Young Bangladeshi filmmakers are garnering a wave of global recognition through their unconventional yet articulate films in recent years. And one of the most notable recipients of recognition was Director Nuhash Humayun whose short-film 'Moshari' bagged SXSW Jury Award for Midnight Shorts at the 29th SXSW Film Festival.
Nuhash has been leaving a mark on our collective psyche with his enigmatic art for a while now. After amassing widespread acclaim for 'Moving Bangladesh', now 'Moshari' has raised the bar for audience expectations in Bangladeshi cinema.
Nuhash experimented with horror comedy themes before, as seen in the music video 'Khoka', but his latest foray fully commits to the horror genre.
"I like to play around with genre-bending and eclectic films. I don't like to do the same thing twice," said Nuhash to The Business Standard. "I have done both comedy and drama, but with Moshari I am trying to explore the horror genre as a purist."
Moshari is a post-apocalyptic film peppered with high fantasy and sci-fi elements. It took him quite a long time to make it. He said it was an on-again off-again project for ten years.
The film would have been released earlier but the pandemic slowed down the process. Nuhash, however, is happy for the delay in hindsight, he got extra time to colour correct, build the score and hone the sound design which was done in Singapore.
The SXSW Jury described Moshari as a terrifying, spine-chilling, horror tale centring on two sisters that renders a fresh take on blood-sucking creatures set in a non-traditional post-apocalyptic world. The compelling performances, the haunting visuals and the layered storytelling highlight the director's command of the genre.
The jury also added that Nuhash Humayun can take recognisable elements, flip them on their head, and turn them into nightmares. Moshari has created an allegorical story that will resonate with the viewer on a deeper level.
Paradoxically, many of his film mentors warned Nuhash against his venture into this genre. Everyone told him there's no recognition in making horror.
"There's this idea that you have to make a certain kind of film to get international recognition. Turns out that's a myth," he said.
Furthermore, there are also very few financiers in Bangladesh who would support an experimental project like this.
"I'm grateful that I stayed true to my instincts and made the kind of films I love. That is so important; staying true to oneself," he said.
Nuhash had a dedicated crew who worked relentlessly to make this project a success.
"I have worked with some incredibly talented people who worked day and night to make this happen."
"The project would not be possible without Sunerah and his niece Onora, as the principal cast; Ejaz Mehedi's cinematography; and my long-time friends Bushra (co-producer) and Rashad (executive producer)," he added.
It felt like they were making a student short film, as Nuhash explained. He never imagined premiering his film at SXSW and bagging the Jury Award.
Asian filmmakers have been reaching out to Nuhash from all over the world saying how much this representation means to them. He even received an email from Disney.
"The love and attention are honestly overwhelming."
Some of the short films shown at the SXSW festival had high budget cinematography, but even with a limited budget 'Moshari' stood out amongst the competition.
"We tried to tell our own story, in our own unique way," he said. "There was a scope here to really discover something new. Like for music, I wanted to only use Bangla instruments such as tabla, bansi, dhol, and not rely on typical background scores used in horror films. Dameer Khan (the composer) really did rise to the occasion."
The new space Nuhash had was a really fun challenge for him because he had the freedom to contribute to the genre as no one had before.
The 22-minute short horror starred only two actors. Sunerah Binte Kamal is a national award-winning actor, and the other role was played by Nuhash's niece Nairah Onora Saif who made her acting debut in this short. The two played siblings, one in her early 20s and another a 9 years old child, scraping together an existence amidst the apocalypse.
Nuhash has not decided on a release date for Bangladesh as of yet. He plans to showcase it in a few more festivals first. He would love to release it on a streaming platform, but given the visual breadth of the film, the thrills require a big screen for an optimal experience.
"I am working on 'Moving Bangladesh' currently. I just finished a Sundance screenwriting intensive. It was a prestigious film lab and we are the first Bangladeshi crew to be in Sundance, so I am very excited about it," he said. "Lately, I have also been thinking about the future of 'Moshari'. I am interested in turning this into a feature-length film."