New Asian Currents [BANGLADESH]

My Migrant Soul

- BANGLADESH / 2000 / Bengali / Color, B&W / Video / 35 min

Director, Script, Photography, Editing, Producer: Yasmine Kabir
Sound: Ratan Pal
Narrator: Shajahan Babu
Source: Yasmine Kabir
35 Indira Rd., Apt E-602 Dhansiri Apts Dhaka 1215 BANGLADESH
Phone: 880-2-9131304
E-mail: aykabir@dhaka.agni.com

In a posthumous account left behind for the world in the form of audiotapes sent home to his family, Babu tells of his plight as a migrant worker. A young man full of hope who had left for Malaysia in search of a better life, Babu quickly found out that his status had been reduced to that of a slave. Yasmine Kabir sets images of Malaysia against the taped voice, which painfully sings songs from his homeland and confides his despair in his mother. For Babu, the global economy was not a blessing but a sacrifice.

[Director’s Statement] I first came across Babu’s story in a newspaper article titled “Death of an Exploited Migrant Worker in Malaysia.” It told of a young man who sold all of his possessions and left his country penniless, in search of a dream never to be realized. It told of a young man, full of hopes, desires and aspirations being stripped of all dignity and, finally, of life itself. The tragedy of this young man’s plight deeply affected me. I got in touch with his family and decided to pursue it as a documentary film, having felt an urgency and responsibility to tell Babu’s story. By telling the story of one man from a very personal viewpoint, I intended to highlight the plight of countless other migrant workers. Through interviews and interactions with the family, I learnt of similar stories; stories of unskilled workers, many of who had never worked in construction sites before, returning home in coffins. Stories of those, who, for the first time, were being directly confronted by the forces of globalization—a force beyond their comprehension; one that extracted without giving much in return—a case of stark exploitation.

“In a marketplace, like fish and vegetables, humans are being bought and sold,” Babu said prior to his death.

I hope that through my work voices like Babu’s will be heeded.


Yasmine Kabir

Independent filmmaker based in Bangladesh. Works include Death Chant (1992), A Day at the Embassy (1996), For Solaiman (1997) and A Mother’s Lament (Duhshomoy) (1999).

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