Behind the lens: A filmmaker’s journey in documenting Bangabandhu’s foreign policies

On September 24th, 2019, I received an email from the Commonwealth Scholarship Committee informing me that my scholarship application could not be approved because the University of Leeds did not accept my IELTS score of 6. This was devastating news for me, as it was my first ever Commonwealth Scholarship and I had been the first person with a disability to be selected globally. The mental distress I experienced on that day is indescribable.

I have a hearing impairment due to a surgical error in 2014, when my surgeon mistakenly cut a nerve on the left side of my head, affecting my left ear and concentration. I informed both the British Council Bangladesh Office and the Commonwealth Committee about my physical condition and requested that they allow my admission, so that I could become the first person with a disability to receive a Commonwealth Scholarship worldwide. Unfortunately, my requests were denied by the admission department of University authorities were unaware of reasonable accommodation of persons with disabilities at the time. I wondered why the world announces opportunities for persons with disabilities.

As a woman with 60% burn injuries, I have faced numerous physical pains and social hardships, including discrimination at workplace. Pursuing higher education has always been a major goal of mine, as it would enable me to play a managerial role. Unfortunately, I failed to achieve my dream scholarship on 2019. However, I continue to inspire myself to survive. On that particular evening, I was trying to divert my mind by browsing through social media. While scrolling, I came across an announcement for script submission opportunity to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Without any second thoughts, I decided to work on a script titled “The Foreign Policy of Bangabandhu and Contribution to Diplomacy.” That very evening, I began my research and constructed the initial framework of the script. Thus, my journey began and ended on July 4th, 2022, when I received a letter of approval for broadcasting and telecasting the documentary on mass media. Here are some notable events from my journey:

In late December 2019, I received a phone call from the committee for Bangbandhu’s 100th birth year celebration, inviting me to meet with them on January 1st, 2020. I was overjoyed to learn that the committee had reviewed my script and called me for a presentation. During the meeting, the committee expressed their appreciation for the subject of my script and provided valuable suggestions to improve it. They requested a demo of the documentary to be submitted by the following week, and I followed all the designated steps and submitted the required documents.

The designated person informed me to complete the documentary as soon as possible because Bangbandhu’s 100th birth year celebration committee aimed to submit all the documentaries to the Prime Minister’s office before March 17th, 2020. I had to visit various offices, including the National Achieve of Films, Department of Film and Publications, Liberation War Museum, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to collect the necessary documents. During this period, I contacted a member of the committee who is a well-known media personality in our country. However, I was left stunned when she made a hurtful comment about my burnt face and accused me of trying to manipulate people. I was left without any guidance and had to rely on myself. I collected various books and started reading to ensure that my documentary contained accurate information.

More unfortunate news awaited as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing a delay of more than four months in their work. Initially, the budget for the documentaries was set at twelve lakh taka each, but due to the crisis, the Bangbandhu’s 100th birth year celebration committee became inactive and the scripts were transferred to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The ministry’s team reduced the budget to five to eight lakh taka, depending on the director. Despite having already spent a significant amount of money on footage, books, and research, the author was given the option to withdraw from the project or complete it with a reduced budget. Despite being in a financial crisis and considering contributing more of her own money, the author decided to complete the project for her country and overcome her personal disappointment of losing the Commonwealth Scholarship opportunity.

The author and her editing team worked tirelessly for over two thousand hours, recording the script five times and making ten rounds of amendments, as required by the MOIB of government. Despite the challenges, the author was inspired by her colleagues’ patience and sincerity, and the team was determined to create a quality documentary. The author had to pay for each recording session in full.

After completing the project, the filmmaker took a job as a Disability Inclusion Coordinator for an international NGO in Cox’s Bazar in August 2020. However, the filmmaker’s line manager and the Country Director do not hold the same ideologies of Bangabondhu, which put the filmmaker in a team of harassment at workplace. Despite the challenges, the filmmaker continued to work diligently. However, the filmmaker was discharged from the job on May 17, 2021. The filmmaker filed a complaint with the “Cox’s Bazar district-level disability protection committee” under the “Rights and Protection Act of Bangladesh 2013,” and the accused team of that office was punished for their wrong actions towards the film maker.

Throughout the process, the filmmaker found inspiration from several individuals, including Nahida Rahman Shumona, the Honorable Ambassador of Bangladesh in Brunei, who introduced the filmmaker to Lieutenant Colonel Quazi Sazzad Ali Zahir, Bir Protik for information gathering. Col. Sir provided valuable historical documents from his own collections, and theater artist Ramendu Majumdar volunteered for the voice-over. The behavior of the Liberation War museum team also served as inspiration. The legal process was a traumatic experience for the filmmaker, who reflected on how their expertise and sincerity for policy research work led to their crisis period.

I have made my documentary “Bangabondhu’s Foreign Policy and Contribution to Diplomacy” in three versions: one is the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s suggested version i.e. with Bangla voiceover with English subtitle, Bangla voiceover with Bangla subtitle and English voiceover with English subtitle. The extra two versions were made as disability-friendly versions for hearing-impaired Bangla and English-speaking community.

It was a journey of 1,030 days (one thousand thirty days). I have passed the most underestimated period of my life because I have made the documentary film “Bangabondhu’s Foreign Policy and Contribution to Diplomacy”. The documentary was not submitted to the Honorable Prime Minister. Her Excellency doesn’t know that she has a devoted woman with disability film-maker in her country who wanted to overcome her IELTS under score’s pains and make a meaningful documentary for the beloved Bangladesh. Although the documentary was screened on BTV on 14th and 15th August 2022 and 15-16 December 2022 on NEXUS TV but no viewer expressed their comments on the research yet. Still I dream for the day to come when Honorable Prime Minister will watch my direction and will be happy about the research-based film. I wish people will feel inspired to know my journey of 1,030 days.

Jannatul Ferdous is a prominent writer, activist, filmmaker and voice for the excluded people. Experiencing disability in her personal life, Ivy chose her profession to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities, especially women with disabilities. She is at the forefront of advocating for equality, justice, and empowerment for women in the workplace through her films, write-ups, and human rights defender’s role.
No Comments