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     Volume 4 Issue 38 | March 18, 2005 |

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Documenting Bangladesh

Elita Karim

Everything we feel deeply must be expressed -Hans Hartung

Earlier this month, film buffs got a rare treat with the three-day-long screening of 14 documentaries, titled 'Documenting Bangladesh' featuring films made between 1971 and 2004, to project the true picture of Bangladesh. The recently formed Bangladesh Documentary Council held the screening at the National Public Library with the aim of exposing the talents of independent filmmakers. All the documentaries were about Bangladesh, made by both well-known and upcoming Bangladeshi filmmakers.

The 18-minute documentary 'Stop Genocide' depicts the similar stories of mass killings in different countries. A clear parallel is drawn in the narration, between the genocide in Vietnam, Algeria and Bangladesh during the Liberation War. Like many famous filmmakers, namely Joris Ivena, Andrzej Waja and Alain Resnais, Zahir Raihan also focused on Man's struggle against inhumanity and war. The audience, especially those young people who are oblivious to the atrocities of decades ago, were deeply moved by the scenes of misery and horror. The images of thousands of refugees walking for days and nights and camping at the Indian border are probably the most heartrending of scenes. In one of them, a little girl was walking silently, once in a while breaking into tears. Later, the film explains that this 11-year-old girl was raped by a group of Pakistani soldiers, after her mother, father and brothers were shot right in front of her eyes.

'One Day in Krishnanagar', a 53-minute film speaks about a day's struggle by fishermen, to keep themselves and their families alive. The film not only shows the hard labour and constant prayers by the fishermen, but also their spiritual aspirations, dreams and their moments of leisure are moulded into this sensitive presentation. The documentary has been directed by Manzare Hassin, Tanvir Mokammel and Tareque Masud and produced by the Bangladesh Short Film Forum, Goethe Institut, Munich.

Tareque and Catherine Masud's much acclaimed 'Muktir Gaan' was also screened, to the delight of many. This 80-minute film relived the times, when people from all walks of life -- some just teenagers -- fought for independence in any way that they could. Here, a group of youngsters tour all around on a truck for days together, singing and spreading the message of freedom and the pride in having one's own land, and enjoy the sense of belongingness. Some of them, today, happen to be famous artistes in various cultural fields. According to one of them, this 80-minute documentary captures only a tiny bit of the actual feeling and the passion that drove these youngsters to go around the country, talking to people, experiencing their lives and letting everyone sense the emotion of freedom.

There were other documentaries, portraying the Liberation War of 1971 and people's fight against the atrocities. 'Tale of the Darkest Night', a 43-minute short film by Kawser Chowdhury, narrates the brutal killings at Dhaka University, by the Pakistani army. The survivors, witnesses and the families of the victims are documented in this film.

'Shadhinota', a 37-minute documentary by Yasmine Kabir, shows Gurudasi Mondol. After being sexually abused in 1971, she became mentally unbalanced. During the war, Mondol watched her family being brutally killed by the Razakars. She was imprisoned and raped by the commanders of the Razakars, till she was freed three months later by the Bangladeshi Liberation Army. Thirty years later, she aimlessly roams about on the streets. Even within her madness, she has a story to tell and a power to survive.

'Achin Pankhi', a 60-minute film by Tanvir Mokammel, speaks of bauls, an integral part of our culture. The film speaks of the mystic Lalon Shah, and the various spiritual stages of these bauls. 'Rokeya' a 61-minute film by Manzare Hassin is based on the works and life of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain herself. This film rediscovers the various aspects of Rokeya's personal life and works from the perspectives of the present generation of women.

'Black House' focuses on the pollution, carbon, smoke and the darkness, which constitute a normal factory, where a number of child workers work to earn a living. This 30-minute film by Tareque Shahriar brings out the root causes leading to child labour and issues that have been raised about these children's future repeatedly by many, but in vain.

Another interesting documentary of Manzare Hassin's is the 42-minute 'Our Boys', which shows a group of young boys, their acceptance of their present laid out by the past and how they face the wind not knowing which way it is actually blowing or taking them.

'My Migrant Soul', a 35-minute documentation by Yasmine Kabir, depicts the crumpled dreams of Shahjahan Babu, when he goes to Malaysia to earn a better living, but ends up as a victim of a ruthless system.

'Sand & Water' an 84-minute representation by Shaheen Dil Riaz speaks of Jamuna, one of the three main rivers in Bangladesh, and its effect on the people of the Char lands and their struggle for water.

'Spring of Desire' a 24-minute film by Shabnam Ferdousi brings to the forefront the issues faced by hermaphrodites or hijras. Constantly plagued by confusion, hatred and ignorance from the mainstream community, the film tries to show that, they are people though different having the same emotions and desires, just like any other human being.




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