti, Azmeri Haque Badhon, Zakia Bari Mamo, Afran Nisho, Nazifa Tushi attended.
Nur Safa Zulhas moderated the media conference.