Documentary Films on Bangladesh – Part 3

Documentary Films on Bangladesh by non-Bangladeshi Film Makers

This is the third part on documentary films on Bangladesh. First part of documentary films on Bangladesh listed nine documentaries. Second part of documentary films on Bangladesh listed nine more docs. Nine more documentaries added to this list. The lists are  in random order.

Development in Bad Waters


Director: Crelis Rammelt
2013 • 61 Min • Netherlands

In Bangladesh, millions of rural poor are currently drinking water that is contaminated with high levels of arsenic. Although the problem was described as the worst mass poisoning in history, little has been achieved to resolve it. Among the few projects that are being implemented, even fewer have managed to reach the poor and to implement water supplies and health support provisions that last. The Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation has implemented an integrated and participatory program that links research with project activities in a manner that reflects the priorities of local communities. More info about Development in Bad Waters here.

Le telephone portable de Halima

Le telephone portable de Halima cover

Director: Olga Prud’homme
2007 • 52 Min • France

This story takes place in Bangladesh. We are in May 2000. I have come to follow the arrival of a cell phone in Halima’s life, a village woman. Halima got this cell phone thanks to a loan from the Grameen Bank, the “bank of the poor”. It is the first phone ever found in this village. It should benefit to Halima as well as to all the village people.

January 2007: back to Halima. Has the wager of professor Yunus, who in between has been rewarded with the Peace Nobel Prize, succeeded? Can a cell phone change a destiny? Can micro credit help the poor to jump above “poverty line”? What happened to Halima and to her cell phone?

Le telephone portable de Halima or Halima’s Cellphone is in Bangla with French Subtitle.

The Dust of His Feet

The Dust of His Feet cover

Director: Janet Best
2010 • 62 Min • Canada

The film brings us into the world of two Bangladeshi folk musicians. Matal Rajjak Dewan, the ‘drunk poet’, is honored with a shrine after his death. His student, Abdul Hai Dewan, calls his teacher ‘my Allah’ and continues to sing his songs of tolerance, mysticism and love at all-night celebrations and debates.

Matal Rajjak Dewan was an eccentric poet and singer who intrigued me the first and only time I saw him perform. When I returned to Bangladesh a year and a half later he was dead and his grave was a kind of shrine. Surprised, I set out to find out more and talked to his family, fans and, most of all, to his ardent student, the charismatic singer, Abdul Hai Dewan. For Abdul Hai, Matal Rajjak is more than just a teacher. “Nobody likes my songs,” he says unless Matal mixes in my soul and sings.” But Matal Rajjak is a puzzling figure who is described in many ways, a man who gave away all his money to beggars but who also beat people.

Way Back Home

Way Back Home cover

Director: Supriyo Sen
2003 • 120 Mins • India

In this road-movie, the filmmaker follows his parents on their way ‘back home’ to Bangladesh. After the Partition of India in 1947, East Pakistan, (today’s Bangladesh) witnessed enormous atrocities. Rape, brutal killings and the separation of families, friends and neighbors literally happened overnight. After 50 years of living as ‘refugees’ in India, the filmmaker’s parents return to their home villages to see what remains of childhood memories. The journey is dangerous and challenging for those behind the camera as those in front of it. Filming takes place without the official permission of Bangladesh, which can provoke nasty reprisals. The urge to film his parents visiting home for what might be the last time in their lives though, was a great motivator. Emotional but not melodramatic, the film embodies the story of one family representing the faith of thousands of others in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan. Poetic in approach, with beautiful songs and a measured pace, this journey is one of the rare documentaries that played for weeks in cinemas in Kolkata, India.

The Bangladesh Story

The Bangladesh Story cover

Director: Faris Kermani
1989 • 78 Min • UK

The Bangladesh Story, a three-part series, broadcast on Channel 4, tells the story of Bangladesh from its creation to military rule of 1990s.

Part 1 – Under Three Flags – Bengal was the heartland of British India, and in 1947 it became the east wing of Pakistan, after much violence. East Pakistanis felt they still suffered from domination by their west wing, and Pakistan’s first general election in 1970 confirmed this. A second Bengali bid for independence resulted in nationhood.

Part 2 – The Mujib Years – The East Bengali majority in the 1970 election caused a civil war which shocked the world. The superpowers stayed on the sidelines, but the intervention of the Indian army ensured the existence of Bangladesh. Mujibur Rahman took power, but lost popular support within three years, and a new period of government by the armed forces began.

Part 3 – Military Rules – 80% of the population has dropped below the poverty line, while rulers come and go, usually through violent coups. The last program in the series looks at some different people’s attempts to find solutions to their country’s problems.

Between the Tides

Between the Tides cover

Directors: Tyler Quintano & Nick Manning
2009 • 50 Min • USA

The sea level is rising at an alarming 3.14 mm per year in the Bay of Bengal due to climate change. An estimated 125 million people may be rendered homeless in India and Bangladesh by the end of this century. What are their options? How long do people have? Between the Tides is a feature-length documentary film that explores the human cost of climate change and those living on the front lines of sea level rise in the Ganges Delta.

The Micro Debt

the micro debt cover

Director: Tom Heinemann
2011 • 57 Min • Denmark

Microcredit has been hailed as the #1 solution to eradicate poverty. In December 2007, the Danish independent journalist and film maker, Tom Heinemann met with a woman by the name of Jahanara – living in a slum-like house two hours drive outside the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Shortly before she had sold her house to pay her weekly installment\’s. For months, she had been intimidated, harassed and abused by the members of her loan group and by the loan officers from the various Micro Finance Institutions, who had given her the loans. The meeting with Jahanara was only the first in a long string of interviews with poor people in Bangladesh, India and in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. The Microcredit loan-takers told the same story over and over again: Most of them had numerous loans in various NGO’s and Micro Finance Institutions – and many must take new loans to cover the old ones. They paid annual interest rates ranging from 30-200%, and they are under extreme social pressure from the other members of their groups.

Strong Bodies Fight

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Director:  William Donaruma
2011 • 65 Min • USA

“Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.” This is the motto of the Notre Dame Boxing Team, which annually hosts an intramural charity tournament called “The Bengal Bouts” to support the Holy Cross development efforts in the poverty-stricken country of Bangladesh. Founded by legendary football coach Knute Rockne in 1931 and perpetuated by 80 years of blood, sweat, and tears, the Bengal Bouts represent a sacred tradition of dedicated students lacing up their gloves in a fight much larger than the ring in which they box.

In May 2008, a group of 5 student boxers embarked on a journey across the world to witness the Bangladesh missions. What they encountered was not what they had anticipated. Where they had expected to find weakness, they found strength; where they thought they would find despair, they found great resolve. They learned that the Bangladeshi people were not helpless victims to be aided but change-agents to be empowered. From the claustrophobic slums of Dhaka city to the remote tribal villages of Bangladesh, these students witnessed a world of poverty seldom seen in films or media – a world of hope.

Now 80 years in the making, Strong Bodies Fight is the unique and inspirational story of three groups of people – the Notre Dame boxers, the Holy Cross Missionaries, and the people of Bangladesh – reaching out across the globe to join forces as one Team in the FIGHT against poverty.

The Akram Tree

The Akram Tree cover

Directors: Francesco Cabras & Alberto Molinari
2011 • 81 Min • Italy

The Akram Tree is a journey through the personal and professional world of the British-Bangladeshi choreographer and dancer Akram Khan. My intelligence is in my body says Akram himself, a body built by acute observations of the reality, legends, and unceasing work here well represented by Gnosis, a pièce realized in collaboration with seven artists expressly discovered in different parts of the world. These traditions and experimentations from India, Japan, Pakistan, England, Egypt, Iraq and Bangladesh collaborate together to create a work between classic Indian Kathak and contemporary dance. The film portrays the story of this peculiar human and artistic adventure often transcending the narration for the sake of a more visionary look influenced by the location where the documentary has been shot: the futuristic and conflictive city of Abu Dhabi with its desertic and metaphysical surroundings.


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