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Bangladesh’s Arif and Sumit to attend Hollywood's GMM program

  • Published at 05:40 pm September 26th, 2019
Bangladeshi filmmakers Arifur Rahman, left, at Venice Film Festival and Rezwan Shahriar Sumit at Cannes Film Festival | Facebook

Arif and Sumit are the first Bangladeshis to get selected for the prestigious mentoring program which connects filmmakers with leading US entertainment professionals

Bangladeshi filmmakers Arifur Rahman and Rezwan Shahriar Sumit have been invited to Film Independent's Global Media Makers (GMM) program in Hollywood, Los Angeles, according to a recent exclusive report by Hollywood Reporter. They are the first Bangladeshis to be selected for the prestigious program which connects film talent such as writers, directors, and producers, with leading US entertainment professionals through workshops and master classes.

The program which initially focused on mentoring talent from the Middle East and North Africa, will bring 18 participants from selected regions of the world to LA for a six week residency program starting October.

This is the first time Film Independent, creator of the prestigious Spirit Award, has included filmmakers from South Asia for its annual Global Media Makers program. GMM was launched in 2016 as a partnership between Film Independent and the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which focused on mentoring film talent from countries in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). 

This year GMM expanded into South Asia with a total of 18 candidates: nine men and nine women selected from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Lebanon. 

Selected participants are awarded a yearlong fellowship starting with a six-week residency in Hollywood, LA, starting October 1. 

This year's mentors include Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), Jay Duplass (Room 104), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), Justin Simien (Dear White People), Mary Sweeney (Mulholland Drive), Lulu Wang (The Farewell) and Bradford Young (Selma).

49 GMM fellows have participated in the past four years, leading to eight produced projects. Among those projects, Egyptian producer Hossam Elouan's ‘You Will Die at Twenty’ was praised in Venice and Toronto. Tunisian filmmaker Nejib Belkhadi’s Look at Me and Turkish filmmaker Ali Vatansever’s Saf, also premiered in Toronto, and Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama’s Sheikh Jackson was Egypt’s official 2017 submission to the Academy Awards.

The master classes and sessions focus on screenwriting, creative producing, and documentary filmmaking, where participants develop their ongoing projects with US mentors, with industry sessions, and field trips to major entertainment companies. These include Netflix, Stage13/Warner Bros., ARRAY and HBO, including an exclusive interaction with HBO Films, Miniseries and Cinemax programming president, Len Amato.

Sumit, director of Nonajoler Kabbo-The Salt in Our Waters, told Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime: “GMM has invited me for my second feature project titled ‘A New Prophet’ starting next week in LA. This is a writing and development residency organized by Film Independent and the US Department of State. I have recently returned from France after completing the post production of my first film Nonajoler Kabbo and will fly off to LA on September 29 for this program.”

Asked about the local release date of Nonajoler Kabbo, Sumit who was a semifinalist at Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2017,  replied: “I will start submitting the film in the international film festival circuit from October and the local release date will be set according to the buzz it receives globally.”

Arif, producer of Afghanistan-Bangladesh co-production Roqaia, which opened at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, told Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime: “The GMM program seemed very interesting to me because filmmakers cannot directly apply to this program. They have to be nominated by global filmmakers. As Sumit and I got selected at this program this must mean we (Bangladeshi filmmakers) are on the right track. It is also a huge honour for us to represent Bangladesh in LA and major Hollywood professionals and studios.”

“When GMM officials contacted me saying I had been nominated by other global filmmakers, I completed their official application and other procedures. I also told them then if we collaborate and organize some workshops with these industry professionals back in Bangladesh it would be great, because we need to nurture promising filmmakers back here. They replied positively and hopefully we can do that soon,” added Arif.

Arifur Rahman, producer of Matir Projar Deshe - Kingdom of Clay Subjects, has been invited to the GMM program for his upcoming Bangladesh-Germany co-production, ‘Paradise.’ The film has also been selected for the 16th Berlinale Co-Production Market. 

Arif is currently attending a producers’ program in Busan, Korea, and will start for LA when it ends this week.

The 2019 GMM fellows and their projects are:

Bangladesh: Arifur Rahman, producer

Paradise (narrative feature). On an isolated island off the coast of Bangladesh, a Muslim teenager’s duty and faith are tested when he befriends another island boy.

Bangladesh: Rezwan Shahriar Sumit, writer-director.

A New Prophet (narrative feature). A young tech genius finds his life stuck in limbo between heaven and hell when he tries to bring his broken family together using virtual reality.

India: Triparna Banerjee, writer

Riding on the Moon Boat (narrative feature). An adolescent girl from an underprivileged community struggles to flourish against the odds as her father is shunned by the majority of the village for engaging in a blasphemous act.

India: Shazia Iqbal, writer-director

Blood Circle (narrative feature). An anthology of stories set in Mumbai that explores the vicious circle of oppression that transforms a human from prey to predator.

India: Nishtha Jain, director

The Golden Thread (documentary feature). In India’s aging jute mills, harsh working conditions coexist with hopes for its ecological revival. Interrogating filmmaking alongside industrial labor, the film muses on the nature and future of work.

India: Miriam Chandy Menacherry, director

Project details not yet disclosed.

India: Bikas Mishra, writer-director

Testimony-Bayaan (narrative feature). When a powerful religious guru is accused of rape, a rookie female detective must identify the guru’s anonymous accuser and convince her to testify in court.

India: Christo Tomy, writer-director

Undercurrent-Ullozhukku (narrative feature). During floods, a pregnant widow, who waits for her unloving husband’s funeral, lies that she is carrying his child to escape her family’s wrath and reunite with her secret lover.

Pakistan: Anam Abbas, producer-cinematographer

Showgirls of Pakistan (documentary feature). Burlesque dancers in Pakistan dodge state censors, jealousies and violent fans as they vie for stardom and survival in this never-before-accessed look into the world of "mujra."

Pakistan: Maheen Zia, director

Then They Would Be Gone (documentary feature). Amidst wheat fields, a carnival world appears — an ephemeral city. We enter this space, traversing through the heart of Pakistan with three nomadic artist families as sacred meets profane.

Nepal: Min Bahadur Bham, writer-director

A Year of Cold (Chiso Barsa) (narrative feature). A pregnant woman must journey deep into the remote, harsh Himalayas with her monk brother-in-law to search for her missing husband and give her child an identity.

Nepal: Nawa Nidhi Dahal, producer

The Land of Ancestors (narrative feature). An elderly shepherd living in the Himalayas is confronted with nightmarish visions of his own death and must find his successor before he draws his last breath.

Nepal: Subina Shrestha, director

War by Other Means (documentary feature). A remote Himalayan community’s fault lines are exposed during a local election where one man decides to win, no matter the moral compromise.

Sri Lanka: Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, writer-director

Amma (Mothers) (narrative feature). Two mothers from opposite sides of the Sri Lankan civil war must unite as they embark upon a campaign to find out the truth about their missing sons.

Turkey: Oğuz Kaynak, producer

The Disappeared (narrative feature). When men begin to mysteriously disappear in a traditional Turkish neighborhood, panic ensues, gender roles are reversed and an abused housewife finds empowerment.

Turkey: Zeynep Koray, producer

Empire of the Rabbits (narrative feature). In rural Turkey, a 12-year-old boy struggles with morality and authority after his father forces him to pretend to be disabled in order to receive a stipend from the state.

Saudi Arabia: Abdulrahman Khawj, producer

40 Years and One Night (narrative feature). On the eve of the Eid holiday, seven Saudi Arabian siblings discover their father has secretly been married to another woman and struggle to keep the secret from their mother.

Lebanon: Lara Abou Saifan, producer

Tide (narrative feature). A Palestinian-Lebanese couple lose their child and learn his body will only be released if they can find a spot in a Palestinian cemetery in Lebanon to bury him.