Docu-style polemical tale from Bangladesh
OPENS, JULY 4, CERT 12, 98 MINS
Veteran documentarian Tareque Masud’s Cannes award-winning feature is both a tender coming-of-age tale (button-cute boy realises that world is harsh place) and a continuous, meandering and essentially inconclusive debate on the nature of religious and political freedoms in late-’60s East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
Anu (Nurul Islam Bablu) is the wide-eyed pre-pubescent protagonist with a penchant for Hindi festivals and decadent Western ways who is sent by his angry fundamentalist father from the family home to a strict Islamic school, or madrasa. Here, Anu befriends the school patsy, Rokon (Russell Farazi), adjusts to the harsh new regime, and dreams of happier times spent with his kindly communist uncle Milon (Soaeb Islam). And yet, whenever the movie threatens to take off, and Anu’s journey hints at catharsis, Masud obscures the revelation with sermonising. Like Ken Loach on a bad day, we get passionate teachers, grumpy prefects, howling minstrels and wizened old boatmen all proffering their opinions on martial law vs democracy, Sufis vs mullahs and pacifism vs fundamentalism.
Ultimately quite wearing.