Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s ‘Saturday Afternoon’ Cleared for Release After Four Year Struggle With Bangladesh Censors (EXCLUSIVE)

Bangladeshi auteur Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s “Saturday Afternoon” has finally been cleared for release after a four year struggle with the Bangladesh Film Censor Board.

The Bengali-and-English-language film takes its cue from the brutal terrorist attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in 2016, which took place on a quiet Saturday afternoon and left more than 20 people dead. It had considerable festival play, winning awards at Fukuoka, Moscow and Vesoul.

However, the Bangladesh Film Censor Board banned the film. “The board did not sanction permission for the movie’s exhibition, both at home or abroad, as it would disrupt internal security and also tarnish the country’s global image,” the censor board’s then vice chairman Nizamul Kabir had told AFP.

Farooki began a long campaign to get the film cleared for release. Meanwhile, he also made his next film, “No Land’s Man.” The efforts intensified when it emerged that Hansal Mehta’s “Faraaz,” also based on the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, would release across the border in India on Feb. 3.

On Saturday, the board finally cleared the film for release.

“We have just heard that the Appeal Board has decided to clear the film with some minor ‘disclaimers.’ We are waiting for the official letter from the board,” Farooki told Variety. “I feel relieved. It’s been a long and draining four years. For any filmmaker, to waste four years from life is a painful experience. I hope no filmmaker goes through this experience. At the same time, I thank Film Alliance of Bangladesh, audiences, and well-wishers for sticking around. You made me feel I am not lonely. Artists are generally lonely. So this gave lot of warmth in my heart. We will now do our best to release the film on or before Feb 3.”

Singapore-based film marketing and distribution firm Continental Entertainment Pte. Ltd. (CEPL) holds global distribution rights for “Saturday Afternoon” and will plan a release after there is clarity on dates in Bangladesh. Discussions are also on with streaming platforms.

“One of the most breathless narratives on a heart-wrenching afternoon, CEPL knew this was a film we needed to bring across borders from the time the end credits rolled at first view a few months back . We are extremely happy that it has found its freedom on home ground as well and we can now bring this tale with even more solidarity of its own people to global audiences,” Sreyashii Sengupta, CEO, Southeast Asia for CEPL, told Variety. “It is by far one of the most important stories that need seen by audiences , in the times we live ,as also one of the best from a filmmaker as deft as Farooki.”

The international ensemble cast of “Saturday Afternoon” comprises Bangladesh’s Nusrat Imrose Tisha (“Holud Bani”), Palestine’s Eyad Hourani (“Baghdad Central”) and India’s Parambrata Chatterjee (“Aranyak”).

Cinematography on the one shot film is by Aziz Zhambakiyev, who won the 2013 Berlin Silver Bear for Artistic Achievement for Kazakh drama “Harmony Lessons.”

The film is a Bangladesh-India-Germany co-production produced by Abdul Aziz for Jaaz Multimedia and by Farooki for Chabial, Bangladesh, in tandem with Anna Katchko of Germany’s Tandem Production.

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