Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ontorjatra, directed by Tareque and Catherine Masud

Bangladesh (Bengali and English), 2006
84 min, slice-of-life, drama
Directed by Tareque and Catherine Masud
Starring Sara Zaker and Rifakat Rashid

After 15 years abroad, Shireen and her son Sohel return to Bangladesh to attend the memorial service for Sohel’s father. After getting a divorce when Sohel was five years old, Shireen had fled to the UK and cut off any communication with her ex-husband. This included allowing Sohel to visit Bangladesh or communicate with his father in any way.

Bangladesh is not like Shireen remembers, and Sohel is experiencing it for the first time. As Sohel discovers the family that he never knew, Shireen is forced to confront her past and the decisions she made all those years before.

This is a major, well-known Bangladeshi movie. I wouldn’t call it a good movie, necessarily: the acting, in particular, leaves a lot to be desired, and there are far too many voiceovers. However, it does a very good job of showing what life in Bangladesh is actually like – and that is what I want to focus on.


I have told my husband many stories about Dhaka and Bangladesh, but he’s never been there. I was surprised when he started exclaiming about things that he noticed in this film. “The airport is so 1970s!” “The buses are so beat up, they look terrible!” “God, this is what the traffic really looks like???” I guess my descriptions didn’t convey as much as this video did.

This movie gives a good sense of what it feels like to be walking around in Bangladesh and interacting with Bangladeshi people there. Dhaka is full of too many people, too much traffic and too much pollution, and it’s constructed out of new high-rise buildings, with older buildings few and far between. But if you go outside of Dhaka, the countryside is beautiful – green rice fields stretching into the distance and the tea gardens in Sylhet.

Read the rest at The Asian Cinema Blog

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  1. Have never watched a Bangladeshi film. Never thought to. This seems as good a place to start as any, slice of life is the best introduction don't you think.

  2. Thanks. I hope I will be able to watch it.