Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bangladeshi Cinema

With such a remarkable literary culture, it's no wonder that Bangladesh is also home to excellent cinema. For Americans, the most accessible film is probably Tareque Masud's 2002 Matir Moyna, or "Clay Bird."

Matir Moyna won a number of awards at film festivals across the globe including the prestigious International Critics' Prize for Best Film at Cannes.

The film is accessible to us bideshis in no small part because it's been released by Milstone Films in North America, making it available from Amazon, Netflix, and local retailers and rental shops.

This clip is especially interesting, I think, because it well expresses a struggle, certainly within Bangladesh, but I believe within religion itself (and no, not just Islam - American Christianity certainly has it's struggles). The clip features a song in Bangla, but it's subtitled for us bideshis. This is also a great example of traditional Baul music.

But Matir Moyna is not the only Bangladeshi film that I would recommend.

Jesus '71 is an intense look at the 1971 war of independence, as is noted author Humayun Ahmed's Shymol Chhaya, also known as "The Land of Peace."

Of course, no introduction to Bangla cinema would be complete without mention of Satyajit Ray, the lengendary filmmaker whose influence can be seen in the works of Werner Herzog, The Simpsons, Martin Scorsese, James Ivory, and contemprary cult filmmaker Wes Anderson. Ray's films are largely available from services such as Netflix.

Sadly, most Americans are completely unaware of the great cinema available from Bangladesh. Partly this is due to the giant Bollywood industry that overshadows Bangla films, partly it's due to a lack of physical accessibility. Other than Matir Moyna or Satyajit Ray DVDs, one has to seek out a Bangladeshi video store to get copies of Bangladeshi movies, and even then you're hard pressed to find copies with English subtitles.

For those willing to do the work, though, there is a great collection of wonderful Bangladeshi cinema waiting for you.

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