(director/writer: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki; cinematographer: Aziz Zhambakiev; editor: Momin Biswas; music: Pavel Areen; cast: Parambrata Chatterjee (Polash), Nusrat Imrose Tisha (Raisa), Eyad Hourani (Indian), Selina Black (Chiara), Zahid Hassan (Shahidul); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Abdul Aziz/Shyam Sundar De/Mostofa Sarwar Farooki; Jaaz Multimedia; 2019-Bangladesh/Germany/India-in Bengali & English, with English subtitles when necessary)

“The film avoids being exploitative because of its sincere efforts to try and find out what makes the fanatics act so brutally.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

At the Moscow film festival it won the Russian Film Critics Award. The contemporary drama by the forward thinking Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (“Television”/”Third Person Singular”) is loosely based on a real incident of a deadly terrorist attack in a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 1, 2016, which was known in the newspapers as the Holey Artisan Bakery attack. It’s duly noted for the filmmaker’s calming plea for religious tolerance in the face of such a bloodbath by religious fanatics, its techie achievement of being filmed in one continuous shot and that it was incredibly banned in Bangladesh on the grounds it could “damage the country’s reputation” and incite religious hatred.

The bloody incident involved five armed Sunni Islamic gunmen in a 12-hour period killing 18 diners and 2 bakery staff members plus two police officers arriving early on the scene. The dead victims were mostly foreigners that included nine Italian and 7 Japanese diners. Others slaughtered were four Bangladeshis, one Indian and one American-Bangladeshi. All five terrorist were killed by commandos from the Bangladesh Army, who on the next morning stormed the cafe. They also freed all the hostages, who all happened to be Muslims.

In the initial stages, the hostages separated into two groups: foreigners and Bangladeshis. The foreigners, mostly Westerners, are viewed by the attackers as their enemies and were immediately executed. The others, who were believed to be Bengalis, are further quizzed to determine who is really a Muslim.

During the confrontation an argument breaks out as to the true meaning of the Islam religion. The extremists are not tolerant of those who disagree, use slurs when referring to other religions and consider women as inferiors. The film avoids being exploitative because of its sincere efforts to try and find out what makes the fanatics act so brutally.

The fine international cast is headed up by the Bengali actor Parambrata Chatterjee as the terrorist leader, Palestinian actor Eyad Hourani plays a frightened diner pretending to be a local, and the Bangladeshi actress Nusrat Imrose Tisha plays a vic.

It’s interesting to see what a modern thinking filmmaker from Bangladesh thinks about the world’s crisis over terror. But, aside from the good will he offers, there’s no immediate solutions offered to solving the immense terrorist problem facing today’s world.

REVIEWED ON 12/26/2019  GRADE: B