National film grants: where does the money go?

The government of Bangladesh has been outspoken in supporting the film industry, providing funds since fiscal years 1976-1977. Over the past 46 years, a total of 173 films have received funding in categories like feature films, short films and documentaries.

Since then, grants have been awarded regularly, with the exception of fiscal years 1977-81, 1983-84, 1997-98 to 1999-2000, 2001-02 and 2005-06.

Amid the pandemic last year, a total of 19 films were selected in the 2021-22 financial year, ranging from BDT 60 to 75 lakhs. Among these projects, six of them are short films; and two are based on the War of Liberation.

The reaction to this particular grant has been divisive, to put it mildly. Filmmakers from 33 organizations across the country protested, pointing out inconsistencies in our national 4th of July film grant process.

“Mainstream films need financial support to regain their lost charm, and the government has taken this initiative to support them, I appreciate it.

Jaya Ahsan

Filmmakers and producers like Nasir Uddin Yousuff, Anjan Zahidur Rahim, Manzare Hasin, N Rashed Chowdhury and Humaira Bilkis among others joined the protest.

They had demanded that independent films be given priority, while commercial films be moved to a separate category.

Earlier in the 2018-2019 financial year, a writ was filed in which the High Court issued a rule asking why the list of government grants awarded for the 2018-2019 financial year should not be declared invalid. At the same time, in accordance with the policy, the court also asked why the order should not be given to draw up a new list of these subsidies.

Renowned filmmaker Amitabh Reza Chowdhury has taken a stand in this regard. “We have already proposed a new draft settlement, which will certainly put more emphasis on documentary feature films and films based on the war of liberation,” shared the director, who received the highest amount (BDT 75 lakhs) grant this year for his film. “1969”.

“Regarding commercial films, the Minister of Information, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, MP told me that due to the pandemic, the film industry has suffered a great loss and the government felt that the brotherhood needed support to recover.” Renowned director “Aynabaji” stressed that he was assured that supporting commercial films was a prophylactic measure to keep the industry alive.

“How do we even classify commercial and non-commercial films? Amitabh was one of the jury members of the short film committee, for the last two terms.

He also shed light on the whole process that starts after the grant is approved. “There is no one to oversee, where does this money go, or what is it spent on?”

He added that he will voluntarily supervise 3 short films that received grants this fiscal year. “I’ll be their mentor, and they have to keep me posted on their project until they submit it. That’s how the system should be.”

He also raised questions about films that may never see the light of day, even after taking the allotted money.

Famous ‘Dubshatar’ director Nurul Alam Atique told the Daily Star that sometimes directors find it difficult to find sponsors for a film because the amount of grants given in the early years was not enough to complete. a production. “

“I felt pressured when I received the grant of BDT 35 lakhs in the economic year 2014-15, for my film ‘Laal Moroger Jhuti’,” he said. “Ever since I realized I couldn’t finish the film on that budget and couldn’t find a producer, I’ve always been afraid of getting in trouble with the committee.” The director finally finished the film last year and was rewarded for his work.

Atique further shares that the amount awarded currently is enough to complete an entire project, and he is interested in applying next year. “Art should not be trapped by any propaganda.”

Gazi Rakayet, an acclaimed filmmaker and eminent cultural personality, was one of the jury members of this year’s grant selection committee. “The films that received grants this year are all based on merit,” the ‘Gor’ director shares. “Subsidies are given to films to support the art. However, many people abused this sanction. Some of them did not even bother to explain the reasons why they had not respected their deadlines.

Rakayet wrote the screenplay for “Mrittika Maya” in 2000, and until he received the government grant in 2012, he couldn’t release the film. “That’s why government grants are important,” shares the director, who went on to win 17 National Film Awards for his work.

After “Debi”, actress and producer Jaya Ahsan received a grant for her next production “Roid”. “Debi” was a government-assisted commercial. “Mainstream films need financial support to regain their lost charm, and the government has taken this initiative to support them, I appreciate it,” shares the actress. “Again, commercial films tend to have more producers and sponsors than documentaries or archival films. Such films need extended support, as these works of art are essential for us as well. remain rooted in our history and our culture.”

Art should not be trapped by any propaganda.

Nurul Alam Atic

She shared that during “Debi,” many industry players tried to imply that government-funded movies could never be commercially successful. “It was probably the first government-funded film that received this level of commercial success. Success often depends on the efforts of distributors and producers.”

Filmmaker and critic Mazare Hassin raised questions about the transparency of the grants committee and explained the discrimination that documentary films face: “I have been involved in the grant process before, so I know what happening,” he shared. “For example, I applied for a feature-length documentary this time around, and while documentaries are eligible, I know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

According to him, none of the documentary proposals are even presented to the electoral committee which decides which films will receive subsidies.

“There are seven others like me, who have spent 2-3 months of effort and money applying for the grant. However, our proposals don’t even make it to the election committee.”

He also said that if that were the case, it should at least be announced from the start that documentaries are not eligible for grants.

Shakib Khan has received a government grant for the first time for his production “Maya”. “Government grants are indeed great support for making big budget films, and I’m glad that ‘Maya’, despite having a commercial script, was considered for the fund,” he said. “I think those who regularly make films should be supported. This can help the industry produce quality commercial films. In order to revive the industry, we should make more entertaining films.”

Government support for films has also extended to initiatives without subsidies, as filmmakers are brave enough to release projects on a regular basis. ‘Hawa’, ‘Poran’ and the more recent ‘Operation Sundarban’ and ‘Beauty Circus’ all testify to a revamped image that the grants have helped project, albeit to a lesser extent.