International award-winning director Rubaiyat Hossain is set to release her most talked-about film ‘Made in Bangladesh’ in Bangladesh soon.
The film that gives a glimpse into the lives of RMG workers of Bangladesh has already been premiered in 70 theatres in France, Portugal and Denmark so far.
The film was jointly made by Bangladesh, France, Portugal and Denmark and it made an outstanding success that encouraged the sponsors to give it a thought to make a sequel of the film. Incidentally, the film was released on 4 December in France in 53 screens which increased to 64 by the time.
The film is scheduled to be released on Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla months.
The filmmaker recently talked to Prothom Alo about ‘Made in Bangladesh’ and her future plans in an interview.
Prothom Alo: What made you pursue filmmaking?
Rubaiyat Hossain: I never thought of being a filmmaker. I wanted to become an artist in my childhood. One day I came across a book ‘Bishoy Chalachitra’ by Satyajit Ray. The book changed my views of films and made me interested in filmmaking. I watched all the films made by Satyajit Ray at the time. After my HSC exam, I took Women Studies in Smith College. I realised I always wanted to study the subject and to work on gender related issues.
I would like to mention an incident that happened when I was four-year-old . My grandmother always wanted a grandson. One day I went to her and said, “My mother is happy with me and my sister and she does not want any more children.” At the age of 11, I even read Taslima Nasrin's 'Nirbachito Column'.
I worked in Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Naripokkho, Asia Foundation and Bachte Shekha after returning to the country and that gave me a clear exposure of women’s condition in the ground level.
I met Sultana Kamal, Hamida Hossain, Shaheen Akhter, Salma Sobhan and many more while working in ASK.
I went to take part in a workshop under New York Film Academy in Harvard University in 2002 and made a number of short films then. I bought a camera then. While editing the video clips shot with it, I realised I wanted to become a filmmaker through which I could portray the lives of women in our society.
Prothom Alo: How did you find Dalia, the protagonist of your film ‘Made in Bangladesh’?
Rubaiyat Hossain: One of my friends introduced Dalia with me. I visited her house in 2016. She was eight-month pregnant at the time.
She told me her story. She escaped a child marriage at the age of 11 and fled to Dhaka. She worked in shoe factories, RMG factories and as housemaid to survive. That is how she turned to be a labour leader later.
She said, “We are women. Whether we are married or not, we face troubles in either way.” It stole my heart. I put the dialogue in the trailer of my film.
She nodded to my proposal of making ‘Made in Bangladesh’. Dalia went to Europe after the film had been released and talked to the audience after each screening.
Seeing the houses in France, she wished to make a house of her own in her village like those.
She said, her family refused to give her the land as she was married. She is a natural feminist, though she is not aware of the term.
Prothom Alo: Tell us about the shooting….
Rubaiyat Hossain: I started writing the screenplay in 2016. I had been working with Dalia since then. I made my actors learn sewing and accents like Dalia. I used to give Dalia a dialogue and asked her how she would say that. I would write the dialogue in the way.
It took me two and half a years to finish the script. The sponsors gave me 39 days to finish the shooting but I took only 36. Most of the characters are female. We went to the shooting spot and rehearsed the scene time and again.
Prothom Alo: How was the response when you premiered the film in various international film festivals?
Rubaiyat Hossain: The film saw its world premiere in Toronto International Film Festival on 6 September, 2019. I was very nervous on that day. I heard the applause and claps from outside the theatre during the climax of the film that thrilled me.
Then we screened the film in London Film Festival. All the tickets of the show were pre-booked. The film has been screened in 64 cinemas so far after its release on 4 December, 2019 in France. We are taking initiatives to release it in the USA, Canada, Poland and Japan.
Prothom Alo: How do you think the film ‘Made in Bangladesh’ presented Bangladesh in global sphere?
Rubaiyat Hossain: The female workers in apparel sector have a significant contribution to the country’s economy. The film depicts the struggle and fighting back of the female workers to be empowered.
To me, it shows the positive sides of Bangladesh. It might have been a story of oppression had I only showed the stereotypes of adversity shown to the apparel workers in our country. But in the film, the workers fight back too. The fight made the female workers win over harsh conditions.
Prothom Alo: What is the film’s possible date of release in Bangladesh?
Rubaiyat Hossain: We are working to release the film on 1 April. We planned to submit the film for censor board clearance this month.
Prothom Alo: Did you follow any strategy to get the censor board clearance smoothly when you wrote the script?
Rubaiyat Hossain: See, I would never be able to make ‘Meherjaan’ and ‘Under Construction’, if I would care about such things. I never think of what people say. Since my film’s title is ‘Made in Bangladesh’, it is obvious that I will never portray my country negatively.
I made the film with the stories I found in my research. I portrayed what was real. I didn’t show Rana Plaza collapse in the film.
Moreover, what can I say if anyone points the workers’ awareness of rights as negative approach? ‘Made in Bangladesh’ is a film that tells the story of apparel workers’ lives from 2013 and counting.
Prothom Alo: What are you up to next?
Rubaiyat Hossain: I have been writing a story alongside ‘Made in Bangladesh’. It’s called ‘Pink Blossom’. I already portrayed middle class and lower income women’s lives in my previous films. ‘Pink Blossom’ is about women of higher income.
On the other hand, ‘Made in Bangladesh’ earned a great fortune internationally. The sponsors are interested to make a sequel.
The story would take a turn with Dalia going to abroad for work. I am currently researching on expatriate female workers. As many as 250,000 female workers work in various RMG sectors in Lebanon, Jordan and Mauritius. Their families are dependent on them. Their experience in day to day life such as wearing denim pants for the first time or wearing western attires without dupatta (Scarves), living in dorms, talking to family over phone. Dalia’s daughter is now three years old. She will be a significant character in my next venture.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo online, has been translated and rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat