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The Clay Bird (2002)
"Matir moina" (original title)

8.4
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 1,796 users   Metascore: 75/100
Reviews: 15 user | 25 critic | 14 from Metacritic.com

A family must come to grips with its culture, its faith, and the brutal political changes entering its small-town world.

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Title: The Clay Bird (2002)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Nurul Islam Bablu ...
Anu
Russell Farazi ...
Rokon
Jayanto Chattopadhyay ...
Kazi
Rokeya Prachy ...
Ayesha
Soaeb Islam ...
Milon
Lameesa R. Reemjheem ...
Asma
Moin Ahmed ...
Ibrahim
Md. Moslemuddin ...
Headmaster
Abdul Karim ...
Halim Mia
Shah Alam Dewan ...
Boatman
Golam Mahmud ...
Shaheen
Pradip Mittra Mithun ...
Uttam
Auyon Chowdhury ...
3rd Friend
Masud Ali Khan ...
Khan Bahadur
Manjila Begum ...
Female Singer- Night Concert
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Storyline

A family must come to grips with its culture, its faith, and the brutal political changes entering its small-town world.

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Genres:

Drama | History

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Release Date:

11 January 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Matir moina  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

While the film was not nominated for an Oscar, it was Bangladesh's first film ever to be submitted to the Academy Awards for consideration to compete in the Best Foreign Language Film category. See more »

Quotes

Crowd: Down with military Dictatorship!
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A Thought-Provoking Attempt Hampered by a Lack of Clear Vision
30 July 2010 | by (South Korea) – See all my reviews

"The bird's trapped in the body's cage. Its feet bound by worldly chains, it tries to fly but fails." 'The Clay Bird' opens a door into Bangladesh's fight for independence in the late 1960s when the soon-to-be nation state was a far-flung region of Pakistan, following the partitioning of India in 1947. Increasingly disenchanted with the distant central government due to racial, cultural and economic discrimination, Bangladeshis began taking to the streets in protest, demanding a general election as the springboard for autonomous rule. The election was cancelled and the Pakistani military were sent in to quell the uprising, murdering thousands and destroying population centres. A civil war ensued, eventually leading to independence in 1971. The film is set just prior to the prolonged and bloody uprising, as citizens find themselves galvanized along religious and political lines, with tempers beginning to fray. Rather than depict events at the heart of the capital, the story centres around the lives of a rural family in a remote village, bearing witness to the way in which the winds of change blew across the ordinary citizen. While the intent of this is sound, the end result is something of a mixed bag.

The plight of the family proves an effective allegory for the various Bangladeshi attitudes to the turmoil their world is in. Kazi, the father, a born-again Muslim, reflects the ultra-conservative stand that faith and discipline will unite the people under Allah, and is unable or unwilling to accept that the deeply fractured society around him faces problems that cannot be solved through prayer. Milon, his brother, a young political extremist, stands ready to fight for the nation with the unwavering confidence of the just. Ayesha, Kazi's apolitical wife meanwhile, is interested simply in getting through the ordinary day to day struggles of life. Asma, the daughter, is too young to be constrained by the petty concerns of adults, while Anu, the young son, is propelled unwillingly by conflicting forces and ideologies he doesn't understand. It is the nation in miniature, about to burst at the seams.

Yet there is a somewhat meandering quality to the pacing, perhaps in part because the writer has not entirely decided upon the story he wants to tell. It could very easily simply be the story of a young boy forced to attend a madrasa (Islamic boarding school) by a father terrified his son's mind will be polluted by non-Islamic ideas and therein be a commentary on Islamic extremism itself. Indeed, a large chunk of the film is just that: there is a very telling scene where the young Anu and his uncle watch a Hindu boat race, clearly enjoying themselves, only to be reprimanded for celebrating diversity. Kazi's religious fervour has him at odds with the rest of his family, incapable of being the father and husband they so desperately need. The dogma strangles the family to the point of dysfunction. Equally telling is the character of Milon, whose more secular and open-minded world view is the foundation for the forthcoming nation-state. Religious dogma is equated with denial, while the activist is the realist.

Fortunately, the Islamic discourse eventually digs deeper and there is a nice scene where two of the madrasa teachers make the point that the religion spread so successfully across Bangladesh precisely because it was a peaceful ideology. Whatever one's beliefs, there can be no denying that this sort of discourse on Islam is rarely found outside of Islamic countries. The very idea that it must be spread by force and violence is just such a question pondered with dismay by one teacher struggling to understand how religion became part of the rising civil war in the first place. That the Muslim extremists involved in acts of terrorism rivaling the invading Pakistani army might be missing the point is one of the many tragedies of that war, though it is important to remember that many factors came into play, not least cultural and economic destitution. However, director Tarique Masud does not adequately explore these factors, which if the aim is to give a snapshot of society during that time is quite remiss, suggesting that he is more interested on religious commentary. Yet the film goes beyond the madrasa, so that those set up as the main characters then disappear for long stretches like the inhabitants of a Tolkien novel. This unravels the sequences designed to build up character story lines, with the disjointed result leading to the uneven pacing. This leaves the conflicts faced by some to be either insufficiently built up or not satisfyingly followed through. Masud ultimately needed to choose one storyline and stay with it.

Nonetheless, the cast perform with the conviction and skill necessary to draw the viewer into their characters' worlds – when we are able. However, standouts for me include Russell Farazi as Rokon, Anu's one true friend at the madrasa - a likable, yet misunderstood loner, and the young Farazi is more than able to imbue the character with the complexities that reside in such a part. Soaeb Islam, meanwhile, brings to the wannabe revolutionary a warmth often without any dialogue whatsoever. And while Kazi, the stiff-necked Islamic convert, gives Jayanto Chattopadhyay not a lot of range, this does allow for a meaningful scene at the end where the horrors of war force the character to face his religious convictions. And while Nurul Islam Bablu is no Marina Golhabari, he gives Anu the profound innocence that the script requires of the character.

Ultimately, 'The Clay Bird' is not quite the tale of Bengali struggle it purports to be, due to unfortunate scripting and editing choices that take much of the wind out of its sails as a result. However, it opened up a window into a history with which I was hitherto unfamiliar, with many thought-provoking and sometimes touching sequences that still manage to shine through – even if the sum of the parts is conspicuous by its absence.


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