Untying the Knot @ South Asian Film Festival Montreal

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/323708035

A powerful documentary from director Zana Shammi which pulls back the curtains on domestic violence in Bangladesh. The main story centers around Rumana Monzur, a married woman and mother of a daughter, who was victim of a brutal attack at the hands of her husband. It also looks at the marriage of three other Bengali women living in Dhaka.

Domestic violence is something that women of every culture and place on this planet have to deal with. It happens everywhere. This film focuses on what happens in Bangladesh. Women there are under the pressure from society to marry. It is a patriarchal society in which once married the woman has to abide by the wishes of her husband. As such, from the get go it is a relationship predicated on an imbalance of power. The man has it all.

Rumana Monzur is a woman who was brought up in a progressive Bengali family. A family which encouraged education. As such even once she was married and had a daughter, she traveled to British Columbia to continue her education. Once there she came to the decision that she wanted to divorce her husband, who had been abusing her. When Rumana traveled home to tell him, he attacked her. Viciously. The physical abuse included many facial bruises and lacerations, he bit off part of her nose and gouged her eyes so severely that she lost her sight. After she recovered, Rumana returned to B.C. with her daughter and continued her education. This brave woman has persevered and is now a practicing lawyer in Canada.

Not all the stories here feature such a happy ending. Told at the same time as we are learning about Rumana’s story are those of three women living in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. We see how societal and family pressures are exerted on women to keep them in line. Keep them subservient to men. Putting them in precarious positions.

Latifa, a thirty something who works as a radio host, has been divorced from her abusive husband for a few years. She has returned to live with her parents and is under serious pressure to get married again. Jannatan Naima has a successful career and never wanted to get married. Yet, she did, but refuses to change her behaviour leaving her husband to have to deal with his “rebellious” wife. Finally, Zasmin Haque is a married woman and mother of two boys. She gave up her successful career in banking and deals with emotional, verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband.

No matter what part of the world women live in there is an expectation placed upon her once she gets married. A sad part of many marriages is violence. One in every three women on the planet has experienced some sort of violence. Many of these women are victims at the hands of their husbands. They are not even safe in their own homes. It is a worldwide pandemic. Domestic violence is a world wide problem.

In Bangladesh, it is that she has no life except to fulfill the needs of her husband and bear his children. If she tries to deviate even the slightest from that it is seen as an embarrassment to her husband. So, in order to stay safe from abuse from their husbands and even husband’s family they make sacrifices. Big ones. Pretty much give up any aspirations they have.

The film gives us a rather intimate look at the lives of the women. Such access allows you to understand them and the lives of Bengali women. Also shows us how, each in their own way, women are fighting to change things.

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