imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category


Jan 21,2007

Thanks very much for the many, many emails and messages from the bostrobalikara site. Thanks for the kind words about the documentary.

We had two standing room only premiere shows. Total sell out. This indicates the depth of concern people in Bangladesh have about the industry, its workers and the issue of sweatshop wages and conditions.

Jan 16,2007

web site image

Here is the first version of the web site for the Bostrobalikara: Garment Girls of Bangladesh documentary. The premiere is on 19th January at the Public Library Auditorium, Shahbag. We hope to put up more images from the documentary and perhaps a clip or two.

Jan 9,2007

Publicity material for Bostrobalikara documentary:

image of pdf

image of pdf 2


Dec 30,2006

I am in the middle of writing a small book about Dhallywood, believe it or not. It began as quite a fun project even though it dealt with the serious issue of censorship. In the course of researching it, and as I talked to more and more people, I am finding that Bengali intellectuals remain located in a statist mode, and only a few are able to think seriously beyond the state. Bizarre and sad - and I will explain why elsewhere. You will hopefully read it ( and buy it!) at some point next year.

banner artist
As part of this I went to interview a couple of banner artists in old Dhaka. They are a dying breed, and I discuss their woes in a small section in the book. There is of course nothing like wondering about in old Dhaka. It is unfailingly interesting, and never shows the meanness and arrogance that I see in Gulshan.

banner artist

for Nadia

Dec 23,2006

So it is finally finsihed. And I am on my way home. Bostrobalikara: the garment girls of Bangladesh is the final title.

How do I feel? Right now  - exhausted.  It has been quite a process, and you will hopefully watch it and judge it. I will give my own comments after the premiere in Jan in Dhaka.  And yes, I am capable of being self-critical! And I have a lot to be critical about!

Documentary making is strangely a bit like academic field work. You meet people, you establish a rapport, you peer into their lives and then you move on whilst their lives remain the same.  Something desperately not right there. And I think of Nadia in particular and the other characters in the documentary.

Filming in London

  • Filed under: Cinema
Nov 19,2006

Anwar Hossain in Dhaka

pic of AH in Dhaka

So we are on the last leg of this garment worker film. With over sixty hours of footage in Bangladesh, we have now come to London to shoot some more. Heaven knows how we will sift through it all. Well we don’t need heaven to know…only Tanvir M needs to know. So if you don’t see any posts next week you will know what I am upto: running around like a headless chicken and giving up my wealth to London cabbies. Friends keep asking whether I am going to appear in the documentary. Let me put all my fans out of their misery: as there is no vulgar bollywood type dancing involved, which as you know is my forte, I will sadly not be making my debut. Sorry to disappoint you.

Nov 2,2006

A couple of quick links for you as I seem not to have any time to write anything:

Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, where I will be landing next week, seems to be like a terrorist hang out/summer camp if you read this BBC story.

I was Singaporean director Tan Pin Pin’s first DVD sales customer at Objectifs films last week in Singapore. She was in the office when I popped in and hey presto I got the first DVD out of the box and Pin signed it too. Please order this fantastic film for xmas. Details HERE. If you remember I wrote it about it very briefly here. Most exicitingly I might get involved in her new project - Invisible Singapore.

Lately, as part of my migrant labour project, I have been keenly following the activities and pronouncements of Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Kaabi the Harvard trained minister of labour of Abu Dhabi. And in this news report this man is redefining the rights of labour by changing the words a little. He says:

“The foreigners working in the UAE are temporary workers and do not represent migrant labour”

Foreigners comprise 90 percent of the UAE workforce……Does the learned and honourable minister mean immigrant labour? Whether migrant or immigrant…..both categories have internationally recognised rights. Temporary workers, erm….do not.

A story, an mp3 and a clip

Oct 27,2006

visit the Teardrops of Karnaphuli web site. You will need broadband to download the beautiful song “Karnaphuli.”

If you have seen the docu, please let me know your thoughts.

Oct 18,2006

Coming up this December, 1-7th, is a documentary film festival organised by the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka. Here is the draft programme. There will be a special focus on Palestine.


1. The Poet and the Mahatma î º Debabrata Roy - 59 min
2. Netaji and India’s Freedom Struggle - Sugata Bose


3. S.21 : The Khmer Rogue Killing Machine - 111 min
4. The Khmer Rogue Rice Fields - Rachana Pallit
5. The Autobiography of Hout Bouphana

South Africa

6. Amandla - A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony - Lee Hirsch


7. Martin Luther King - A Historical Perspective
8. Ralph Bunche - An American Odyssey - William Greaves
9. Ida B. Wallis : A Passion for Justice - William Greaves


10. Story of the Stone - Nathalie Fluckgner
11. Palestine - Sentu Roy
12. Film to be announced
13. Film from announced

Other Films

14. The Fog of War
15. Why We Fight
16. Farenheit 9/ll
17. The Road to Guantanamo

Films from 1971

1. Stop Genocide
2. Khaled’s War
3. Nine Miles to Freedom
4. A Country Made for Disaster
5. Liberation Fighters

Victor with Priyanka

  • Filed under: Cinema
Oct 4,2006

V and P

Not to be outdone by my foray into the film world, Victor has just sent me this amazing shot. Partly shot in Oxford, the film is called …ooops that is a secret…..and is a kind of “Love Actually,” and will be on your screens next year. Victor assures me that Priyanka was standing on a box…..

Aug 4,2006

Takashimaya, Singapore

Takashimaya Department store display earlier today.
As Singapore approaches its 41st birthday next week I was extremely pleased to see a fantastic new film about Singapore on the flight over from Dhaka yesterday. One of the things I like about SAA is that it features films other than just blocbusters. Its in-flight entertainment has everything from indie and art movies to the latest Tom Cruise nonsense.

Singapore Gaga is a beautiful film, and dare i use that cliche, multi-layered. It really is. Any one who has been to Singapore and spent any time in it or thought about this enigmatic place will find something of interest in this 52 minute film. And if you have not, Tan Pin Pin’s film will nevertheless send you into a contemplative mood. A film of great artistic merit and an antidote to the kinds of commercial/partriotic government nation building exercises underway to celebrate Singapore’s 41 years. Read more about it here.

Jun 16,2006

There is a film festival going on in South Korea at the moment and the theme is “Prospering Asia, Reconciliation and Co-existence.” A documentary film “Tini” by Enamul Karim Nirjhar is the Bangladeshi contribution to the festival - its about the life of the architect Mazharul Islam. I know next to nothing about Mr Islam or his work and so I will move on to the theme of the festival itself.

Prosperity, reconciliation and co-existence - what prospects in Bangladesh? Big topics and so let me choose …um…reconciliation. Yes. Feelings run high when history is revisited. One particular issue is that between those who were pro-liberation and those who were not. It is a divide which is sufficient for endless extra-parliamentary agitation. And sadly it is also a divide which is sufficiently incendiary to invite murder and mayhem. It is an instrument for exclusion ( in political life as well as professional life) and is a pretext for disruptive activity. And it extends to the blogosphere! Those who broadly label themselves as pro-liberation delight in flagging up images of BNP leaders with the anti-liberation Jamaat. They blush or become hostile when the same Jamaat leaders are shown with their favourite pro-liberation leaders during times of alliance with each other. The pro-libs believe their role in the liberation war has given them a god-given right to exclude those who were anti-liberation BUT only when it suits them to do so. They will gladly entertain alliances, however informal, at other times.

There are many in Bangladesh who rightly have come to see the constant shifting alliances and relationships between pro-liberation and anti-liberation sides since 1975 for what they are - a big game where what is at stake is not principle but the capture of state power.

Implacable foes - real ones - have sat down together and thrashed a way forward, no matter how difficult, in many countries. But not it seems bangladesh where the foe is perhaps not as implacable as imagined. Jamaat does not represent different economic interests. Indeed the parties are indinstinguishable on many issues. Jamaat may have war criminals and bone-headed fundamentalists ( as Awami League has its own skeletons) but politics is a contested space and the reality is you simply can’t wish them away. You have to deal with them within the arena of politics.

The riots last month principally showed up the absence of corporate culture in the garment industry - particularly the culture of dialogue. Nevertheless the most exploited and the least empowered workers now have managed to sit down and thrash something out with the owners of the factories no matter how imperfect - and through dialogue. Is there a chance our main political parties might try to do the same? Unlikely.

May 10,2006

The Travelling Film South Asia festival hit the road at the end of last month. Featuring documentaries, this festival has become a real eye-opener encouraging political/social expression in this medium.

One docu that was produced last year  is Tanvir Mokammel’s excellent but painful “Teardrops of Karnaphuli” (made 2005). Through the words of the inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), both “hill people” and recently arrived bengalis, Tanvir eloquently tells the devastating story of dam construction in the area, the displacement of people and the resulting impoverishment of local inhabitants. The film focusses on how the Bangladeshi government then started settling people from the late 70s from outside the area, and how this laid the basis for protracted instability and human rights violations.

Here is a snippet of a conversation Tanvir has with Basundhara Dewan, widow of a pioneer painter of the CHT area, Chunilal Dewan:

In childhood we studied with Bengalis in school. We never quarelled. We never uttered who was a Muslim or a Bengali. There was no question then who was a Chakma or a Bengali. We lived in harmony. Water came and people became poor. Rehabilitation wasn’t properly done. Some received. Some did not. Those who received - the settlers came and occupied what they had received. Lots of violence began. Without feuding and fighting someone’s land can’t be occupied. Our lives became troubled.

Interestingly, for my South African mates, the festival includes a documentary from South Africa, called “Dirty Laundry,” exploring the issue of indian identity in post-apartheid South Africa. Give me a shout if you have any info about it.

Mar 22,2006

Rana at Baitul Mukkaram

Next time you go for jummah prayers to Baitul Mukkaram (Dhaka’s landmark mosque) take a look around at the stalls around there and at the stadium. This is Rana. You will see him there. He sells all *types* of VCD at his stall. I asked him whether the recent intended crackdown on p*rn*gr*phy troubles him (announced by Information minister M Shamsul Islam). ( Pls excuse the asterisks: if i write the whole word, google picks it up and I get the wrong kind of visitor to this site!) Not in the least, he tells me. Sometimes he has to lie low because the police have to flex their muscles etc but “things always blow over.” The last time he had to lie low for a bit was about six months ago. He sells triple x, double x and a new genre, well to me at least:- Rana calls it “ganer modhe khola mela,” which roughly translated means “songs with open stuff” - that is risque dhallywood music videos interspliced with european hardcore stuff.

Taking a look at the titles you suddenly realise you don’t get them in Gulshan video stores. I asked him what the quality is like. He assured me that he would give me top quality stuff. I bought four video CDs. Two turned out to be blank CDs. One had a virus file as well as the intact VCD files. Only one of the four CDs was playable - it was a “ganer modhe khola mela” one. Not bad for 120 takas?! I was a bit saddened that my copy of Sayed Shamsul Alam’s “Damn Care” was a blank - it looks like a real dhallywood classic with buxom Moiuri look-alikes brandishing knives dripping with blood.

Read my earlier brief post questioning Hayekian interpretations of this phenomenon of intersplicing p*rn*, and Dhallywood in general.