The Times They Are a-Changin’

by Sadia Khalid

Film criticism is not a profession any Bangladeshi in my generation would grow up dreaming of. I stumbled upon this career when I was actively seeking to find my footing in screenwriting. I took up a job as an entertainment journalist seven years back and fell head over heels for film criticism.

This profession gave me constant intellectual stimulation. It was also incredibly well aligned with my budding screenwriting and academic careers. Soon I discovered a treasure trove called FIPRESCI and gems in the form of jury badges. Travelling to film festivals was one of the surprise perks of being a film critic. Getting to watch incredible films, meeting delegates from all over the world, learning about their film philosophies, are just a few things that make this profession worth every sweat and tear.

Although film criticism is steadily on the rise in Bangladesh, in most cases it remains more of a hobby than a profession. There is a knowledge gap regarding what criticism comprises of. Many a times reviews give away detailed plots, including who dies in the end, all the while completely forgetting to comment on the writer’s takeaways from the film. Aggressive tantrums and personal attacks also make their way into reviews, especially on social media.

Accepting criticism is a skill a lot of us are yet to muster. Smear campaigns against critics are fairly common. Even mixed reviews are often taken personally, let alone negative ones. In spite of it all, film criticism can have an exceptionally bright future in Bangladesh. People here religiously watch and discuss cinema from every corner of the globe with equal enthusiasm. If half of them took the time to write down their analysis, we would have way more critics than films to critique.

Unfortunately, our local film industry has been in shambles for decades, except for a few intermittent cameos by acclaimed films like “Chaka” (1993), “Matir Moyna” (2002), “Shunte Ki Pao” (2012), “Made in Bangladesh” (2019) etc. However, things are looking up, as our film-makers are crossing over internationally. More feature films, short films, documentaries and anthologies are made each year, which are slowly gaining popularity in theatres as well as the festival circuit. With the advent of an independent film scene in Bangladesh, our critics will soon need to rise to the occasion so these films can be interpreted beyond mere subtitles. As the tides turn, I hope to bear witness to it all, armoured with a glistening jury badge around my neck.