Director Rubaiyat Hossain’s third feature film Made in Bangladesh is currently running in 57 theatres in the US, a number far greater than what any art house film can dream of even in its home turf. As the film premiered at the mighty Toronto International Film Festival, American theatres were glad to showcase it even if it meant fewer ticket sales. The rejuvenated emphasis on diversity for the Black Lives Matter movement and theatre screenings going online for the pandemic worked in favour of this non-commercial, foreign language film from South Asia to get a wider distribution in the States. Diarah N’Daw-Spech, co-founder of ArtMattan Productions, the US distributor of Made in Bangladesh, talked to Dhaka Tribune’s Showtime Editor, Sadia Khalid, about factors that contributed to the film’s success in the US and what that means for diverse films going forward
The film opened in 40 theatres in the US on August 28. Did you expect to get so many theatres booked when you came on board as a distributor for this film? How different would it be if there was no pandemic?
The film is now screening in 57 theatres all across the USA which is amazing. We never expected such a strong response. Obviously, the pandemic has a lot to do with it as theatres were looking for quality content and they had less constraints in terms of number of films they could show or financial risk factor associated with potential few ticket sales. This made it easier for theatres to take a chance on this film. Also, I think with the Black Lives Matter movement, theatre bookers are becoming more aware of the lack of diversity in their spaces. Made in Bangladesh brought diversity to their screen at many levels.
Can we purchase the online tickets from Bangladesh?
Yes, you can purchase tickets online in two ways. Go to https://www.made-in-bangladesh-movie.com and select the theatre you want to support or go to Amazon to rent the film.
The film had a successful run in Europe where the audience is better adapted to enjoying foreign films. How much of a barrier do you think language was in booking theatres in the US?
I think it was a big barrier before Covid.
Have you distributed Bangladeshi/South Asian films before?
ArtMattan Films is a film distribution company dedicated to promoting films by and about people of colour all over the world with a focus on Afrocentric films. We’ve distributed films from New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Caribbean. However, this is the first South Asian film we distribute.
Also Read: 'Made in Bangladesh' releasing in USA
What was your favourite aspect of the film/ What drew you to this project?
We felt strongly about the story in the film, the fight of women to establish a union to improve their living condition. Their plight is shared by so many people in developing countries all over the world. We really responded to the story. The film is also very well done, dynamic, realistic, hopeful. We fell in love right away when we saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.
How has the audience response been so far?
Very positive response from the critics and the audience. The film received 100% fresh (positive critics review) on Rotten Tomatoes and we premiered the film in the US in our festival the African Diaspora International Film Festival and got great responses from the audience.
What aspects of the film did the American audience connect to more?
I think the notion of women empowerment is important for American audiences.
What does the success of Made in Bangladesh mean for foreign films, South Asian films and Bangladeshi films looking for North American theatrical release?
We released the film in Art Houses that traditionally don’t easily connect with non-European foreign films. Made in Bangladesh had the advantage of coming from a major festival in North America (TIFF) so that helped build credibility for the film. We are hopeful that the success of the film will make theatres realize that it is important to have more diversity on the big screen and that their audience does respond well to diversity. What matters is to present a good story.