The 21st edition of the Dhaka International Film Festival (DIFF), one of the longest-running cultural festivals in the country, officially began in the city Saturday, with 252 films set to be showcased from 71 countries till January 22.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen inaugurated the festival as chief guest, while civil aviation and tourism secretary Mokammel Hossain and popular West Bengal actor Sabyasachi Chakrabarty were present as special guests at the inaugural ceremony.
Presided over by the DIFF chief patron and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, the welcome remarks were delivered by festival director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal, founding organiser of this coveted festival.
Inaugurating the 21st edition, Foreign Minister Momen said that the DIFF has given young and aspiring filmmakers in Bangladesh and elsewhere the opportunity to interact with contemporary artistic trends, greatly influencing the development of a strong and positive national cinema culture.
"I commend Rainbow Film Society's initiative and effort, which since 1977 have been devoted to fostering a strong film culture in Bangladesh. It truly is one of the Bangladeshi film society movement's most active film organizations, and I wish the festival a great success," Momen said at the ceremony.
Indian-Bengali actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, who is widely known and admired for his portrayal of the popular detective character ‘Feluda’, said that he had the chance to attend the festival in the past, but failed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “This time I am really happy to join and also it is an honour that our film ‘JK 1971’ is premiering today at the 21st Dhaka International Film Festival,” he said.
Festival director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal said that there were concerns about holding this year’s DIFF due to a number of factors, including the global aftermath of Covid-19 and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis. “Despite our barriers, we were still able to plan the festival this year and we are grateful to all our stakeholders and audiences.”
Shahriar Alam said: "Our government has always ensured a healthy cine culture although film industries around the world have evolved and seen ups and downs, and Rainbow Film Society has been assisting the government in this mission through this festival every year, since 1992.” He thanked festival director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal for organising the festival throughout the years.
Hosted by Sadia Rosni Suchana, the inaugural ceremony began with a cultural performance by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy artists. With Fakhrul Arefin Khan's directorial film ‘JK 1971’, the festival officially started screening after the ceremony.
Films will be screened at the Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib auditorium (main auditorium) and Poet Sufia Kamal auditorium of the Bangladesh National Museum, National Art Gallery auditorium, Nandan Theatre open ground and Jatiya Sangeet and Nrityakala auditorium of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), Star Cineplex (Bashundhara City) and Alliance Francaise de Dhaka (Dhanmondi) in the capital.
The 21st DIFF will also feature the Ninth Dhaka International Conference on Women in Cinema 2023 at the Samson Lounge, Dhaka Club, from January 15 to 16 and West Meets East: Screenplay Lab from January 15 to 18 at Alliance Francaise de Dhaka.
This year, the festival will also host a day-long master class for the first time on January 21 at Bangladesh National Museum. It will be led by filmmakers Jon Jost from the US and Anja Strelec from Belgium.
There will also be a special session where script pitching, film studies, and practical filmmaking experience will be discussed by Sadia Khalid Reeti and filmmaker Tasmiah Afrin Mou. Bidhan Rebeiro will conduct the master class sessions.
The 21st Dhaka International Film Festival will draw to a close on January 22.