The Bangladeshi community in St. John’s doesn’t see themselves on screen at the Avalon Mall – so members of the community have created their own theater experience at Memorial University.
The group organized a movie night and transformed the school’s Bruneau Center into a rich tapestry of Bengali films.
“Our local Cineplex doesn’t show Bengali films,” said Maliha Tanjim Dew, president of MUN’s Bangladeshi Cultural Community group, “It’s important for us to create our own space to celebrate our language and culture.”
It wasn’t just a social event; it was also a testament to the Bangladeshi community’s desire for representation in the local film scene.
The lack of Bengali film screenings in Newfoundland and Labrador has left a void in the cultural experience of the growing community.
Anindya Prakash, a long-time resident of St. John’s, watches Bengali movies online with friends as there are not many big screen options.
“Watching a Bengali movie with the community, feeling the energy of the room, that’s very different,” said Prakash. “This isn’t just about watching a movie, it’s about reliving memories and connecting to our roots.”
To bring the energy to life, the evening was displayed Shomudro Bilash Private Limiteda revered 1999 classic directed by acclaimed Bangladeshi writer and director Humayun Ahmed.
Despite the film’s lack of subtitles, the event attracted a diverse audience and showcased the universal allure of cinema.
Among those in attendance was Johnson Zhang, a student from Belize. He sat next to his girlfriend, Rafia Akter, as she translated the film in real time.
“Listening to Rafia translating the dialogue was kind of funny. I laughed after everyone else for a few moments,” Zhang said with a chuckle. “But this gave me a great insight into Bangladeshi culture, which I’m eager to learn more about.”
For Dew, the event was more than just a movie screening; it was a catalyst for fostering cultural dialogue and understanding.
“We want to promote inclusivity through these movie nights,” she said. “Seeing Johnson enjoying the film made me see the potential of this event to transcend cultural barriers.”
Prakash wants the initiative to bring about wider change.
“I dream of a day when Bangladeshi films are also shown in our Cineplex, such as Toronto, Vancouver or other bigger cities,” said Prakash.
“Our stories and perspectives deserve to be seen and celebrated by a wider audience,” he said.
Dew shares her vision to make Bengali movie night a recurring event. She plans to choose movies based on community votes and include subtitled versions for everyone to enjoy together.
“This is not a one-off. We want everyone to feel involved and share our laughter, our joy and our culture,” she said.
“After all, everyone has to laugh together, not a moment later.”