Neither hopeless nor sugar-coated, Rubaiyat Hossain’s Made in Bangladesh is a compelling drama about the difficulties of attaining justice. Made in Bangladesh is one of the best acquisition titles at TIFF19.
Edit June 2020: Made in Bangladesh is now available in Canadian virtual cinemas here.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s largest producers of fast fashion clothing, and the women who work in these factories are poorly paid and labour in poor conditions. After a co-worker dies because they were unable to evacuate the factory during a fire, 23-year-old textile worker Shimu (Rikita Nandini Shimu) decides something must be done. Working with an idealistic union advocate, she learns that, by the letter of Bangladeshi law, forming a union is not difficult.
But the reality turns out to be far from that simple in Made in Bangladesh. Shimu navigates treacherous terrain: patriarchal norms that suggest women shouldn’t have labour power, bosses who guilt and threaten her and her co-workers’ livelihood, and corrupt government officials. Shimu is an inspiring hero because she is resourceful and tenacious at every turn, but the film leaves us wondering if that is enough to achieve justice.
Made in Bangladesh never sugar coats the near-insurmountable obstacles Shimu and her fellow workers face. However, director Rubaiyat Hossain’s ability to know when to mix scenes of Shimu coming up against barriers with scenes of her achieving small successes ensures the film never feels hopeless.
Still seeking distribution in the US, UK, and Canada.
Screens 9/14 at 9:45 a.m. (Scotiabank Theatre). Tickets here.