IFFI 2020: A look at the country in focus “Bangladesh”

by Shoubhik Sen

CINEPHILES REJOICE!! Asia’s oldest film festival IFFI 2020 will be held in Goa from 16th to 24th January 2021. We will look into the country in focus Bangladesh. Being the “Country in Focus”, this event will recognize the cinematic excellence and contribution of the country to this field. Thus, we will get to see 4 of the best works that Bangladesh has to offer. This article therefore, will focus on this aspect of the event i.e. we shall look into these 4 films in detail.

JIBONDHULI by Tanvir Mokammel

Set during the 1971 war, it’s the story of a drummer and his family. This film traces how they navigate their lives through the unrest created by the war.

1971 saw the West Pakistan-East Pakistan War reach it’s tipping point, with the Bengali population demanding an independent nation for themselves. What followed, was army deployment and a lot of killing, bloodshed and political instability. It was due to the intervention by India that set in stone Bangladesh’s independence. Jibondhuli sets itself during these tumultuous times and shows us how difficult it would’ve been for a small town drummer to survive and sustain his family in the midst of a war.

Jibondhuli went on to win the Script Award from the Hubert Bals Fund in the ROTTERDAM FILM FESTIVAL. Also, it has been screened in Asia’s oldest film festival IFFI.

MEGHAMALLAR by Zahidur Rahim Anjan (Another period piece in IFFI)

Just like it’s predecessor, this film too is set in the backdrop of the 1971 Liberation War. This too traces an ordinary family and how they are affected by the conditions around them.

Based on Akhtaruzzaman Elias‘s story RAINCOAT, it traces the story of Nurul Huda, who’s a chemistry teacher at the suburban government college. The focus is on a “life-altering experience” that he and his wife Asma, daughter Sudha and Asma’s brother Mintu go through during the 1971 war. Story goes that Mintu joins the rebels/freedom fighters, to free Bangladesh from Pakistani hands.

One day, Nurul goes to a college function and because it’s raining, he wears Mintu’s raincoat. Mistaking him for a rebel, government forces apprehend him and take him to custody. It’s here that Nurul has to make a decision; a decision that will be the catalyst for the so called life changing event of the family. What exactly that decision is, will require you to watch the movie.

Apart from being part of IFFI’s Country-in-Focus, Meghamallar was also screened in the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. It played in the Discovery Section.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION by Rubaiyat Hossain

Unlike it’s predecessors, this film is set in a more modern Bangladesh. We can see the urban sprawls and city life in this one.

Roya is a Muslim theater actress and though not happily, she is married as well. However, she isn’t happy in life as she does not desire motherhood and the domestic life her husband is pressurizing her for. Getting inspiration from another man, Roya determines to stage a classic play. However, this will be re-created with a modern theme. This film traces that how in the midst of this process, Roya reclaims her identity, sexuality and most importantly……..Her Freedom.

Starring Shahana Goswami and Rahul Bose, UNDER CONSTRUCTION went on to win its fair share of accolades: –

  1. Prix du Jury International, FICA Vesoul (Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema)
  2. Mentions spéciales de la critique (Critics Special Mention), FICA Vesoul
  3. Prix Emile Guimet (awarded by Guimet Museum in Paris) , FICA Vesoul
  4. Best Emerging Director Award, NY AAIFF (New York Asian American International Film Festival)

SINCERELY YOURS, DHAKA by 11 Directors (1st time in IFFI)

This film is by and large a “love letter” to Dhaka by 11 directors.

IFFI country in focus Bangladesh's most ambitious film
  1. CHEERS: Directed by Syed Ahmed Shawki, this is the story of a girl’s anger and annoyance as she cannot come to terms with a breakup.
  2. DHAKA METRO: Directed by Mehmud Hassan, this story is about a 2nd hand car dealer. The car that he was supposed to sell to get moey for his wife’s surgery gets stolen.
  3. JIBON’S GUN: Directed by Rahat Rehman, it traces the journey of a gangster in Dhaka.
  4. JINNAH IS DEAD: Directed by Krishnendu Chattopadhyaya, this film is set in a Bihari camp in Mohammadpur (Dhaka), where there’s a conflict between a Bengali resident and a Bihari.
  5. JUTHI: Directed by Syed Saleh Ahmad Sobhan, this too is a peculiar premise as it explores the psychology of men and women.
  6. M FOR MONEY/MURDER: Directed by Abdullah Al Noor, this deals with 2 corrupt industrialists thus, exploring the corrupt underbelly of Dhaka.
  7. MAGFIRAT: Directed by Md. Robiul Islam, it traces how Dhaka affects you personally as we get to see from the perspective of a driver.
  8. OBISSHASHE DHAKA: Directed by Mir Mukarram Hussain, it also exposes the ugly underbelly of Dhaka and how helping someone could actually be harmful for a person.
  9. SOUNDS GOOD: Directed by Golam Kibtria Farooqui, we foray into the movie sets and thus, see Dhaka from the p.o.v of people working from there; in this case, a movie soundman.
  10. THE BACKGROUND ARTIST: Directed by Nuhash Humayun, we return back to the movie sets; this time from the perspective of an extra (junior artist)
  11. WHERE, NOWHERE: Directed by Tanvir Ehsan, this potrays the middle class family in Dhaka and thus, the most relatable part of Dhaka.

This film wasthe official submission by Bangladesh for the Oscars.


Being India’s oldest festival, you can expect the showcase of amazing cinema. These films are carefully chosen from among 100s of entries; so you can expect a certain high standard. If language doesn’t bind you and if you truly love cinema, this is the place for you. If you’re lucky, you will even get to talk about said films with their makers themselves. Regardless of that even generally, this is one of the highlights of IFFI and will go a long way in recognizing Bengali cinema and breaking barriers.