Be it film, fiction, music or any other cultural activity, in recent times, the cultural arena has been facing various obstacles, making it difficult to practise and produce art freely.
These concerns were brought to the forefront of the mainstream when the Film Censor Board of Bangladesh placed a halt on the release of Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s film, “Saturday Afternoon”. The censor board’s justification for halting the film’s release was due to them alleging that it would ‘damage the image of the country.
In reaction to this, 130 cultural activists and artists have given a statement expressing their concerns regarding the censor board halting the release of “Saturday Afternoon”.
Cultural personalities from all sectors across the country have united in support of Farooki’s “Saturday Afternoon”. The group has demanded that the censor board clear the film and allow it to be released for the Bangladeshi audience.
A joint statement, released earlier last 14 november, read, “Multiple obstacles are being put in the way of the art and cultural sector, particularly in the case of cinema, fiction, and music. These multifaceted obstacles are worrying for us. This concern is further increased when we see that our friend, colleague and filmmaker, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, has had his film, “Saturday Afternoon” stuck in the censor board for more than three and a half years without any proper reasoning.”
“Many of us have watched the film and cannot understand why it is being treated like this. So, we share the feelings of frustration and anguish the filmmaker is experiencing. Unfortunately, at a time when the rest of the world is discussing how the idea of censorship is old and archaic, we are still preventing a famous filmmaker from releasing their movie due to censorship, obscurity and unknown reasons,” continued the statement.
In regards to the role of the authorities, the statement further added, “As representatives of the civil and artistic community of this country, we would like to say—from our wisdom and consideration—that this protracted process saddens and angers us, making us question the role of the authorities.”
These 130 artists have come together, as they believe that the situation surrounding “Saturday Afternoon” is not simply a case of preventing the release of a movie. “This is the reality of being unable to grasp the overall domestic and global perspective. At the same time, the situation also indicates the regressive approach taken by the state and the narrow-minded approach from all concerned authorities, which is not desirable. Such adverse behaviour of the authorities is painful to witness,” noted the statement.
The statement also referenced the spirit of the Liberation War and how Bangladesh had to fight against oppression. “Let us not forget that the country we created 50 years ago when fighting for our rights as Bangladeshis. This fundamental spirit is against any form of oppression. However, in the context of a developing Bangladesh, when any art medium—including film—is undergoing an identity crisis, the movie ‘Saturday Afternoon’ continues to be screened and awarded in various important film festivals worldwide. Seeing the unfair treatment that this film is receiving in our own country, it feels like we are living as third-class citizens in our own country,” added the statement.