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     Volume 4 Issue 43 | April 22, 2005 |

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Films on Women

Kavita Charanji

Fauzia Khan

Fauzia Khan has essayed the roles of editor, director, in addition to doing research and writing scripts for films. Among her notable works are documentaries on the lives of six women painters of Bangladesh called "Perception--The other way" (1999). She has also made a documentary an Baul singer Kangalini Sufia (2001-2002) called 'The Love Beggar', The Budding Flowers (2002), which depicts the trials of adolescence and 'Long way to go' (2004)a film based on the realities that women face while performing their duties as members of the reserved seats in the Union Parishad.

There is clearly a distinct niche for such documentaries. As women activists testify, women have been subjugated in the patriarchal society and do not have a voice in social, family or even personal affairs. Quite often, some mundane jobs have been identified as jobs for women. A filmmaker with vision and sensitivity can go a long way in rooting out this inequality between the sexes.

"I do women-oriented films," says Fauzia programme officer of the audio-visual centre of Steps Towards Development. "Women have an inferior social status and often do not get what is due to them. My aim is to work for a more equitable relationship between men and women." As a woman, she points out she is on a strong wicket in dealing with the lives of women.

Some of her documentary films are derived from her own life and are made independently. Take a forthcoming work on motherhood. The film is based on Fauzia's own experience of abortion several years ago and her mother's subsequent gentle tending of her.

"That unconditional relationship between mother and child inspired me. Mothers always give and never get back from society. Their contribution to family and society go largely unnoticed," maintains Fauzia.

Fauzia's second documentary is based on theatre actress Shimul Yusuf. Explaining the motivation for this film, she says, " I wanted to depict the traditional acting style of Bangla theatre, through Shimul."

What is the reaction of men to her work? "It is not that an individual male is coming and attacking me. It is the overall male psyche in a male-dominated system. Considering all the obstacles, in a way I am in a better position than other women and maybe males as well. I am working in the audio-visual medium, which is unusual in Bangladesh," she says.

Over the years, filming technology has become more state-of-the art. As a milestone, Fauzia cites the case of the digital format. In her words, "The private TV channels coupled with the digital format, have made filmmaking a less expensive proposition. The technology gives one the chance to work individually. All one needs is an idea, one's own computer and a little camera. And there you have an independent, low budget film."

Yet there is much ground to cover for documentary films in Bangladesh. Going back to her return to Dhaka after finishing her studies at the Pune-based Film and Television Institute in 1996, Fauzia faced what she calls "people's negativity about me as a woman in films." What's more, there were few people who had studied films and she was the first woman to go overseas and study filmmaking. "Most people were habituated to seeing women as actors, not behind the camera as filmmakers and technicians," asserts Fauzia.

Another hurdle, she believes, is the lack of an outlet for documentary films. In the national arena, people are still not very familiar with documentary films. There is a way, believes Fauzia.

The government has also lagged behind in giving grants for documentary films and serious feature films, which do not have good financial prospects. According to Fauzia, "only the NGOs and donor institutions fund documentaries and they have their own agendas. It is not that individual filmmakers are free to do whatever they feel like."

Fauzia has her list of women filmmakers whose work she admires. Among them are Shameem Akhter (director ), Catherine Masud ( editor, technician, producer) and Yasmin Kabir (director). She believes that Shameem's conceptualisation is excellent and she shares with her the interest in women as subjects. She is full of praise for Catherine's technical knowledge. Then there is Yasmin, a documentary filmmaker who edits and wields the camera along with directing films.

Fauzia has long cherished the dream of working on a mainstream film. As she says, "I wanted to do feature films. But in Bangladesh this is difficult--in the sense that the kind of theme I want to work on does not have commercial prospects." Fauzia's work testifies to her vast talent which --given her perseverance and skills--should help her make a breakthrough in the mainstream.


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