South Asian Projects
Project Name: My Mother Can Sing, But She Doesn’t
Director’s Name: Laboni Ashrafi, Bangladesh
This film is about my mother and me: our experiences of abusive marriages, violence, and divorce. Although it’s a personal story it could be the story of countless women in the patriarchal society of Bangladesh.
The proposed documentary is about a mother and daughter’s marriage and relationship who have gone through almost the same condition. The focus point is whole aspects of marriage, such as love, emotion, sex, cruelty, and divorce. This mother is my mother and the daughter is me. I am going to talk about our story.
My mother is almost 46 years old and I am 30. We have only 16 years gap. She had an early marriage and had gone through a horrible nightmare only at 9. Then she got married to my father, but the situation remained unchanged for her. I saw my parents’ horrible conjugal life. When I was only 12, my father forced me to get married to someone and I ran away from home. I got married at 18 and marriage was a horrible experience for me too. I had an abusive relationship there. Seven years later, I divorced him and I found my own way of living. But I had conflicts with my parents during my divorce.
I live in Dhaka and my mother lives in the village. She still lives with my father and remains a housewife completely. My Mother is now preparing for my brother’s wedding. My brother’s marriage is arranged with a teenage girl. I had a quarrel with my family about this.
My parents never had a balanced relationship. My mother shares her pain only with me. My father always had extra-marital affairs and my mother suffers from a complex about her body which refers to her existential crisis. Now she is going through Uterine Fibroids after having abortions on a number of occasions.
My first inspiration for making this cinema is my mother, who taught me how to endure all the torture, who said, “You don’t have to say these things outside”, and who spent her whole life in the shadow of my father. But I wanted to break the silence that my mother endured throughout her life. And when the pain of saying something, at least to myself, was lingering inside, I took shelter in poetry. But I was looking for a more powerful medium, so I have taken the decision to make cinema my life partner. The main motive behind making this cinema is my silence or those who have endured the torture of our fathers and have become the replicas of our fathers, those mothers who basically whispered in our ears the words of the patriarchy that they had received from their mothers. Although my mother wanted me to write down her stories, she couldn’t say as she was taught not to. And I wrote my mother’s stories in my diary at an early age. Now I am going to write those stories through cinema.
The documentary is about two women: my mother and my marital experiences, thoughts about marriage, unspoken words, and relationships. I live in Dhaka, and my father lives in our village in Faridpur with my mother after his retirement. Most of the time, I go to the village to visit my mother. Mother also visits me sometimes. I talk to mother by video call often.
The documentary begins with my mother narrating tales. In the moonlit night, stars can be seen clearly in the sky, and the continuous sound of crickets is heard. My mother is telling a story to my younger sister while lying on the mat in the yard.
Mother shared with me her childhood memories, her early marriage, divorce, a second marriage to my father, and her abusive relationship with my father. Mother gets consolation in conversation with me. But when I told her to leave my father, she would argue with me or keep silent. My Mother is now preparing for my brother’s wedding which will be held on next month. My brother’s marriage is arranged with a teenage girl. I had a quarrel with my family about this.
When mother sews quilts or does gardening, she also reminisces. My paternal aunts, maternal aunts, and cousins hang out with my mother while she sews clothes. My only maternal aunt has an almost fragile marriage. Mother is worried about her sister’s future. Mother talked to me about that. I wrote the first poem of my life about my mother. I open the diary and read it.
I keep looking at photographs/videos of my early marriage. I had an abusive relationship there, which will be heard in my monologues. Looking at those old photographs with my mother, I started talking about my divorce. I had a conflict with my parents during my divorce. My father did not support my divorce. Mother was in my favor but could not say anything in front of my father.
My father has always been involved in extramarital affairs. As a result, mother suffers from a complex about her body, which refers to her existential crisis. She only can share that with me. The day I found out that my mother had gone to the parlor to do facials and eyebrow plaques, I was very surprised. My parents had a very rough sex life. Mother had to suffer a lot for this; she had to have an abortion a couple of times. As a result, mother now has a tumor in her uterus. Mother has been suffering from uterine pain for a long time. I took my mother to the gynecologist. The doctor and mother talk about this.
My mother used to sing. She could even compose songs instantly. Now my mother works almost all the time and does humming. I take mother to her father’s house. Mother drowned in various memories there.
After my second marriage, my thoughts regarding marriage changed. But now I have a conflict with my mother; she wants me to have a baby, quit filmmaking, and get a job, which would give me a stable and secure life. But I keep making this documentary about my mother and myself.
The proposed documentary will be made in participatory mode, but it is not based on interviews. It will move on through casual conversations. As my mother uses to tell stories so the story-telling approach will be the style of this documentary. As the conversations are very personal, so I would operate the camera. The approach of the camera pace will be slow. Whenever we both are in frame camera will be set static. Sometimes I will talk while setting up the lens and looking at the camera directly. In the observational and traveling sequences camera will be hand-held but at a soothing pace.
Visual and sound treatment in this documentary will be:
- Conversations over the phone and video calls,
- My paintings,
- Poetry about my mother,
- Photographs or videos of my ex-marriage,
- My house and my mother’s house,
- Mom’s old photographs,
- The shooting of my brother’s pre-wedding and wedding programs,
- Mother sewing quilts (Kantha),
- Singing part of mine and my mother’s,
- Conversation with my brother about expectations of marriage,
- Conversation between me and my new partner about love, sex, and relationship,
- My monologues.
The documentary will end with the mother singing alone.
This is a Personal Cinema approach. Although it’s a personal story, it represents the stories of most women in a patriarchal society like Bangladesh. And these never-spoken words represented through a documentary would become not only my emotional feelings but also political and thus powerful.
Laboni Ashrafi, a writer, and independent filmmaker has completed her graduation and post-graduation in Bengali Literature from the University of Dhaka (DU). Then she joined film school, Bangladesh Cinema & Television Institute (BCTI) to do her PGD in Filmmaking.
One of her films ‘Chakrabyuha’ has been officially selected in several international film festivals and got the BEST FILM AWARD at Blast Film Competition 2021, JURY MENTION AWARD at Global Youth International Film Festival 2021, Best Independent Film Award at International Short & Independent Film Festival, Dhaka 2022 and BEST DIRECTOR AWARD at Winemaking International Film Festival 2022.
Her current documentary project ‘My mother can sing but she doesn’t’ has won the Research & Script Development Grant at the Exposition of Young Film Talents (EYFT) 2022, organized by Liberation War Museum Bangladesh.
She is also a social activist working on Women’s Empowerment in Bangladesh and teaches at the Green University of Bangladesh (GUB).
Research & Pre-production: Running
Production: 01 December 2022 to 30 April 2023
Editing: 15 May 2023 to 15 July 2023
Music & Sound Mixing: 01 August 2023 to 30 August 2023
Premiere Show: 15 September 2023
Post Production: 6,00,000
Total: 21,50,000 (Twenty-One Lac Fifty Thousand Taka Only)
My Research has been done.
Now the script development is running.
Visual Material’s Link: