The seventh edition of Film South Asia ‘09, the festival of South Asian documentaries, held in Kathmandu Nepal awarded Swapnabumi the 2nd best award. Here is the jury’s decision:
The Promised Land by Tanvir Mokammel is very well crafted and deftly captures the festering sore of ‘stateless citizens’ or ‘stranded citizens’ in so many regions of our extended sub-continent. It powerfully draws our attention to the issue of identities that have become a bane of post-colonial South Asia – the question ‘Who Am I’ becomes one of the trickiest questions of our times, as many segments of our population become playthings of current history. The film tells this story with grace.
We are all very happy of course and we are particularly grateful to Mohammad Hasan, a leading activist from the Urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh, for presenting the film at the Festival. The top prize went to Yasmine Kabir “The Last Rites” a beautiful film about shipbreaking in Bangladesh.
Migrant workers have countless tales to tell and no doubt there are a countless tales worthy of the big screen treatment. Bandhobi is a Korean Film and it deals with migrant worker issues . Don’t ask me what I think of it. I have not seen it. Here is the synopsis below. If anyone has a copy…
Summary below is from the film web site.
Min-suh, a 17-year old rebellious high school Korean girl, lives in a small apartment with her mother and her mother’s penniless lover. She hates mother’s lover and doesn’t understand both of them. Karim, a 29-year old Muslim migrant worker from Bangladesh has to leave Korea in a month. Before departing, he is desperately searching for his ex-boss to get his unpaid salary. One day, as Min-suh’s summer vacation begins, he encounters Min-suh in a bus, and together they set out on an emotional journey. Bandhobi is Bengali, meaning ‘Friend’ in English.
More from Rezwan HERE.
It seems that slowly but surely Bangladeshi cultural activists are finally turning their gaze on the long festering “bihari” issue. A couple of month’s ago Mamunur Rashid produced a docu-drama on the issue and it was premiered in the Liberation War Museum. Interestingly holding a premiere of one’s film at such an institution has some obligations and Mr Rashid had to utter the Liberation War Museum mantra ” I demand the trial of war criminals who collaborated with the Pakistani army. ” Prefacing one’s film with this statement only serves to tarr this entire community with that useless, mouldy and oppressive brush beloved of those who unthinkingly think of themselves as “pro-liberation.”
The war-criminal issue is not one sided Mr Rashid. And you should know this. Your film has plagiarised wantonly from the documentary I co-produced and researched - Swapnabhumi, The Promised Land. And given your manifest approval of our film I would have thought you would have understood the message of that film. You were only too happy, it seems, to steal our footage, our songs and even copyright footage I paid for but you seem not to understand that demanding a trial should be a bit more than a mantra, a message that is implicit in our documentary. I too am in favour of a trial. However I have thought about the terms of reference of such a putative trial. Have you?
The Bangladesh Federation of Film Societies has given the Best Documentary 2006 award to Bostrobalikara - Tanvir Mokammel’s film on the garment workers of Bangladesh.
Get the full list of awardees in Prothom Alo, 18 June, page 14, Column 7.
2008 Turner prize: BBC profile of the nominees
In conversation with Tine Fischer. “I really admire Godard’s ability to take two fundamental notions like ‘truth and fiction’, distinct as genres, and interchange them with ease.”
“a young, dark-skinned, dark-eyed Bangladeshi British woman” by Janet Owen
White Cube: “Runa Islam makes film and video installations that use overlapping layers of narrative to explore notions of truth and fiction, subjectivity and authorship. Islam installs her films in architectural configurations, frequently presenting them across two or three screens as a framing device. Her work aims to blur the distinctions between film and sculpture, art and cinema, and encourages a range of interpretations from viewers.”
More stills and links from SiouxWire
It is World Refugee Day on 20th June 2008. According to the UNHCR there are 33 million refugees and internally displaced people. The 3rd Annual Tokyo Refugee Film Festival will be raising awareness of this by screening
“A select array of films from across the globe (giving voice) to seldom-heard stories of hope, despair and resilience.”
I am happy to note that our film Swapnabhumi - The Promised Land will be part of the film festival.
bangladesh 1971 Photographs (pdf document )
Bangladesh Film Festival London April 2008 (pdf document)
Let me know if you are going along….might see you there. Have people noticed that “The Architect” has now become a film about Bangladesh? Its inclusion is quite bizarre. How can a film about an Estonian-born philandering architect - who happened to get the contract for building Bangladesh’s parliament - be a film about Bangladesh??
I bet you didn’t know that the Lonely Planet travel guide series is owned by the BBC? Yes it is, and the BBC is one of 28 UK companies with dealings in Burma. Gone are the days when progressives the world over would praise the World Service for saving lives. Now the BBC is slave to financial concerns. The call to boycott Lonely Planet comes from the Trade Union Congress, Tourism Concern, New Internationalist and The Burma Campaign UK. They argue, quite rightly, that a travel guide on Burma “helps give legitimacy to the brutal regime, as do the tourists who use it to visit Burma.”
The Burmese seem not be fussed. They are more upset by the sagging breasts of Rambo. Come again, you say? Yes. They have taken offence at Sylvester Stallone’s
man-breasts physique and lunatic demeanour in a film where he kicks Burmese ass. Perhaps they would have been happier if his breasts were firm and his appearance more comely? Here is a still from the film:
The 10th International Short and Independent Film Festival has got underway in Dhaka. An excellent collection of films is being shown over the next week or so. And of course it features our own Swapnabhumi - The Promised Land. The festival’s goal is this:
The festival welcomes films of artistic merit and creative expression with a commitment to social and cultural harmony, secularism, sustainable ecology and the rights of women, children and minority communities.
Go to Events for schedule, venue, name of film etc. And if you do go and see Swapnabhumi be sure to give me your views on it.
Here we are in Dean Street, Soho ( where else??) to buy a bit of kit, innit? No sadly, my handsome visage is not in the picture.
Yes folks its time to give you a free mp3 download. Kamal Ahmed gives a glorious performance of this classic Ghazal. ( right click and select save link as).
We use this song in our documentary Swapnabhumi (about the plight of the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh). Kamal, the singer, is from Adamjee “bihari camp.” During the making of a documentary, the nature of editing is such that you go over the footage multiple times.Â During that entire period, we never tired of Kamal’s wonderful voice and the ghazals he sang. You will find this mp3 and at at least one other song in the web site for the documentary (almost finished!!).
Right Click this link and select save as. Or if you want to play in your browser just left click. And here is rough translation of the lyrics from urdu.
(please) embrace me, i am very sad
Now even beautiful sights spike my eyes like arrows
i’m weary of all crumbling relations
You have borne much sorrow in this world
do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world
the sword of injustice will break
this wall of high and low will fall
i promise you my friend , do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world
who knows when this way, this condition will change
when this perod of torture, sorrow and trouble will change
embrace me, i am very sad
click picture to see more!
Peculiar graphic design, buxom wenches, explicit action, wanton violence - yes this caretaker government has had an impact on all of these! Dhallywood has been facing some serious restructuring with so-called “obscene” films finding it more and more difficult to surface. But as always there is a peculiar history…..the state’s involvement in both the production of such films in the first place and then their censorship is often overlooked! I will be discussing this more and more this coming year. So here is a little taster from my modest poster collection ( standing at about 500 now….!). I have uploaded a miserly eight for your delectatation and edification. No particular reason behind the choice - they are the first that came to hand. And they are by no means the best..nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Follow the link HERE.
1. If you remember I wrote about the non-existence of palliative care in Bangladesh. Well, here’s how things stand in South Africa. My friend Natalya Dinat talks about her experience.
2. My eight year old son has been ploughing through Phillip Pullman’s books. (I never encouraged him to read the Harry Potter tripe. A S Byatt’s dismissal of Rowling’s work is something I endorse fully!) The American catholics have been getting their knickers in a twist about The Golden Compass ( an adaptation of Pullman’s work). But its useful to hark back and remember what the current Archbishop of Canterbury said about Pullman’s books. HE WELCOMED INTEREST IN IT. READ HERE.
3. Hana Makhmalbaf - younger sister of Samira - has just won an award for a film on Afghanistan “Buddha collapsed out of shame.” She is still just a teenager! I suspect the Taleban will be as livid as the American catholics. Her sister Samira’s film “The Blackboards” easily rates in my top ten favourite films. And I do believe Samira herself was impossibly young when she won the Cannes’ jury award for that. Dr Kamal Hossain, as UN special raporteur on Afghanistan, apparently helped their dad Mohsen with his film about Afghanistan - Kandahar. Dr Kamal Hossain also features in our documentary, Swapnabhumi, about the urdu-speakers of Bangladesh. It is a key moment in the film, and the limitations of Bangladeshi nationalism are laid bare in a few words.
4. And here is a review by Annu Jalais of our documentary.
( cover image UNHCR-GMB Akash; design Catalin Dantis)
Swapnabhumi: The Promised Land ( Documentary, 90mins)
This is a story of six decades, three countries and statelessness. A story about the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh.
The terms “urdu-speakers” and the more loaded “biharis” are used to refer to muslim people who originally emigrated from India to the newly created East Pakistan in 1947 and afterwards.
Many of them, but by no means all, originated from the state of Bihar and were fleeing large scale communal massacres.
Three decades later, during the struggle for independence in Bangladesh in 1971, this community became embroiled in conflict. Isolated as collaborators against Bangladeshi independence, this moment was a defining one for the urdu-speakers and has had a devastating legacy.
This is a story abou the 160,000 people from this community who live isolated in 116 “camps” or “settlements” in Bangladesh.
Script & Direction Tanvir Mokammel; Co-Producer and Researcher Shafiur Rahman; Editing Mahadeb Shi; Cinematography Anwar Hossain; Background Music Syed Shabab Ali Arzoo; Sound Mashrur Rahman; Assistant Directors Uttam Guha & Sarwar Tamijuddin; Commentary Chittralekha Guha; Assistants Research Khalid Hossain & Mohammad Hasan; Produced by Kino-Eye Films.