Isabelle Antunes with interviewer Tarique Choyon. Photo: Courtesy
In 2016 BRAC University and Alliance Française de Dhaka screened Dr Isabelle Antunes' film “Happy Rain”. The story was based in Bangladesh and was previously screened at the UN COP 21 Conference on Climate Change in Paris in 2015.
It was about the development of fish farming in the low flooded lands where she focused mainly on the rise of Bangladesh and showed the country has an immense likelihood to uplift itself despite all odds.
Isabelle was born in France and brought up in Australia. Following a PhD thesis in cultural geography on the comparative study of two fishing communities located on the east and west of the Indonesian Archipelago, she worked for more than 15 years in the world of foreign aid and development in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, New Caledonia, Pakistan, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Senegal etc.
Her another work ‘’The Lady in red: tomatoes in Senegal, a success story’’, a story of the tomato industry in Senegal, broadcast on French and Ouest-African TV and selected at the Vues d’Afrique festival in Montreal.
Right now Isabelle is in Bangladesh for her new film ‘’High Tunes Bangladesh, DNA’’. Dhaka based journalist Tarique Choyon had a conversation with her in 06 February. Here it goes:
Tarique Choyon: Hello Isabelle. How are you?
Isabelle Antunes: Thank you! I feel always good in Bangladesh.
Tarique Choyon: Most of the Bangladeshi people find documentary films are dull, not much interesting to watch. What would you say about it?
Isabelle Antunes: Yes, I know it. But Hightunes Bangladesh DNA is not like the typical documentary films. Though it’s a documentary kind of film, it will be presented as fiction. It will be a real-life cinema.
Tarique Choyon: If you please share the plot with us…
Isabelle Antunes: Sure. There are four characters- Rasulbag Community at old town Dhaka, architect Rafiq Azam, Singer Oishee and Lalon’s adamant fan Elias. Rafiq works on the environment-friendly park who wants to break the walls between the houses and people. Oishee is a singer and a medical student who wants to be a doctor to serve people and to present her country’s rich heritage before the world. Elias is a Lalon singer, already wrote a thousand songs who wants to break the division among the people. They are from a different world. But they have one thing in common. In their unconscious/subconscious mind, they are inspired by the spirit of Lalon, no division among the people. They will have a get together at the end of the film.
Tarique Choyon: Such a beautiful story! I must admit it.
Isabelle Antunes: Really? You liked it? (asked Isabelle excitedly with the eyes full of love and passion).
Tarique Choyon: Yes, I just loved it. Did you listen to Lalon songs or know about Lalon before you came to Bangladesh? Is it the song that motivated you to visit Bangladesh?
Isabelle Antunes: No, I don’t. Actually, I knew nothing about Bangladesh too!
Tarique Choyon: Then why you choose Bangladesh?
Isabelle Antunes: Very good question, thanks for asking. I have heard all the negative things about Bangladesh. While working in Pakistan a person named Mohammad Alam told me go and visit Bangladesh, you would see what they have done through NGOs, Microcredit schemes and Fisheries! Yes, I have seen in my own eyes. You people are literally doing great in these particular sectors.
Tarique Choyon: Yes, we feel proud of these, too. Now come to your film again. Exactly what thing has inspired you to make this film?
Isabelle Antunes: Oh! The thing that inspired me most is the broadness of their mind. Here everyone sings a song either consciously or subconsciously.
Tarique Choyon: You answered exactly like Liv Ullman (Norwegian actress & movie director, famous movie director Ingrid Bergman’s partner). She came to Bangladesh at the early seventies as a UN ambassador and replied a journalist like the same way!
Isabelle Antunes: Thanks a lot! I feel honored!
‘We are famous for our hospitality to the foreigners, but we quarrel with each other. That’s the problem’, said Hridita in a depressed mode. (Hridita, one of Isabelle’s associates in this project)
Tarique Choyon: Right Hridita, that is my concern too. However, Isabelle how are you going to make this film? I mean who is producing it? I heard it’s from ‘Crowdfunding’…
Isabelle Antunes: Exactly not that. We are making it by ‘Crowd demand’. Crowdfunding focuses on money. We are focusing on the number of people. We don’t want to get a million taka from one person. Rather we want a little contribution from thousands of people. You can contribute 50 taka to 1000 taka. Because I believe one person cannot make the world great, this is the sacred duty of all.
Tarique Choyon: Thank you Isabelle. Thank you very much for your good works. All the very best for Hightunes Bangladesh DNA.
Isabelle Antunes: Thank you Choyon for your precious time.