Birth pangs of a nation (23:46 min)
The Bangladeshi War of Liberation, like all other wars, has a contested history. The number killed, the number raped, the number displaced, are all figures that change depending upon who tells the story.
But in our attempt to be on the ‘right side’ of history, we often forget those who ended up on the wrong side. Those who have gone, those who were permanently scarred, mentally, physically, socially, don’t really care about our statistics. The eyes that stare into empty space, knowing not what they are searching, the frail legs, numbed by fatigue, drained by exhaustion, yet willed on by desperation, the wrinkled hands, seeking a familiar touch, a momentary shelter, longing for rest, do not care about the realpolitik of posturing superpowers.
In search of the shade of the Banyan tree (13:17 min)
Who am I? Where do I belong? Who determines my future? Society has no answer to these restless questions. Our sense of identity, kinship and community, are at worst shattered by the experience of migration and at best are thrown into uncertainty.
A story about migration and displacement.
Interview of passersby as well as the police who shut down Crossfire exhibition (11:51 min)
In 2004, responding to a perceived law and order “crisis” the Bangladesh government created a new, armed enforcement agency, called Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The agency was formed by taking officers from the Bangladesh Police, Army, Navy and Air Force. Over time, the agency’s budget and power grew until today it is one of the largest and most feared groups inside Bangladesh. From the very early days, RAB became notorious for killing people it was trying to capture, often during gun battles, which the government always claims is due to “crossfire.”
RAB has been the subject of repeated condemnation by international human rights activists, including Human Rights Watch, starting with their 2006 report Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force. Activists have also insisted that Bangladesh’s continued participation in UN Peacekeeping Forces be made subject to the government ending the practice of torture and extra-judicial killings by RAB.
Shahidul Alam’s Crossfire project was first shown in Bangladesh in 2010 to draw attention to extra-judicial killings by RAB. The government responded by shutting down the show. Eventually, a court ruled in favor of Alam, and the show was reopened. Now Queens Museum of Art is bringing the project to New York for the first time. The project includes photographs that recreate, through metaphoric images, extra-judicial killings by RAB; videos about the controversy over the show; and a live Google map that pinpoints locations for numerous extrajudicial killings.
My journey as a witness (5:42 min)
Trailer for the book "My journey as a witness" by photographer, writer and curator, Shahidul Alam.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam’s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organizations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam’s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts, at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.
Published by Skira and Bengal Foundation. Introductions by Sebastiao Salgado and Raghu Rai. Trailer produced by Drik AV.