Friday, November 23, 2007

Matir Moina (The Clay Bird) : A Review

Matir Moina (2002) is a Bangladeshi movie made by Tareque Masud, a filmmaker based in New York. The film titled, The Clay Bird, in english was earlier banned and released in late 2002 in Bangaldesh and has won a lot of critical acclaim in the festival circuit and was also nominated in the Best Foreign Film category of the Academy Awards. Matir Moina is a simplistic tale which we experience through the point of view of a young boy who is sent to the madrasa to study by his newly converted Muslim father. The movie is set in the 1960's and leads us to the Pakistan Army's violent repression of Bengali nationalism and finally the emergence of Bangaldesh as an independent state in 1971.

The movie is a critique of blind faith and also a documentation of the period leading to the war through the lives of the boy and his world comprising of his family and the madrasa teachers and classmates. The movie was shot on location in Bangladesh and captures the essence of the land, which for me were impressions based on what has been passed to us by the great literary works of the early 19th and 20th century Bengal. Flat plains, overflowing with rivers and streams, verdant vegetation and an endless sky. A lot of the movie reminded me of my very own rural world, that is how similar, Bangaldesh is to a large swathe of Eastern India. The movie used only non professional actors and incorporates the local sounds through the language and the musical tradition giving an authentic feel to the experience. The acting in the movie is rather amateurish but the simplicity of the tale and its narration together with clever editing, touches deep within and it hauntingly lingers in the mind even after it is over.

Matir Moina provides an interesting perspective into Islam, issues of tolerance,faith, the puritanical streak, calls for jihad and the all encompassing Muslim way of life which threatens local identities, culture, families and even the nation. It significantly also is successful in portraying the struggles and battles of a number of characters which provides a comprehensiveness which is more than anecdotal. It makes a useful point which I have argued for long that religions have to take local roots to flourish and in the case of Islam, that it cannot be a mere cultural colonization by the Arab way of life.

The movie was a learning experience for me. It is a shame that here in South Asia, we find it difficult to access movies from other South Asian countries. It would call for greater understanding and communication if we could watch what other nations produce, from serious cinema to understand their perspectives to the frivolous ones to understand the lowest common denominations aspirations. This is the first non-Indian South Asian movie that I have ever seen. I could download it due to the widening of my world, thanks to the internet.

Further Readings:
Interview with Tareq Masud, Voice of America
Matir Moina at the wikipedia

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