Nurul Islam Bablu, Russell Farazi, Jayanto Chattopadhyay
The masterpiece of Bangladeshi director, producer, screenwriter and lyricist Tareque Masud (who was tragically killed in an accident in 2011), The Clay Bird won the FIPRESCI Prize in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes 2002 and was the first Bangladeshi film to compete for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, despite being initially banned in its home country.
Performed by a largely non-professional cast, it’s an intelligent, perceptive and lyrical work taking inspiration from filmmakers as varied as Jean Renoir, Satyajit Ray and Abbas Kiarostami. Set in East Pakistan in the late ’60s, just prior to the civil war that brought independence to Bangladesh, it tells the story of Anu (Nurul Islam Bablu), a young boy sent to a harsh madrasa by his devout Muslim father Kazi (Jayanto Chattopadhyay).
Warning against religious fundamentalism, Masud moves between Anu’s experiences at the madrasa and his father’s increasingly unhinged attempts to force their family to conform to Muslim dogma, until a shattering political development changes everything.
Inveighing against religious extremism, it is also a humane and affecting film with an empathetic eye for the innocence of childhood, a quiet wisdom and a wry sense of comedy; all beautifully backed by imagery of life on Bangladesh’s waterways and in its towns.