Many the miles

Vancouver media professional and Film Forum member Javed Haque talks this week about hitting the road for the love of film. . .

I discovered Northwest Film Forum from a brochure I picked up at a café during one of my short stays in Seattle, while I was visiting a cousin there after driving from Vancouver, Canada. It was a balmy summer day, and I was exploring one of Seattle’s neighborhoods north of the University District. In my regular way, I picked up a bunch of free flyers to check out what was going on in the local art scene, and NWFF’s tabloid-sized program caught my eye.

Little did I know at the time that this brochure would re-kindle my interest in films in a way that I would find myself shuttling between Vancouver and Seattle, braving a combined distance of 300 miles, the border hassles, not to mention the time away from family.

Students in Dhaka practice animating using DIY lightboxes made from fileboxes (1997).

I immigrated to Canada in the late ‘90s from Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I had been active in the Film Society circuit and developed my taste for foreign films—from Rohmer, Ozu and Kieslowski to Herzog. I also volunteered with two international short film festivals in Dhaka in the late ‘80s, and hung out with local independent short filmmakers, who dreamed of creating a parallel film platform in opposition to the mighty reign of the Bollywood-influenced, local, mainstream commercial film industry.


Animator Nirmal Sherchan (Nepal) with students in Dhaka, 1997.

Since my arrival in Canada however, I had got caught up in ‘survival’ and making it my home, and have not had serious thoughts about pursuing my interest in films, until my discovery of Northwest Film Forum.

Why all the way to Seattle from Vancouver? My wife thinks I am mad, while friends find it baffling. Here in Vancouver, we have a couple of art-house theatres and also some independent film-makers’ co-op type places. They offer similar fare to the Film Forum, yet they leave me in want of more. My particular draw to the Film Forum has been its film workshops and the inspiring master-class sessions they organize with independent filmmakers from North America and abroad.

Filmmaker Denis Cote speaks at Northwest Film Forum.

I’ve so far attended several hands-on technical sessions on filmmaking, as well as some of the excellent master-classes. The instructors have expert knowledge of their craft, class sizes are small, and you also get hands-on-learning by using pro-grade gear. It’s ideal for people who are passionate about filmmaking but do not have the time or resources to attend full-time film programs. And you learn a lot from other participants, who bring their own experience to the class.

Alongside “learning from doing,” I find I learn a lot about the process of independent filmmaking at the master-classes by interacting with acclaimed filmmakers, such as Denis Cotes, Nicholas Pereda, Joe Swanberg, Valérie Massadian etc, who share their insights with aspirant filmmakers. The spirit, enthusiasm and courage these brave filmmakers exude are simply infectious! And the great thing about these workshops is that the Film Forum offers them at a ‘giveaway’ token fee –something quite unthinkable today.  Above all, the staff at NWFF are full of enthusiasm, passion and dedication, and put out quality programs with regular frequency. We need to lend them full support in every way we can, so that they can continue nurturing and spreading independent cine-culture in the Pacific Northwest.

Javed Haque has a background in marketing and has had a love for film since his youth. He came to Canada in 1999 from Dhaka, where he had been involved with film societies and short film festivals. When he worked at UNICEF in the 1990s, he was involved with the project development team of a 13-part animated show promoting the rights of girls. Javed also successfully organized (with the help of his animator friends in India and Nepal) a one-month animation training workshop in Dhaka in 1997. Since his move to Vancouver, he has worked in the field of multimedia and is presently working with British Columbia’s Provincial Government, facilitating international investment to the province. In his spare time he volunteers on the board of Cineworks, fanatically attends film-related workshops and dreams of making films.

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