Film projects: Open Doors Hub
Made in Bangladesh
After a pregnant young factory worker, MOYNA, dies in a fire accident at a ready-made garment factory in Dhaka, her friend, SHIMU, joins the workers’ union to fight MOYNA’s cause. SOHEL, Shimu’s unemployed husband, spends his time at the mosque listening to sermons.
Shimu meets TASLIMA, a young human rights activists, who helps Shimu to organize workers at the factory. Despite the class difference, a friendship develops between the two women. Shimu is given a new voice and purpose by attending workers union meetings, and interacting with Taslima.
Sohel is unhappy with Shimu’s late hours. After finding a job as a security guard at the Islamic Bank, Sohel wants Shimu to quit the factory. Shimu tries to reach out to Taslima, but finds out that she has taken a leave of absence, being in the middle of a custody battle over her daughter. Shimu is left alone to fight against Sohel, who wants her to stop working, and defend herself against factory authorities who intimidate her to drop the union.
In 2012, a fire broke out at Tazreen Fashion Factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 117 workers. In April 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory building collapsed, and over 1000 workers lost their lives. As a response to these tragedies, I wanted to make a film about the resilience of the young women engaged in the Ready Made Garment sector. In the course of my research, I came across Daliya Sikder, a twenty-year-old factory worker, who was the workers union president. Since the Rana Plaza tragedy, workers like Daliya have been important agents of change in improving factory conditions, and giving a voice to the workers. When I told Daliya about my film project, she shared her life story with me. We made plans that there will be multiple screenings of the film, only for workers. I added fictional elements to Daliya’s story and named the character Shimu.
At the factory, Shimu’s body is exploited for the sake of cheap production, feeding a global network of business and profit. While at home, her body becomes the appropriating ground of her husband Sohel’s failed masculinity. Moreover, Shimu’s body becomes subject of orthodox Islamic ideologies, when Sohel forces her to put on a hijab. In the face of capitalist exploitation at work, and patriarchal exploitation at home, Shimu is not a passive victim, but very much an active agent. Shimu might be young, small, fragile, but she gains the strength to fight against injustice through building networks and friendships with women workers and activists. Made in Bangladesh is about how an individual young woman navigates and creates her own synthesis out of the forces of capitalism, leftist politics and Islamization.
The process of telling women’s stories in cinema, for me, is always a process of coming to terms with my own self as a woman. Within the framework of patriarchal-phallocentric culture, I feel cinema, as a medium, offers a space for women’s solidarity, and to articulate women’s imagery and self.
Khona Talkies was funded in 2008 by Rubaiyat Hossain with the vision of working with young Bangladeshi talent to produce films in a local terrain with possible foreign co-production and creative tie-ups. Since its inception Khona Talkies has produced and acquired a few award-winning and internationally acclaimed as well as locally significant independent films by young filmmakers. Khona Talkies seeks for international co-production and distribution partnership.
Under Construction by Rubaiyat Hossain (Fiction, 88’, 2015)
Meherjaan by Rubaiyat Hossain (Fiction, 119’, 2011)
The Poison Thorn by Farzana Boby (Doc, 40’, 2014)