MOSHARI – Interview with Director Nuhash Humayun
MOSHARI (Mosquito Net)
Directed by Nuhash Humayun
This atmospheric and beautifully-filmed Bangladeshi short horror film was inspired by the devastating effects of climate change in Bangladesh, whose people are some of the most affected by the climate crisis yet are amongst the least culpable. It portrays two sisters trying to survive a terrifying new world under a mosquito net. Moshari has won awards at a number of film festivals and is the first ever Bangladeshi film to be Oscar-qualified. The writer/director Nuhash Humayun advocates for humanitarian causes, including menstrual hygiene and rural sanitation, through storytelling. Simone Sultana spoke to him ahead of its screening at the BFI London Film Festival.
A horror short made in Bangladesh by a Bangladeshi – the first ever film from Bangladesh to be Oscar-qualified, has raised quite a few eyebrows and not only because the film has a good dose of spookiness. Before I ask about the film and its making, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What brought you to film-making? Who are your film gurus and influences? And what makes you tick?
I've lived in Bangladesh my entire life, and I started making short films with my friends at the age of 13. We imagined Bangladeshi superheroes, a ghost that only haunts according to the Muslim calendar and time-travel scifi… all poorly filmed on a camcorder. This was pre-YouTube. We'd have the shorts on a CD and distribute it around school.
I wish I had an intellectual reason for why I did it but honestly I was an introverted teenager. I had weird ideas in my head and I wanted people to see them. I wanted to be liked, seen.
I grew up on Spielberg, Tarkovsky, the original Raimi Spiderman films and every time I'd watch something cool I'd go, ‘why don't we have this here?’
If you ask me today, I can better articulate my love of intersecting genre storytelling with South Asian identity politics. But deep down I'm still that thirteen year old who wants to be seen.
You have developed a reputation in Bangladesh for straddling the horror genre. And now your new short film that has hit the global radar, Moshari, is firmly in that space with an eerie dystopian context. This is not something one immediately associates with the Bangladeshi film world. Tell us about the genesis of the storyline, including the subtle and touching sibling relationship.
I grew up under a moshari (mosquito net) as a kid - I’m sure many in South Asia/Africa can relate. I always imagined something scary right outside the moshari…what if the net was protecting me? Yet the net also was kind of suffocating to sleep under. So it was a mix of feelings. What if the thing keeping you safe is also the thing suffocating you? Much like family.
I grew up with three sisters, all older than me. And when my parents were going through a rough divorce, my sisters became my protectors.
It was me and my sisters versus the world, very similar to Moshari where the bond between two siblings is all the hope that remains in a strange new world.
Can you give us some insight into the logistics of making the film? From getting fundraisers to believe in such an off-piste project, to casting the two sisters, finding shoot locations and any challenges you faced that are unique to producing and making this film in Bangladesh?
I came up with the storyline of Moshari when I was 18. The film premiered in 2022. I’m thirty years old now. It took forever to raise funds and bring this world to life. We begged an abandoned Coca-Cola factory to give us permission to film before they broke the facility down. We found swamps, rickshaw graveyards for the exterior shots – and the challenges didn’t end there, it was a difficult shoot as well. Bangladesh isn’t exactly known for genre cinema, so my crew was constantly confused about my choices it seemed. I felt like everyone around me looked at me like I was completely losing it. While many like to bill Moshari as a horror film, I would say no. The real horror was in my mind while making it.
Moshari’s score needs a shout-out. Can you give some background to the sound side of the film and how important it is to the visual storytelling?
Dameer Khan did the score and we spent months finding South Asian instruments like flutes and tablas to make the original background music. At first, it wasn’t working at all. We had to go back and research scores for atmospheric horror movies of the past, see the sound frequencies, the rhythms – or lack of them… and then try to do the same with local instruments.
Another vital layer was the sound design, which Sng Ye Min, a Singaporean sound designer took on. Sound is pivotal to filmmaking, and I just knew that it's a department young filmmakers often ignore. But the sounds of Moshari set the tone so early on, like the distorted ramblings that come in the beginning, an announcement which mirrors the Azaan (Islamic call to prayer) or perhaps a political rally, establishing the nuances of the world.
Simone Sultana is an economist, weaving story-telling, photography and film-making across all her advocacy and strategic work in subjects including combating inequality and poverty, worker rights, corruption and education on climate and sustainability.