Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
The Clay Bird (Matir Moina) (2003)
PG

Winner of the International Critics Prize at Cannes in 2002, "The Clay Bird" is something of a first for Bangladeshi national cinema: an internationally acclaimed (and distributed) production that was so well received overseas, it was even nominated for an Oscar.

Set in East Pakistan in the late 60s, during the unrest that would eventually bring about the creation of an independent Bangladesh after the protracted civil war of 1971, "The Clay Bird" tells the story of Anu (Nurul Islam Bablu), a young country boy who is sent to a Madrasah (Islamic school) by his devout father, Kazi (Jayanto Chattopadhyay).

Warning against the dangers of blind subservience to religious leaders, "The Clay Bird" switches between Anu's experiences at the harsh Madrasah and his father's increasingly unhinged attempts to force the family to conform to religious dogma.

Falling out with his wife and brother-in-law (who have remained Hindu), Kazi even puts his young daughter at risk by refusing to treat her with antibiotics when she falls ill.

Meanwhile, at school, Anu witnesses a similar kind of fanaticism as his teachers gang up on eccentric classmate Rokon (Russell Farazi), eventually forcing him to undergo a life-threatening exorcism in the freezing river water to cure him of his strange habits.

Approaching Anu's childhood with quite considerable skill, Masud creates a gentle portrait of growing up during changing times. Yet, in his desire to make a political statement, the director threatens to push "The Clay Bird" towards simplistic propaganda.

Inveighing against religious fundamentalism, Masud's tone is anti-Islamic - he berates Islam's status as a total way of life and characterises the mullahs as purveyors of mass deception.

The wounds of the civil war clearly run deep. Yet, by presenting such a one-sided attack on religious fundamentalism, Masud could easily be accused of not practising what he preaches.

In Bengali with subtitles.

End Credits

Director: Tareque Masud

Writer: Tareque Masud, Catherine Masud

Stars: Nurul Islam Bablu, Russell Farazi, Jayanto Chattopadhyay, Rokeya Prachy

Genre: Drama, World Cinema

Length: 89 minutes

Cinema: 04 July 2003

Country: Bangladesh/France/ Pakistan

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