Documentary Films on Bangladesh by non-Bangladeshi Film Makers
A list of documentary films on Bangladesh previously published here in three parts. They can be found here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. This is the fourth installment. The list focuses on Non-Bangladeshi or Non-resident Bangladeshi film makers. The principal focus is to compile a list of documentary films on Bangladesh – it is not a review or not a critic. This list is not complete, therefore, as they come to our attention we will write on them. The list here is in random order.
Nine Months to Freedom
1972 • 72 Min • India
The film showing at length the war of East Pakistan with West Pakistan which led to the formation of an independent state of Bangladesh. India had played a very crucial role in this war in supporting the new state of Bangladesh. This film shows the impact of the war nine months. Sukhdev’s documentary is a partisan chronicle of the history of Pakistan to the point where Bangladesh, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, demanded its freedom. Then it narrates the events after 25 March 1971, when Yahya Khan sent in the raping and rampaging Pakistani army, the heroic struggle of Bangladesh’s Mukti Bahini and finally the Indian Army’s defeat of Pakistan and the liberation of Bangladesh. The highlights of the film are its refutation of a clip from Pakistan TV with a strong voice-over, and the interview with an enraged Andre Malraux saying he wants to pick up a rifle and join the war against Yahya Khan’s army. Large parts of the story are told using a montage of stills, including newspaper headlines. In addition to footage from BBC TV and Pakistan TV, the film uses sequences of the massacre in Bangladesh (including the opening shot of a dog ripping apart a human corpse).
The Most Fearless
2014 • 77 Min • USA
Teenage Nasima struggles to achieve her destiny as a world class competitive surfer in conservative Bangladesh where women don’t even swim in public. The Most Fearless is a dynamic and universally accessible true story. A documentary film about youth, hope, and surfing; full of compelling characters, set in an exotic location, and rich with contemporary global cultural relevance.
2010 • 60 Min • Spain
Shipwreck is the story of Johor and Salam, men that work at the ship yards breaking vessels in Chittagong, a coastal province of Bangladesh. Bengali men struggling to raise their families against a backdrop of labor uncertainty, health hazards unknown to us, and salaries that make them the most competitive labor force in the world.
Johor is a cutter, a crafted worker that slices down the ships day and night. He sits at the top of the job positions in the yard. Salam is older but strong, he is also a leader within the collective house he lives at. The two of them represent the whole of the man power assembled in the yards. This is their story. Shipwreck is the battleground where barehanded men dismantle these gigantic ships. Their work is considered a great asset to the country’s economy taking into account the high price of steel in the world market. For them workers, is a good way to ensure their children’s future and they believe, in time, their working conditions will only improve. Shipwreck is a modern version of David against Goliath. Where the real giant David must bring down is a system oblivious to the human beings which it is supposed to serve, represented in this film by the hopeless enormous carcasses wrecked at a soiled beach. An industry breaking down more than 500 large ships a year that is unlikely to stop while there are ships to be broken, unpaid and unprepared workers eager to break them, and large amounts of money to be made amidst the hypocrisy of the western world.
Heart to Head
2013 • 123 Min • Canada
Education is the most powerful weapon in fighting what Gandhi called the worst form of violence – poverty. This documentary film takes a close look at how Amarok Society has empowered some of the poorest, most oppressed mothers in the world to lead that fight. Rather than teach children, Amarok Society teaches wholly uneducated Muslim mothers in the slums of the world’s worst city to be neighborhood teachers – achieving what many said would be impossible. ‘Heart to Head’ reveals a rarely-seen world, providing an extraordinary view into these terrible slums and the lives within them as it follows Amarok Society’s quest to open a new school, and traces the journey of women who reshape their lives and their neighborhoods through education.
Flip The Coin – A Tower Of Promises
2008 • 57 Min • Sweden/Denmark
The world have never been bigger. In seconds we can connect. From Scandinavia to Bangladesh.
Globalization can create economic growth even in the poorest countries of the world. Good for some but not for all. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been bigger: 980 million people are starving every day, Just 1000 people own on average more than 4 billion Dollars, 850 million people suffers from chronic malnutrition. Who are the winners and who are the losers?
This documentary shows how Ericsson and Telenor for more than a decade have neglected to live up to their own Code Of Conduct. Fatal accidents, child labor, hazardous working conditions and environmental disasters are everyday occurrences in their factories in Bangladesh. Thousands of poor workers, work for subcontractors to Ericsson and Telenor (Two of the largest telecommunication companies in the world). These multinational companies guarantees to the public and their shareholders, that the employees and suppliers have to live up to the most basic human rights and environmental standards. “A Tower Of Promises” documents how these guarantees are nothing more than empty words.
2000 • 60 Min • USA
Sixteen Decisions is a documentary film directed and produced by Gayle Ferraro, exploring the impact of the Grameen Bank on impoverished women in Bangladesh. The bank provides micro loans of about $60 each to the poor, as well as promoting a social charter that gave the film its title. The film was Gayle Ferraro’s first, begun in 1997 and completed in 2000. It has been shown at multiple film festivals, including the 2001 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival and 2002 Women With Vision Film Festival. It won the Bronze Award for Women’s Issues at the Houston Worldfest, and was broadcast by PBS in 2003.
2011 • 45 Min • UK
Channel 4 News presenter Alex Thomson unwraps one of the nation’s favorite dishes. Through DNA testing he discovers the fish in fish and chips may not be quite as advertised and exposes how one major supermarket is misleading consumers about the sustainability of the cod it sells.
The apparent health benefits of fish have driven demand amongst consumers and made it a lucrative multi-billion pound industry in the UK. But Thomson reveals the chemical additives used in some fish products. He also uncovers that packaged fish on sale in the chilled section of the supermarket may have been frozen for nine months before it’s defrosted and sold to consumers – some of whom assume this is fresh.
Dispatches goes undercover to investigate the prawn industry in Bangladesh, which supplies Britain with several thousand tones of prawns each year, and finds a dangerously unregulated industry. Secret filming reveals serious hygiene issues and the use of a widely banned pesticide to combat disease in prawn ponds. The report also exposes how prawns are injected with a dirty bulking liquid to increase weight – and profit.
Hoolock Gibbons – Grasping the Last Branch
2009 • 50 Min • USA
The Hoolock Gibbons of Bangladesh have been brought to the brink of extinction by the relentless destruction of their forested habitats throughout the country, even in the most highly protected forest reserves. This species used to number in the tens of thousands, but are now down to the last 200 or so.
2001 • 50 Min • UK
Entangled, mangrove forest on the Bay of Bengal is the kingdom of a creature rarely seen by humans. One of the most efficient predators on Earth, this animal is feared as a killer and a man-eater – the legendary swamp tiger. These tigers are so elusive that all attempts to track them in these impenetrable swamps ended in failure.
More than a decade ago, cameraman Mike Herd captured the swamp tiger on film for the first time. It was an extraordinary breakthrough, the first glimpse into the secret life of the least known tiger in the world – the swamp tiger of the Bangladeshi Sundarbans.
This first tiger footage was tantalizing and all-too-brief, but for Mike it was enough to stir a passion. He resolved to return and unravel the secrets of this mysterious creature. The Sundarbans are remote and dangerous, so Mike will need an armed guard day and night. Somewhere in those 6,000 square miles, 10,000 square kilometers, are a few hundred tigers, yet the only way to track them is on foot.
Four mighty rivers rise in the Himalayas and pass through Bangladesh, dividing into small streams and channels to pour into the sea in the Bay of Bengal. They form an intricate mangrove delta, a collection of sand banks and mud held together by entangled roots.
Flood waters carry human victims downstream; corpses are washed onto the muddy banks of the Sundarbans giving some tigers the taste for human flesh. Every year up to a hundred people are killed by tigers, yet for the poor there is no alternative. The fishermen spend months on-board their boats trying to avoid the bandits who steal their catch and their belongings.
On the muddy bank there is the first tell-tale trace of the tiger – a recent set of pugmarks leading deep into the forest. Then more evidence – huge claw marks on a tree. The air is thick with a pungent smell of tiger. Mike believes it must be a tigress.