"I want my films to leave a historical legacy and be a point of reference on a given subject matter"- Munsur Ali

Munsur Ali was born in Bangladesh and arrived in the UK at the age of two. He grew up in East London, witnessing first-hand the social, economical, and political changes there. He went to a Church of England school, while after school hours he studied Arabic and Bangla. He also taught himself to speak in Urdu. Munsur graduated with honours in ‘B.A. Film and TV Production’ and shortly set up his film production company in 2003. Since then, he has worked alongside the  global,  US, UK, and Bollywood names. He has also produced various documentaries and short films discussing social issues such as policing, knife crime to gang violence. Talking about his journey Munsur says, “I was about 18-years- old when I realised by watching a lot of Hollywood and European films that the mainstream media tells one point of view of history, one which I felt was incomplete, inaccurate and very under representing. For example, films about the Second World War. Watching Hollywood based films (or European ones) would suggest that the war was won by the US and Western European powers only. It completely leaves out the very important contribution of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers from India. Where is their story? I found this quite frustrating, but rather than sit and complain, I decided I wanted to do something about it. However, I knew nothing about film making and had no contacts in the film and media world, so I decided to go to college and start my journey, which included A - levels in Media, Photography and Communication Studies followed by my B.A. Honours in Film and Broadcast Productions.”

                                     Pic Courtesy shongram.com - Shongram Movie, Location Shorts
How challenging was it initially for him? Munsur explains, “It’s difficult to get finance for your film so I ended up self-financing most of my film. The other challenge is getting good international distribution deals. You see the director side of me wants the whole world to see my film, but the producer side of me knows there is a cost to this and sometimes, realistically speaking, it will end up costing more in some territories for marketing, administration, and technical aspects than the potential return after paying theatres.” He set up a Spotlight UK in 2005 as a media and production house, which produces promotional, corporate, and document-films. It has been a successful business and it has produced various document-films on social matters such as gang violence to recycling, human trafficking to policing issues. It has also worked with very notable stars on various projects. Munsur is also the founder and CEO of The Limelight Film Awards, largest independent short film awards ceremony in the UK attended by over 500 filmmakers, celebrities, and industry professionals. It has been running for eight consecutive years and its goal is to provide a platform for emerging film talent. Munsur explains, “I set up Limelight Film Awards as I felt there are many film talents who do not get recognised. We  also offer a £10,000 production award. I was presented with a Civic Award for this and was also invited to meet HRH the Prince of Wales.”

Anupam Kher, Munsur Ali and Asia Argento
His latest film, Shongram, was nominated for the 21st Kolkata International Film Festival. In this movie, a daring English reporter speaks to an old freedom fighter, who reveals his past and his involvement during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation struggle. Talking about his experience of  the film festival Munsur says, “Film festivals are great to get your film noticed and to create a buzz with the hope of releasing your film in that territory. The Kolkata International Film Festival was a  great experience as I got to meet many people, including the press and media as well as other individuals in the business. Festivals celebrate films and filmmakers as they provide a platform which is essential for filmmakers. I am grateful that the Kolkata International Film Festival selected my film Shongram and the hospitality has been amazing.”

Munsur Ali at the Kolkata International Film Festival 
It is said that the industry does have a bit of a reputation for the whole “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” sort of thing. Has he encountered much in the way of nepotism in his career? Munsur says, “When I started my career, I knew no one in this field and it has been a challenging path. I do agree with that perception. However, I was good at making new contacts and connections. I also always kept my promises and worked very hard, which helps one to get noticed.”

In terms of selecting the projects to pursue, what does he look for as a producer? “My projects will have something that offers the audience a takeaway, such as a new point of view about an event or a person. I want my films to leave a historical legacy and be a point of reference on a given subject matter. There needs to be a message and not just a mechanism to commercially attract the masses. In my film Shongram, I talk about identity and the effect of the British empire. I will look at media portrayal, greed, and exploitation in three separate films I am planning,” signs off Munsur.

                                                                                                                                               Pic Courtesy shongram.com

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