Farid Ahmed’s scathing documentary “Hartalnama” (The Strike) was screened at the Film Southasia 2013 (October 3-6) in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Daily Star spoke to Ahmed about the film and its making:
How did you get the idea for “Hartalnama”? What is the aim of the film?
Strike, better known as hartal, is observed, celebrated and called off. The film is about how the people of Bangladesh perceive the hartal or strike. Hartal is no longer a people’s affair; it has been usurped by political parties, where very few genuine activists come to observe a strike.
I conceived “The Strike” as a political satire where people celebrate hartal day as a holiday. Sometimes they don’t know even know why a hartal is called on or off.
The film is Bangladesh-centric. What is its universal appeal?
This film is about political violence in Bangladesh. Hartal is a popular form of political activism all over the world, especially in South Asian countries. It is called in the name of political rights. The hartal has a glorious history in the Indian subcontinent. However, it is no longer a form of protest. Rather it has turned into mass violation day by day; picketing, destruction of public property is the common scenario of the hartal in South Asia. The aim of the film is to portray how violation of human rights occurs in the name of political rights and how hartal, a political tool of protest becomes isolated from people.
The Festival in Nepal – what does it mean to you as a filmmaker?
The South Asian film festival is a renowned platform for documentary films of South Asian countries.
What are you working on presently? Any future projects?
I have just made another film on the Rana Plaza disaster, the largest garment sector disaster ever in the world where 1,132 people died. Two thousand and two hundred and ninety one are missing. My focus was on the missing garment workers whose relatives still gather in front of the collapsed building in search of missing dead bodies.
Presently I have received a government grant to make a short film on the pre-Liberation war of Bangladesh. Last year, the government introduced a grant for young filmmakers and offered a grant for 5 short films. I hope, I can complete this film by next month.
I have been gearing up for new projects on the Liberation War. I have a special interest in the history of Bangladesh. My next project is on the story of formation of an exile government of Bangladesh.