… with the subtitle ”A Rohingya Story” takes place in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangla Desh, the biggest in the world with 700.000 people from the Muslim minority in Myanmar, before named Burma. They fled from genocide, and ended up here. In a humanitarian catastrophy, where they fight to survive.
The film by Olivier Higgins and Mélanie Carrier is excellent. Heartbreaking in content and brilliant in storytelling. The cinematography is superb, the camera is treating the refugees and their devastating environment and living conditions with beautifully composed and framed images and the film gives the viewer the necessary information through the voice off by Kalam (Kala Miya). The directors (on the Doker website) tells about how the film came about:
“It was following a shocking Facebook post from the Kutupalong refugee camp in February 2018 by documentary photographer Renaud Philippe, that we became aware of the sheer extent of this major humanitarian crisis that has received so little media coverage. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of this situation and the power of Renaud’s photos, we suggested that we join forces to create this film with as the main objective, alerting the public to the tragedy of the Rohingyas in exile… The role of Rohingya refugee Kala Miya (Kalam) was central in this film. It was Renaud who first met Kalam in February 2018 during his first stay in the camp. Kalam naturally became an ally and the film crew’s guide out in the field. As a fixer, translator and sound recorder, he was the one who ultimately made this film possible. Over the course of the discussions, Kalam’s personal story and the poetry he wrote was so meaningful, so universal, that we decided to make it the narrative thread of this film.”
A warm tribute to Kalam, the main protagonist, who in this English version speaks with a low, melancholic voice – he had reached India but decided to go to Kutupalong to join his family. Many touching stories, most of them through voice-off, are told: Nigthmares, dreams for the future, but also horror stories about the abuses and attacks they have been through in Myanmar by soldiers from the army. You see families cooking, you see (always uplifting) children playing football and with kites, young girls putting on make-up, young boys dancing – and men trying to tame the flood that could swipe the whole camp away. A camp where young kids sometimes disappear – human trafficking!
The film is rich, it’s about poverty and misery but it keeps insisting to depict the dignity of the people, who are in the film, living a life you can not imagine. In cinematic terms I was thinking of films of late Michael Glawogger, with observational visual poetry giving time and respect. My only small objection is the ending where the makers do slow motion of scenes we have already seen. Unnecessary.
A boy is singing: Instead of honey… you gave me poison.
Canada, Bangla Desh, 2020, 87 mins.