Writer: Samina Luthfa and Leesa Gazi
Director: Filiz Ozcan
Reviewer: Christopher Hong
In the East Pakistan fight for independence in 1971, which lead to the establishment of Bangladesh, 200,000 women were raped and tortured. While the fighters were celebrated, these women had to live their lives ignored by society and with the stigma attached which affected even their offspring.
The story follows the life of Moryom as she grows up until the conflict began when she was a young woman. Mixing on stage performance from Leesa Gazi andvideo recordings and animation, the show begins with video references to war in Syria, Rwanda and Bosnia to set up the scale of this conflict. There are snippets of Moryom’s childhood and also traditional stories and folklore. But there is always a shadowy authority in the background whether it be the government or senior members of the family. Women are in centre stage to emphasise their stories while men remain in the shadows. This is appropriate as this work is produced by the Komola Collective which focuses on stories from the women’s perspective.
All this is told through a montage of scenes with the passage of time marked by life events such as marriage and childbirth. This initial section can be confusing as it skips from one scene to another with some abrupt changes in lighting and soundtrack to mark the transitions. Though the non-linearity of the way these scenes are told is useful to intersperse the joy and tragedy, avoiding the direct descend into the horror. The production eventually hits its stride when it gets into the stories of the conflict and its effects. The real life footage from interviews of the women affected really strengthens the impact of their plight.
Leesa Grazi is excellent from being the young girl playing hide and seek with her father to projecting the anguish of the suffering and everything in between. The production may not be groundbreaking in the delivery of its messages and is at times a bit unfocused in trying to provide broad and tangential back stories. But the tone of the production and writing is well judged without being overly sentimental. Importantly, it does not apportion blamebut simply focuses on telling the stories as they are achieving what it sets out to do.
Runs until 20th April