Sumon Delwar | Bangladesh | 90 min
Despite the substantial economic benefits that Bangladeshi migrants generate from their work, a growing percentage of new infections occur among spouses and children of people infected by HIV. “My Cousin” follows the struggle and dream of a HIV positive young woman transmitted by her migrant worker husband, and her three daughters for the last five years.
“My Cousin” documents the oppression and injustice done to a widow. It portrays what a woman faces to achieve her goals against a society that denies basic rights to women folks. Trying to empower herself against the existing patriarchal society, has been a symbolic protest to violence against women and children.
Bangladesh is a major source of migrant workers. The villages of this country are the major suppliers of migrant workers to the world. Shipon’s village Babupur, Chatkhil, Noakhali is such a remote village where most of the people are migrant workers in the Arab Gulf region; and the rest are mostly illiterate and orthodox Muslims. In Bangladesh, HIV (AIDS) victims, especially from lower Socio-economic background, usually end up leading a pitied life. But Shipon challenges this custom and aims to lead the dignified life of an independent woman!
Shipon now works as a social worker and teaches the pre-primary school village kids. Before that she used to do another job in an NGO of visiting house to house to make people aware, especially children and women, on various issues. Her despair continues as her brother in-law Abul Kashem (67) threatens her to burn alive with kerosene instead of ensuring her rights to the deceased husband’s share of the property. Her in laws’ house now seeks opportunity to throw her away with her three daughters as the property of her husband is to be grabbed! She is the wrong woman to get her own property!! Moreover the society is extremely stigmatized for the disease her husband transmitted to her. Shipon, the widowed, is enduring struggle in a hostile environment as a HIV positive woman. She constantly negotiates hostilities from her in-laws’ and the society itself. So she files a case in the nearby Police station and let the Union Porishod chairman for justice. But she is not responded with any rightful interventions from the local authorities. On the other hand, she dreams to be an independent wage earner. For that, apart from teaching young kids, she has enrolled in a paramedic training programme to open a medicine shop and provide primary treatment to the poor people in the village after completing the course.
Five years later, after completing her paramedic training, Shipon challenges her brother-in-law Abul Kashem (67) to retain her husband’s property and arranges a land survey in their house. She, with the help of her maternal uncle Amin (55), wins primarily against her brother-in-law. At last, she gets the land to open her dream medicine shop. She along with her sister and sister-in-laws starts working to build the new shop. But again her mind breaks as her younger daughter becomes sick and needs an operation. She still works to set up free medical camps in her village especially in her medicine shop.
“My Cousin” explores the very personal and intimate portrayal of a destitute but courageous woman and her three daughters’ struggle and dream in the land of profound disgrace to women’s rights.
Expected date of completion:
Gap Finance, Distribution and Festivals
When I got admitted into college, I had to leave my village home. At the time, we had less communication, but after my graduation one day in 2007 I got an invitation of her marriage. I was so happy too. After some years I got shocked when I came to know that her husband was a HIV positive and it was actually his last moment. After her husband died, I came to know that she was also carrying HIV by her husband and she had at that time already three daughters. Frankly speaking, it has been haunting me for years. It appeals to my imagination, to my emotions, to my moral and philosophical mind. Besides, I need to feel a personal resonance with the stories I try to tell. Also, l like to tell stories about people who inspire me and who I believe inspire others. In fact, what inspired me to make this film is the desire to cover a range of human experiences and to examine and unravel the truth behind one’s struggle that I feel I have to talk about, I can best deal with on film. I feel, very strongly that this is the way the best films arise.
I was deeply impressed and motivated when I came to know that Shipon wants to make awareness to her village about HIV, where most of the women have their husbands in abroad working as migrants like Shipon’s husband did. By opening a pharmacy, she plans to spread this to setup free medical camp in the village.