British-Bangladeshi writer, director, actor and playwright, Leesa Gazi has dedicated her career to presenting powerful stories told from a woman's perspective, via theatre and film. Her documentary film, Rising Silence, memorialising accounts of Birangona women of the 1971 Liberation War, recently premiered at the Dhaka International Film Festival 2019. Produced by Komola Collective, Openvizor and Making Herstory, the film is scheduled to have a second screening today at 7 pm at the Public Library Auditorium in Shahbagh. To find out more about the journey braved by Leesa Gazi and her team in making Rising Silence, The Daily Star caught up with the writer-director of the highly anticipated documentary for a chat.
Tell us a little bit about your personal journey with filming Rising Silence.
I started working with and for Birangona women in 2010. I traveled back and forth between UK and Bangladesh, assembling the survivors' stories during the visits. After I returned to London post filming for Rising Silence for 37 days at a stretch in 2015, I could no longer relate to my surroundings. It took me a good couple of years to readjust to my own life because everything suddenly felt meaningless. Making this film fundamentally changed me as a person. I learnt to appreciate what is truly valuable in life. It showed me how unbelievably powerful and capable women can be. It showed me how ridiculously materialistic people across the globe have become.
What was your biggest takeaway from making Rising Silence?
My biggest takeaway was realising the effect of our collective upbringing on our upcoming generations. We teach our children to be driven and competitive in life, but fail to instill the qualities of compassion, kindness and empathy in them, resulting in resentful, vicious and vengeful people. That is something all of us need to take responsibility for and direct ourselves towards raising more conscious human beings.
You mentioned that Mukwege Foundation has been a true support for Rising Silence. Tell us about them.
Mukwege Foundation was founded by Dr Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who treated numerous sexual violence survivors in war-torn and conflict regions. Last year, Dr Mukwege along with Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist, who is also a survivor, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize for their active effort to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Despite Article 27 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibiting wartime rape and enforced prostitution in international conflicts, the problem has persisted globally. Dr Mukwege and Nadia Murad's work forced people to pay attention and engage in conversation, which truly helped Rising Silence gain its momentum.