The Story of 'Matir Moina' /

For many years, Tareque and Catherine Masud had dreamed of making a feature film based on Tareque’s childhood experience in a madrasa (Islamic seminary) during the late 1960’s in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This was a very turbulent period in Bangladesh's history, when as the eastern wing of the greater Islamic state of Pakistan, the country was torn between a strong secular and democratic movement and a pro-Islamic military junta bent on stifling dissent and reform. Although there are oblique references to the historical events of that time, the story the Masuds wanted to tell was essentially a human one, told through the eyes of a child. In May 2000, they received the prestigious French Government Fonds Sud (South Fund) grant for the film's production, based on the quality of their script. This grant covered the film stock, 35mm camera equipment and laboratory facilities from France that were necessary to ensure the technical quality of the production. In addition, Tareque and Catherine were extremely lucky to secure the involvement of MK2, a prestigious Paris-based production and distribution firm, as co-producer and international distributor.

The Masuds then embarked on a 1 ½ year odyssey to produce the film, investing their entire savings in an ambitious project involving extensive seasonal shooting and period production design. The cast was comprised almost entirely of non-professionals: street children, actual madrasa students and teachers, folk musicians and villagers. For the first time in a Bangladeshi feature film, location sound recording was used to capture spontaneous performances and live ambience. Over a period spanning one full year, the film was shot on actual locations in rural settings and small towns, during winter, monsoon and spring seasons. The filmmakers' intention was to create an authentic picture of the country, showing Bangladesh in all its color and complexity: its seasonal beauty, its rich folkloric traditions, and pluralistic culture. In early 2002 the film was completed, and in May, ‘Matir Moina’ became the first feature film from Bangladesh to be selected for presentation at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, it was given the honor of being the opening film of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the festival, and won the International Critics’ Prize for best film in that section. However, even as the French and international press were lauding the film for its positive portrayal of Bangladesh and its tolerant traditions, the Bangladesh Censor Board gave their own verdict: the film was banned from public screening because it was deemed too religiously sensitive. For the Masuds, who had endured so much struggle and sacrifice to make the film, it was a crushing blow. The film was subsequently released in France to wide appreciation, but it could not be shown in the country of its origin. A massive campaign was launched in the Bangladesh press and over the internet against the ban, and pressure mounted on the Bangladesh government to reverse their decision. After taking their case to the Appeal Board, the Masuds succeeded in getting the ban lifted, but several cuts are still being demanded by the Board.

More on the censorship of Matir Moina >>



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