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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Clay Bird explores Pakistan strife
by Bisakha Ghose
BBC News Online

Clay Bird
Anu's father sends him to a conservative Islamic school

The Clay Bird (Matir Maina) is the first film from Bangladesh to go on general release in the UK.

This Cannes-award winning film is set in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as it goes through the throes of great social and political change in the 1960s and 1970s.

People at this time were beginning to question their commitment to the eastern half of a country, the rest of which was separated not only by the landmass of India, but by social, linguistic and cultural practices.

Click here to review the film yourself

The Clay Bird uses this backdrop of turmoil to show how a little boy - Anu - deals with the contradictions between the rigid, fundamentalist tradition of a "madrasah" - an Islamic school - and a more free, rational lifestyle.

The story evolves round Anu, whose religious and conservative father sends him from a free village life to study in an Islamic school that usually provides education and a good square meal for poor boys.

The rigid discipline and rote learning of the holy texts deprive the students of free thinking and any natural childhood exuberance.

Despite the challenges, Anu learns to create his own space with the help of his irrepressible classmate Rokon - an orphan - who refuses to let the system destroy his imagination.

As tension mounts between the Bengali-speaking people of East Pakistan and their rulers from West Pakistan, the estrangement is also reflected in the relations between Anu's father and his mother.

Clay Bird
Tensions mount between East and West Pakistan
It takes a major crackdown by the Pakistani army to change Anu's life and that of the country.

Beautifully shot in the villages of Bangladesh, with sensitive performances by the two young boys, director Tareque Masud recreates his own childhood in the film.

At a time when there is a lot of misconception about the role of Islam and fundamentalism, Masud gently mocks the rigidity of the Islamic schools - where he had been sent to study as a young boy - and tries to show that the more rational and liberal spirit of Muslims in his country cannot be crushed.

The Clay Bird is out now in the UK.

Have you seen the film?

What did you think? This debate is now closed. Please see below for a selection of your comments.

The film was a revelation to me, a British Bengali born and brought up here in London. The portrayal of the madrasah was I think exquisitely well balanced as was the portrayal of little Anu's family and Bengali society as a whole during that turbulent period. The essential theme was the conflict between Bengali nationalism, pride and culture and Islam. It is so utterly relevant today and will go on being so.

The camera caught the utter beauty of the country and made me long to revisit the land of my family. It was such a shame that it seemed like the only Bengalis there were my sister, mother and I.
Shyema Khan, UK

One of the best films from Bangladesh and hope in the future he will do even better. Any body interested in different culture should watch it.
Shamsuddin Ahmed, London, England.

I really enjoyed the film. The director used untrained street children to cast the main children's characters and mixed that up with some children who were studying in the madrassa where the movie was shot.

The cinematography was done well and it was visually very appealing, being set in a gorgeous old mosque and a very well kept village house.

The boat race, baul shongeet, durga puja and half harvested paddy fields were shot beautifully. The subtitling was done well (although I wondered why the English title wasn┐t "the clay mynah" which is what "maatir moina" means) and the soundtrack was good and featured some amazing voices.

I couldn't see why the censor board in Bangladesh had kicked up such a fuss but then again, who knows what logarithm they work with.
Shahpar Salim, Bangladesh

Excellent movie! Being a Bangladeshi, I am proud of the quality, the direction, the acting and the cinematography. Kudos to Tareque Masud for bringing Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi film industry in the international arena! Needless to say, people will be expecting a lot more from him in the future. Please don't fall in the bracket of making over-the-top, colorful, 7-song movies, the ones that are prevalent in South Asia.
Ferdous Hossain, USA/Bangladesh

One of the best creations from Bangladesh
Sadiq Bin Huda, Canada

Beautiful film, designed with affection and style. Matir Moina was communication at its best and contains lessons for the heart and the mind.

The madrassa pieces were full of a love, I don't believe that any hatefulness was expressed at all in the duration of the film. This is to the director's credit.

It's a shame that commentators have spun the work to suit their own view, and totally miss the point. Do go and see the film with an open mind.
Fuad Ali, UK

By far one of the most moving films I have seen this year. A remarkable piece of work. Poetry in motion.
Naveed Ashraf, Scotland

One of the best creations from Bangladesh. The story line was expressed with such tremendous details of the life in Madrasa; that was incredible. Usually the type of idea that the west has about Madrasha sin the East is it is nothing but a Taleban camp. This film should make people realise that Madrashas have a different image altogether.
Sadiq Bin Huda, Canada

Abhishek, USA

The Clay Bird is a magnificient piece of truth.
Shoaib Chowdhury, Cadillac, MI, USA

Excellent movie!! Very unexpected from South Asia. The meticulous direction and acting was superb. Keep up the good work!!!
Richard Johnson, New York/ NY

The film overall is a quality show. I totally enjoyed the movie and appreciated the thoughts of the director. As a middleware country and community we should carry on with innovative ideas. The fundamentalism is just a media front; proverty is the issue. So we should get ourself out from proverty first and then fundamentalism will wash away.

Jakir Chowdhury, England

It is a very interesting film. I have two criticisms. One, Tareque Masud's portrayal of madrashahs as a rigid schooling system is not apropriate. The reason why it was rigid was due to the resources that these poor madrashahs were equipped with, most of the time relying wholly on charity. And following traditional methods of our forefathers of memorising and dictating.

By contrast, the madrashahs implemented in Spain under Muslim rule, you will notice a completely different free thinking approach.

The second criticism is that the practising of Islam really had nothing to do with the clash of East and West Pakistan. It was more based on language, culture and independent identity (nationalism).
Abdul Basith, Dubai


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