Proshoon Rahmaan comes back as a director with the movie “The Birth Land”. He is currently working on a trilogy but still manages to present this new movie, that went out at the end of 2018 in Bangladesh. The feature starts its festival adventure in January, at the Dhaka International Film Festival.
Sophyiaa, 23 years old and 6 months pregnant, is living in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. She fled Myanmar after her husband was killed and her house was burnt down to ashes. She wants to go back and give birth in her home country. She asks for the help of Manik, 25 years old. The latest has been living in the camp for over 15 years and founded a place for children and parents that got separated to meet again. Manik takes care of the young widow. Both their (internal) journey allows viewers to have a glimpse at life on the refugee camp.
Various characters meet in the terrible transition (?) place: Sophyiaa and Manik, but also a foreign journalist, a man that feels his land is being invaded by the fleeing outsiders, or a man who was born and spent his whole life in the camp- character that fully embraces the question of belonging. Indeed, the film asks the question of belonging and identity, since the Rohingya’s characters get denied access to their home land and to an actual official identity. This last point is mirrored notably on a scene where it is shown that Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a Sophia robot, when the human Sophyiaa risks her life to give birth in her native country.
“The Birth Land” discusses the Rohingya genocide by putting humans at the center of the debate, through the eyes of different characters. The movie is a good reminder of the current situation at the Bangladesh’s border. It doesn’t have the pretention to explain the conflict but introduces the situation in a fairly didactical way, and focuses on specific characters.
Despite the awfulness of topic, Proshoon Rahmaan’s movie has beautiful images and colors. The pace is slow, most shots are wide, there’s a little bit of handheld camera. It can remind of a documentary, especially with the use of actual footage at the beginning of the feature. Nonetheless, the film is also built like a fairy tale. That last aspect is enhanced by the magical music, that reminds of 1995 “A Little Princess”. The movie could actually have used some humor to also enhance the fairy tale aspect. That wouldn’t have diminished the hardness of the movie’s topic and could have brought in even more humanity to the characters.
“The Birth Land” is a good movie to watch, both in terms of form and content. It does not explain the current situation with the Rohingya in Bangladesh, but rather puts it back to a human-centric level.