Acclaimed Bangladeshi director Rubaiyat Hossain, known for her powerful women-centric films, has a new project participating in the Berlinale Co-Production Market and is launching a female filmmaker grant.
Her Berlinale co-production market project, “The Difficult Bride,” follows Novera, a bride-to-be in present-day Dhaka who is in love with the groom and the idea of a fairytale wedding, but secretly struggles with her body, which does not seem to comply with the wedding rituals. She makes continuous trips to the beauty salon and uses home remedies to “cure” her body. As stress, anxiety and emotional pain take root in her, a mysterious woman with long hair begins to visit Novera in her imagination.
Directed and written by Hossain, Aadnan Imtiaz Ahmed produces for Khona Talkies. A third of the $876,000 budget has been raised from Bangladeshi entities and the project hopes to attract further financiers, a sales agent, technical crew heads of departments and European post-production packages while at Berlin.
Meanwhile, kicking off on Feb. 18 is Sultana’s Dream, a funding and mentorship grant to empower, promote and support the next generation of women filmmakers and storytellers in Bangladesh, named after a 1902 novel by Begaum Rokeya, a pioneer of women’s education in South Asia. Breaking the Silence, a short film grant competition, is part of the initiative.
For its pilot run, the program has selected a cohort of 16 emerging women filmmakers who will receive basic filmmaking training across disciplines and guidance for preparing project dossiers and pitching through March, followed by leadership workshops, script-writing modules and study circles encompassing feminist film history, the female gaze and gendered reading of film texts from April through June. The participants will get an opportunity to pitch their short film scripts to a panel of international jury members in July, from which two projects will be awarded grants. August and September will be devoted to pre-production, October production, November post-production and the films are expected to be ready by December 2022. Production support and mentorship will be provided during the production and the films will be distributed locally and internationally.
Tutors include Hossain, writers Philippe Barrière and Tasmiah Afrin Mou, and production designer and producer Jonaki Bhattacharya.
When the pilot mentorship program is successfully completed, Sultana’s Dream aims to continue the grant to produce more films from Bangladeshi women.
Hossain’s films have travelled the world and won awards. “Meherjaan” (2011) won laurels at the Abuja, Long Island, New Jersey, Northampton and Philadelphia festivals, “Under Construction” (2015) swept the Vesoul Asian Film Festival and won at Dhaka, Cine bajo la Luna and Salamindanaw, while “Made in Bangladesh” (2019) played Toronto, swept Amiens and won Torino and Tromsø.