Behind the scenes of Bangladesh’s first futuristic sci-fi film
Why can’t there be a film about our future? What will Dhaka look like 20 years from now? How will robots and AI change our city? These are the questions that director Amit Ashraf asks in his new feature film Project Ommi.
It tells the story of a hacker named Ravi who lives in an abandoned ship in Keraniganj. His mission is to create a virtual child called Ommi, for the purposes of catching online criminals. But as his simulation becomes more real, is Ravi willing to sacrifice his virtual creation to save real children? Time is running out as an anti-tech cult chases him.
Amit Ashraf graduated from NYU’s film school and returned to Bangladesh to produce his first feature film Udhao (Runaway) which was screened at 25 film festivals and received seven awards. He later directed Kali, a super-heroine web series for Bioscope. Amit was greatly influenced by films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, but realized there were no sci-fi or cyberpunk films set in this part of the world. He set out on a mission to change that.
He shared that a lack of skill and talent were not his biggest obstacles. The active cosplay community in our country was capable of making the props and Amit teamed up with Dhaka’s best set makers and costume designers to create a futuristic look for his film. Actors Shaan Rahman and Istela Imam were chosen for the leads and the child star Kayaan Hossain played the part of Ommi, along with actors Sadika Swarna, Toufikul Emon, Arijit Dutta and Nafisa Jarin Moumi. CGI animation was done by the country’s leading firms, with some of the work being done in London. The music was composed by the Hollywood composer Jacob Yoffee.
But even with a great story, cast and crew, there remained one big challenge in making a film like this - convincing Bangladeshi producers that this is an important film to make. Amit went to many producers and TV channels trying to raise funds, but none of the producers understood his vision. Everyone kept saying Bangladesh is not ready for a sci-fi film and that Bengali audiences don’t want this. But Amit was not ready to give-up. He believed deep down that there was an audience for this.
He met a producer from UK named Jenny Walker who immediately fell in love with the story. They teamed up to shoot the first part of the film. But when approaching international producers, they were faced with a different challenge. Where’s the big Hollywood star? It seemed like the obstacles woulds never end. But Amit was certain that audiences would love this film, it was just the producers and distributors who were stopping him. Producers, who in his opinion were just stuck in the old repetitive way of doing things.
So, Amit and his team decided to bypass the producers and go directly to the audience. They decided to crowd fund their film through Kickstarter, an online site where visitors can buy gifts to support a project. Project Ommi will be Bangladesh’s first film project on Kickstarter. The hope is that fans who want to see different movies can help support the project by buying gifts like early movie copies, graphic novels, T-shirts and props. All the proceeds would help to make the movie. This way, the power of movie-making is no longer in the hands of obstinate producers but in the hands of the people. Amit hopes that if the film can be successful, more filmmakers can find a new way to realize their dreams and bring something new to the cinema scene.
To see exclusive footage and support the project, visit: www.ommimovie.com. Their kickstarter page can also be found at http://bit.ly/ProjectOmmi