Monday, 21 December 2009

JANUARY'S SCREENING - Bostrobalikara - Garment Girls of Bangladesh

SUNDAY JANUARY 31st at 5pm
At 56a Infoshop

Bostrobalikara - Garment Girls of Bangladesh (60m) + other short clips
A documentary by Tanvir Mokammel

Plus introductory talk about the struggles in Bangladesh.

A common sight in the streets of Dhaka is the parade of young women and girls going to and from work in garment factories. These girls, who number about 2 million, work in the most successful manufacturing industry that Bangladesh has. Their labour brings in the biggest proportion of trade income. On their toil rests the livelihoods of millions of others. Their importance to the Bangladesh economy is incalculable.

This phenomenal success echoes Bengal of hundreds of years ago when its Muslin industry was ascendant. Nevertheless the garment industry is faced with uncertainties and difficulties. Most pressing are issues concerning wages and safe working conditions, future investment and the international trade environment. Symptomatic of these problems have been the long succession of factory catastrophes, and the widespread worker disturbances of May and June 2006. How will the various stakeholders, including the state, the foreign buyers and the successful entrepreneurs, respond to the challenges ahead? Will the industry lose its "sweatshop" image?

"What made you do a film on the garment workers?

I have been watching these garment girls for the last two decades. Like any conscientious person in contemporary Bangladesh, I have deep sympathy for this hardworking, silent army of working girls who walk up to their factories at dawn and return, often very late at time. They are very conspicuous as a social group on the streets of Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chittagong. We know they are very low paid, and they receive very little respect from the mainstream community. I once wrote a poem about these BOSTROBALIKARA. I wanted to make this film with the aim to sensitize concerned people about their plight, which, in turn, may help achieve better wages and more respect for these hapless girls."
From 'Interview with Tanvir Mokammel'

See here

Strike, Riot and Fire Among the Garment Workers - A Working Class Revolt in Bangladesh

Mass working class revolt has been raging in Bangladesh for several months: garment workers fighting for improved wages and conditions... Farmers fighting destruction of their livelihoods by open cast mining... Mass insurrection against power cuts...
This pamphlet attempts to cut through the dominant media chatter of ‘clash of civilizations/cultures’ and ‘religious resurgence/fundamentalism’ and to show instead the real substance of social conflict, where the exploited begin to actively control their struggles rather than just being pawns manipulated by various political or religious factions

A pamphlet published by 56a Infoshop in 2006

You can download this paginated background booklet here:

A 15 minute video; a workforce, 85% female, paid some of the lowest wages in the world; expressing some of the highest levels of class struggle in the world at present. Trade unions have very little influence or restraint on these struggles - they are self-organised by workers on the job. When strikes turn riotous, they often spread into the wider working class community.

The short compilation of clips with commentary is available here:

Friday, 4 December 2009


At 56a Infoshop

WAGES OF FEAR, Henri Georges Clouzot , 1953 (131m)

“It’s like prison here. Easy to get in. ‘Make yourself at home.’ But there’s no way out.”

The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur) is a 1953 drama film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand, and based on a 1950 novel by Georges Arnaud.

When a South American oil well owned by an American company catches fire, the company hires four European men, down on their luck, to drive two trucks over mountain dirt roads, while carrying the nitroglycerine needed to extinguish the fire.

The film centers on the fates of a handful of men who are stuck in a South American town. The town, Las Piedras, is isolated due to the surrounding desert but it maintains contact with the outside world through a small airport. The airfare, however, is beyond the means of the main characters (many of whom are also noncitizens without proper paperwork for work or travel). There is little opportunity for employment aside from the American corporation that dominates the town. The company, Southern Oil Company, called SOC, operates the nearby oil fields and owns a walled compound within the town. SOC is accused of unethical practices such as exploiting local workers and taking the law into its own hands.

The catalyst to the film’s action sequence is a massive fire at one of the SOC oil fields. The only means to extinguish the flames and cap the well is nitroglycerine. With short notice and lack of proper equipment, the only means of transportation are jerrycans placed in two large trucks. Due to the poor condition of the roads and the highly volatile nature of nitroglycerine, the job is considered too dangerous for the unionized SOC employees.

The company recruits drivers from the local community. Despite the dangers, many of the locals volunteer, lured by the high pay: US$2,000 per driver. This is a fortune to them, and the money is seen by some as the only way out of their dead-end lives.