Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Panel on Projections of War: Cinematic Representations of Bangladesh’s Independence
Tuesday, 20/July/2021:
1:00pm - 2:30pm

Location: Plenary room

Chair: Catherine Masud (University of Connecticut)

Session Abstract

On the occasion of the 50th year of Bangladesh’s Independence, this panel will delve into the different aspects of representation around the 1971 War in the work of three films by Tareque and Catherine Masud: Muktir Gaan (Song of Freedom, 1995), Muktir Kotha (Words of Freedom, 1999), and Matir Moina (The Clay Bird, 2002). These films, in different ways, serve as tableaux for the “projection” of narratives about the war, both in terms of the stories they contain, and also as interpreted by the spectators experiencing the films’ projections on the screen. Four scholars from within and outside Bangladesh will analyze the films’ projections with respect to gender, sexual violence, religious identity, and documentary truth in the context of the larger historical legacy of the war and its continuing repercussions. Catherine Masud, Co-Director (Muktir Gaan, Muktir Kotha) and Producer (Matir Moina), will Chair the session and participate as a Respondent.

Fahmida Akhter (Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh)

"Interpretive Framework in Muktir Gaan (Song of Freedom)."

This article explores the interpretive framework of the documentary film Muktir Gaan (1995) in representing history and gender. The film, which follows the journey of a musical troupe during the war, contains both fictional techniques and factuality and presents as an audio-visual collage of “alternative” history with underlying strategies of gender representation.

Naeem Mohaiemen (Columbia University)

"Simulation in the Afternoon: A 'Documentary' Faces Evidence Quest."

The release of Muktir Gaan in 1995 ended a long, politically induced drought in films about the 1971 war that created Bangladesh. Built by Tareque and Catherine Masud from footage shot by Lear Levin, the film was received by most Bangladeshi audiences as an exact documentary. The film crew’s discussion of simulations and the inclusion of a “making of” section in the digital versatile disc (DVD) release a decade later have done little to change audience perceptions. This believing audience derives from a willing suspension of a skeptical eye, due to an absence of a moving image record of the war. An initially declarative, and oral, culture around Bangladeshi war memories in the 1970s has been replaced by the search for evidence.

Nayanika Mookherjee (University of Durham, UK)

"Gendered Embodiments: Mapping the Body-Politic of the Raped Woman and the Nation in Bangladesh."

There has been much academic work outlining the complex links between women and the nation. Women provide legitimacy to the political projects of the nation in particular social and historical contexts. This article focuses on the gendered symbolization of the nation through the rhetoric of the ‘motherland’ and the manipulation of this rhetoric in the context of national struggle in Bangladesh. I show the ways in which the visual representation of this ‘motherland’ as fertile countryside, and its idealization primarily through rural landscapes has enabled a crystallization of essentialist gender roles for women. This article is particularly interested in how these images had to be reconciled with the subjectivities of women raped during the Bangladesh Liberation War (Muktijuddho) and the role of the aestheticizing sensibilities of Bangladesh’s middle class in that process.

Zakir Hossain Raju (Independent University of Bangladesh)

"Madrasa and Muslim Identity on Screen." This chapter demonstrates how Bangladeshi art cinema, a national-cultural institution developed in a post-colonial nation-space in South Asia and addressed to a global audience, represents and interacts with Islamic education and Muslim identity. Here I deconstruct the cinematic representation of Islam and Islamic learning in Bangladesh within the larger framework and continuous process of identity formation of Bengali Muslims.