Throwing off the shackles

Mansura Hossain . Dhaka | Update:

Filmmaker Zana Shammi. Photo: CollectedBack in 2011, a Dhaka University teacher Rumana Manzur lost her eyes when her husband attacked her violently. Zana Shammi, a Bangladeshi filmmaker living in Canada, picked up this incident for the plot of her documentary film.

The incident spurred her on to make ‘Untying the knot’, a powerful film about domestic violence and a brave look at the societal bonds of marriage.

Rumana and she studied in school and college together. The incident shook her to the core.

Rumana Manzur, a teacher in Dhaka University at the time, lost her sight and and was wounded all over, in an attack by her husband, Hasan Sayeed.

It was shocking for Shammi to believe a woman of Rumana’s calibre and family background could be a victim of such brutal domestic violence.

It made her rethink the condition of women in the domestic sphere, regardless to their education, family background and financial independence.

The maker Shammi, on phone, told Prothom Alo about her experience with ‘Untying the knot’.

“Rumana was studying in Canada in 2011. She had a fight with her husband because of her studies abroad when she went to Bangladesh on vacation. After the incident, she came back to Canada as the authorities of University of British Columbia decided to bear the costs of her eye treatment,” Shammi said.

Incidentally, Hasan Sayeed died in custody in 2011.

Shammi met Rumana at the time. She felt the urge to make the incident public through a film. She visited Bangladesh and collected data on violence against women from various organisations including Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK).

This changed her conventional view towards violence and its forms against women. She realised, there was no conventional theory for violence against women.
She also started collecting data of violence against Canadian women. She found that such violence is very common in all societies.

She started working on the documentary in 2016. She met three more Bangladeshi women Sharmin, Nayeema and Jasmine in Bangladesh who agreed to speak of their sufferings.

All of them are victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse or mental torture in their marriages. They endured unspeakable pain in in their marital lives. Shammi filmed all the stories in her documentary.

‘Untying the knot’ is scheduled to be premiered on 24 November on Canadian Broadcast Channel (CBC). The film, produced by Lalita Krishna and Katy Swailes, has already bagged several awards since its release.

Film watchers in Canada and India have flooded the 78-minute feature film with compliments.

“This is a story of throwing off the shackles. It tells the tales of women who untie themselves from unhealthy relationships and move on,” said Zana Shammi.
Speaking of the condition of women in Canada, Shammi said, despite the opportunity of adequate support from the families and police, women in Canada do not often speak of their sufferings.

The situation in Bangladesh is much worse, she added.

Incidentally, Rumana Manzur is working as a lawyer in Canada now. She is lives there happily with her 14-year old daughter.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat

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