Victims’ families want ban of movie based on 2016 restaurant attack

DHAKA, 21 Jan 2023:

The premiere of an Indian film – based on an extremist attack on a cafeteria in Dhaka in 2016 – led to backlash yesterday from several family members of the victims of the tragedy that left 22 people dead.

A family member of one of the victims criticised the film for violating their privacy because one of the characters resembled his deceased daughter.

The Hindi-language film Faraaz, named after one of the victims of the attack and directed by Hansal Mehta, premiered at a film festival in London in October and was expected to be released in India on Feb 3.

“The family of Abinta Kabir does not want this film to be released because the character in the movie resembles Abinta and her close people. The family believes this movie is a breach of their privacy,” said Sultan M Mineuddin, a spokesperson for the Abinta Foundation.

Abinta was one of the 22 victims of the attack on 1 July 2016, when five armed men laid siege to the Holey Artisan Bakery for 12 hours in an upscale neighbourhood in Dhaka, frequented by foreigners.

The Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack, although the Bangladesh government maintained the attack was masterminded by the homegrown jihadist group Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh.

After the incident, the media reported that Faraaz Hossain – one of the hostages – was given the option to leave since he was a Bangladeshi national. But he refused to go without his two friends, among them Abinta, and died with them.

This is the story that Indian filmmaker Mehta appears to have brought to life in his movie, whose trailer was out on Jan 16, causing outrage among several of the families of the victims.

Abinta’s family said in a statement that the filmmakers “did not show any empathy to the family members, neither any apology,” for their insensitivity.

“The movie was named after Faraaz. It means one character was especially emphasised. In doing so, my daughter was dragged. We don’t know yet under what situation they went through that day,” Abinta’s mother Ruba Ahmed said at a press conference in Dhaka on Thursday.

“It was said that another individual sacrificed his life for my daughter. No, that’s wrong, I don’t believe this because there is no proof,” she said, adding that the use of a picture of her daughter and her in the film clearly violated their privacy.

This is not the first film about this attack to be embroiled in controversy in Bangladesh. The Asian country blocked the release of the thriller Shonibar Bikel by popular Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki in 2019.

“We want the freedom of telling stories… I made my film based on an incident that happened in our country. But we did not recreate the Holey-Artisan incident. This is pure fiction,” Farooki said.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bangladesh witnessed a series of Islamist attacks against religious minorities, foreigners, gay activists, intellectuals and bloggers critical of fundamentalism.