Moshari — a new live-action horror-fantasy shortfilm has made history by becoming the first film from Bangladesh to qualify for the Oscars. We, at the Quint, bring to you an interview with Nuhash Humayun, the man behind the masterpiece, who wrote, directed, produced and edited Moshari.
He is a Bangladesh-based filmmaker who has directed a number of different short films, mini-TV series and documentaries surrounding the country.
How does it feel for your film to become the first Bangladeshi film to qualify for the Oscars?
I think honestly, it's incredible. When we were making Moshari, we honestly had no idea it would go this far. In fact, so many people told us that it’s a horror fantasy film from Bangladesh, don't even bother sending this to film festivals.
People were really confused by what it was going to be or what potential it had. So, for me, to this day, I'm just thankful that people got to see it. I thought, honestly — 'Wow, is this even worth finishing? Do I just get rid of it?' There was a lot of anxiety in the process of making it.
So now to see it in an Oscar prediction list, to see it become the first Oscar qualifying film from Bangladesh. It's all honestly, so overwhelmingly amazing.
Where did the idea of 'Moshari' come from?
Well, honestly, I'm 30 years old. The idea came to me when I was a lot younger. I think I was about 13 years old. And I think my ideas were generally crazier, weirder, wilder when I was young.
And I wanted to tap into my inner child and find those ideas that I had and didn’t have the capacity to use at that time, obviously.
One of the main ideas was the mosquito net. It is something we are so familiar with in South Asia, parts of East Asia and Africa, because you have so many mosquitoes in these tropical regions.
When sleeping under a mosquito net, I used to imagine something scary on the other side of the bed– like outside of the net. I imagined, what if there was a dark shadow? What if there was a monster there? And I would get really scared. And at the same time, I would feel safe inside the net but I also felt a little suffocated.
And I thought, that's kind of the perfect metaphor for family because our families protect us, yet sometimes they suffocate us. Sometimes it's too much.
And that was really the emotional genesis of the idea. To sort of craft this very South Asian, very culturally rooted horror movie mythology that has not existed before.
Tell us a little about your life growing up. What is your relationship with Bangladesh and do we see that reflected in the film?
I grew up in Bangladesh my entire life. I've always lived here. My father was a writer and a filmmaker. My mother is a poet, and she was a teacher as well.
So I have the privilege of growing up around great art and great film. And I think that is the biggest privilege you can have.
I watched some excellent films of my father. I was inspired to make films because of my mother. So my family played a big part in my upbringing. But at the same time in the films that I was seeing, I thought-- 'why don't we have that in Bangladesh?'
As I grew up, I realized that the disconnect with western films was getting bigger and bigger. Or maybe I just didn't realize it when I was younger. I grew up loving Spielberg movies. And then I saw this movie called Munich, where someone said this line, “oh, there's enough food on the table to feed Bangladesh”.
And that felt so weird, because that was the first time I heard my country's name in a film. But it was in such a strange, negative context, that they were talking about poverty and we were the first example.
And it's not that I had a grudge against the filmmakers or something, I just realized that no one is ever going to do a good job of representing us. No one. No one's going to bother. It has to be us, it has to come from me. Or it's going to be no one.
How did climate change become a part of your story?
I work for a lot of NGOs here. I've made documentaries about climate change. Another producer on the project, Rashad, works for UNICEF and Western Union.
And we realized that the narrative around climate change, around the world, focuses on the west. It's kind of white – the global narrative on climate change.
And we thought, it's very different coming from Bangladesh, it's very different from the people who are affected by it. Because in the Global South, especially in Bangladesh, we are one of the most affected countries, yet we are also one of the least culpable, the least responsible for its effects. And I think there's a palpable irony in that, that we didn't cause this necessarily.
So that was always an underlying theme for Moshari, but at the same time, the other thing we didn't want — because we've made so many documentaries about climate change — we realized, sometimes people don't want to see a movie, when they know what it's about. You don't want to go and watch 'Oh, it's the climate change movie'. So I think it was really important to have multiple narratives.
There is a climate angle, an environmental angle, there's also a post colonial angle. It's also just a story about two sisters and a family and their journey.
If Moshari goes to the Oscars, is it something that will make a difference for climate cause?
That is the goal. That was my ambition when Moshari premiered at South by Southwest on climate change, because I said that, “look, you're seeing this film, it seems like it's about the end of the world, you might think it's about COVID. It's not. When we made it, we were thinking about the perils of climate change, and the global south.”
The thing Moshari does in the opening couple of minutes, is, it talks about the West. It kind of puts things into perspective for the people here. I think that's important.
The real narrative is some people are more responsible, some nations and some corporations actually have a much larger chunk of the responsibility, versus the others.
It's not, “oh, it's everyone's problem. And everyone's equally responsible.” We need to be unapologetically pointing the finger where it needs to be pointed. And I think films like Moshari are not afraid to do that. And I think we need more.
Is a lot of your work, henceforth, going to be focused around the place you grew up in your country? On issues like climate change?
Yes, in fact, there is a potential feature version of Moshari that I'm trying to develop. So I'm really excited about that. And at the same time, I'm working on my first feature, it's called 'Moving Bangladesh'.
It is a story about the first startup from Bangladesh called Patau. And their journey. It's sort of about the tech revolution happening in our part of the world, which a lot of people do not know about.
I love going for stories that are personal and political at the same time, in a sense, because I think certain political things are very hard to make personal. And I liked that challenge as a storyteller.
And I'm just excited to find issues and themes and personal identifiers that connect with me and try to keep my country and my home in the DNA of whatever I make.
(Moshari is available on Vimeo, YouTube, and on this website.)