March 28, 2004

Matir Moina

I watched the much acclaimed film Matir Moina (The clay bird) yesterday in Public Library auditorium. This was long due for me and I wonder how did I miss the chance in last July when it was released in public Theatres.

Joe had previously commented about the film. If you click the link to the films website on the title, you can learn many things about it. However most unfortunate was that Bangladesh govt. censor board banned the film at first. But when it had achieved the following awards/nominations:

2002 Cannes Film Festival, FIPRESCI International Critics' Prize for Best Film
2002 Marrakech Film Festival (Morocco), Best Screen Play Award
November 2002: Nominee, best foreign language film in the Academy Awards

and on public protest, the govt. had to lift the ban.

Here are my 2 cents on the film:

The film depicts the life of madrassa students (religious schools) in the pre liberation period (1970-1971). The script mocks the rational of general people, who are engrossed in the dilemma of fundamentalism and liberal spirit of Muslims. It does not portray Madrassa schooling negatively as these give refuge to orphans and undisciplined youths. Rather one of the school master protests (timidly) the headmaster's sermons which is politically motivated (Jihad etc.). In his view, education should not be tainted with politics as all he wants that the madrassa students grow up to be decent citizens. He protests the Pakistani Army & fundamentalists effort to forcefully establish Islam in Bengal. He narrates: Islam was established in Bengal by Arab and Persian nobles & sufis not forcefully but in its own merit. So why Islam is in threat that everybody has to defend it forcefully (how true in today's context). When one village boatsman was termed as "blinded by religion" (fundamentalist) he argues, whether it is Islam, Christianity or Hinduism, true faith in religion opens people's eyes, not blinds it. The film mocks about the sacrifice of Eidul Azha. At the end of the film, a character says, "your Muslim brothers have killed them," a phrase that sums up the objectives of the film.

As the director says:

The film is essentially about the conflict between rigidity and openness, about relationships between people blindly or naively stuck with a belief system and people open to life. Such contradictions and such relationships exist in all societies, within families, at social and cultural levels, in politics, and even within strict institutions like madrassas. Denouncing madrassas as breeding grounds for Islamic militants neither portrays the reality in Bangladesh, nor helps these children. I wanted to address the 'Islamophobia' of the wealthy Western nations, and also to explain to our upper middle-class, more-Western-than-Western, secularist intelligentsia the complex role of madrassas in our society. It simply cannot be perceived in black and white.

Although the end is enigmatic like a short story, the film's strength is in its dialogues full of irony. The camera work is superb with the beautiful scenes of rural Bangladesh. The film contains some baul (sufi) songs which also have some message. The actors, being relatively inexperienced in the field will keep you glued to the film.

The message of the film is that there is a difference between true faith and fundamentalism. Fundamentalists (read opportunists) do not represent the real Islam. They interpret Islam in their own way. People often forget it. That's why war against terrorists become war against Islam.

In all I am very much pleased to watch the film. Hats off to the pair Tareque & Catherine Masud. It is as classic as "Muktir Gan", their first venture. Don't miss the chance to watch it if you ever find one.


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