This largely autobiographical film was the debut and best known work of Bangladesh helmer Tareque Masud, who co-scripted with his American-born wife. Now, since his tragic, early death this past August, it also serves as his legacy. It’s an often lovely & affecting work, set in the unsettled years when East Pakistan was becoming independent Bangladesh. Tareque’s ten yr-old alter-ego leaves his mother, adorable kid sister & village when his strict religious father, a homeopathic physician, sends him to a madrasa in the city. Difficult & distant, this unlovable man holds to out-dated beliefs in the face of family crises both medical & political. He’s all but replaced in the boy’s affection by his forward-looking, politically engaged uncle. The tone & pattern of the film is (purposefully?) reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s masterful debut, PATHER PANCHALI/’55, but with much more going on: new friendships at school & difficult teachers,, a threatening military situation at home, martial discord, mysterious childhood illnesses, wonderful public performances from traveling actors & musicians, the film becomes over-loaded and the characterizations can’t support the depth Masud is looking for. Even so, the filmmaking talent was obvious. Hopefully, some of his later work will make it Stateside. (Check out the EXTRAs to see how fast some of the kids have grown.)
DOUBLE-BILL: As noted above, Ray's PATHER PANCHALI . . . and don't forget the two wonderful sequels that complete Ray's APU Trilogy. Heartbreakers all.