First Light in Bangladesh

First Light in Bangladesh

First Light Project Manager Dan Smith is attending the International Children’s Film Festival in Bangladesh.

We’ve asked him to let us know all about the trip.

After a busy few days with official engagements, yesterday we were taken outside of Dhaka city for a sightseeing tour. Our first stop was in Savar to see the National Martyrs Memorial to commemorate those that lost their lives in the war of independence in 1971. The monument is beautiful and it was moving to hear the young people talk about what this place means to them. The history of Bangladesh is in the consciousness of all of the young people I have met and has inspired a number of the films I have seen at the festival.

So far we had only seen the hustle and bustle of Dhaka and Chittagong so it was a real treat to visit Savar, to witness village life outside Dhaka. Fahim, one of the young delegates had arranged for us to have lunch with his school friend who lived in the village and he opened up his house for us all.

In the evening, we travelled back to Dhaka city for the DJ Party, the big celebration for all of the young delegates and volunteers. This is the one chance in the year where they can all get together to dance so they were in high spirits. This was a chance to meet more young people and find out about their filmmaking. Like First Light though, this festival is about more than just making films. The festival provides them with an opportunity to develop a range of skills, form strong relationships with others and develop their creativity. Many of them will not have a career in film but they will take away a lot from the experience.

At the end of the evening, the volunteers presented the me and other international delegates with gifts for attending the festival. This was totally unexpected and a lovely surprise. I have had an amazing trip and have fallen in love with Bangladesh so the pleasure really was all mine. But I can understand that having international delegates attend the festival somehow validates the great work the young people are doing and makes them want to strive harder. I have agreed to stay in contact with a number of the volunteers and I hope to be able to help them in their filmmaking journeys.

Day Two

On day two of my trip to Bangladesh, I was invited to Chittagong to deliver a talk and Q&A on children’s film. This was an opportunity to share what First Light offers for young people in the UK and screen some of our best films. The young audience really enjoyed the films. They thought Robocarer was hilarious, were impressed by the techniques used in Dream Boy and enjoyed the familiarity of the story in Bangladeshi Folktale.

The Q&A session saw a variety of interesting questions from young filmmakers including how to cut out background sound when shooting outside, how to raise funds to purchase equipment and how to make films more dramatic. They certainly kept me on my toes! I was really interested to find out that the majority of the young filmmakers had little or no instruction to start filmmaking. The festival inspires them to support one another with making films, pass on their skills and experience to others and make the most of what little equipment they have.

At the end of the talk, I was presented with a bouquet of flowers, which is a customary gift of thanks in Bangladesh. I was also asked to sign a few autographs by some young filmmakers who must have thought I was a famous filmmaker or something!

Finally, I visited the Chittagong Film Centre and met the members there. They have a very impressive archive and I was pleased to see a whole section of British cinema, with the members citing Ken Loache and Danny Boyle as their favourite British directors. Another great day and I’m looking forward to more over the next few days.

Here’s his report from day 1…..

Yesterday, after nearly 24 hours, I arrived in Dhaka for the annual children’s film festival. The guide books say that everything in Bangladesh moves slowly so I expected to be eased into Bangladeshi life. Well, from my experience it definitely does no but that has been an interesting part of my trip so far.

I was greeted at the airport by Srijon and Masood, two enthusiastic young filmmakers and volunteers for the festival. On the crazy journey to the hotel (driving in Bangladesh is certainly not slow and is an experience in itself!), we quizzed each other about opportunities for young filmmakers in our respective countries. They both have films showing at the festival and it was great to hear how passionate they are about film.

The festival is in its sixth year and is run entirely by young people aged 5-25 so has a lot in common with the First Light ethos. I was told about the ‘Three Musketeers’, three six-year olds in charge of the ticket office. If you haven’t got the right ticket, you are not getting in! From what I’ve seen so far, the festival is well organised thanks to the passion and commitment of the young volunteers.

Last night, I attended the reception of the Canadian High Commissioner who was celebrating the festival with government officials, international film industry members and the young filmmakers. This was a great networking opportunity and as a result, I’ve given away half of my business cards (mostly to enthusiastic young people who want me to help them in their filmmaking endeavours). A very good first day then.