Review #950 - Television (2012)
Director: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki
Cast: Chanchal Chowdhury, Shahir Kazi Huda, Mosharraf Karim
Plot: As a leader of the local community, Chairman Amin bans every kind of image in his water-locked village in rural Bangladesh. He even goes on to claim that imagination is also sinful since it gives one the license to infiltrate into any prohibited territory. But change is a desperate wind that is difficult to resist by shutting the window.
Rating: PG for religious references.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Bangladeshi cinema has made considerable inroads into international film festivals in the last few years, and one of the shining lights paving the way is Mostofa Sarwar Farooki. His third feature, Television, closed the Busan International Film Festival and was received warmly by audiences.
Now making its way to Singapore as the Opening Film of Perspectives Film Festival 2013, the screening of Television is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of a vibrant culture at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. Television operates at the juncture of this very Asian dialectical tension, often as a comedy, but not without its dramatic intent.
The premise is intriguing: A religious village elder named Amin (Shahir Kazi Huda) bans still and moving images in his community, considering them a sin, causing a variety of reactions from the members of this community. It opens with a seemingly documentary approach in an interview with Amin, creating a sense of immediacy, but its aesthetic changes and we are introduced to the vibrant cinematography and the colourful characters that adorn this picture.
At its heart is a love triangle between two men and a woman, but the attempt to unearth the film reveals an overarching theme of acceptance – or more accurately, of the struggle to accept the need to change one’s beliefs and thinking.
Television features performances that are a tad too dramatic, though I don’t mean it in any way to be completely negative… just merely an observation. The cast delivers a fair share of laughs, sometimes unintentionally. Although they draw attention to themselves with their occasional superfluous acting, it is the film’s refreshing and beautiful cinematography that immerses us into a foreign world – at once exotic and peculiar yet filled with a warm sense of familiarity.
It is not the familiarity of sights and sounds, but of connecting with universal human emotions. The characters’ struggles to reject or conform to their beliefs reflect a world that we now inhabit, where the winds of change dictate how we choose (or not choose) to live.
Farooki has made a largely entertaining film that closes quite transcendently, leaving us with a final scene that gives us an important moment of contemplation. While its religious overtones are dealt with comically, Television remains culturally sensitive, and it is this balance that Farooki astutely brings to this rich and lively feature.
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