Global Film Series

According to the NC State Office of Global Engagement, "The Global Film Series at NC State is a collaborative initiative to bring a variety of international and globally-focused films to campus."

The Global Film Series at NC State screened its February film, “Made in Bangladesh,” Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Witherspoon Student Center Cinema. The screening is part of a collaborative initiative involving University Libraries, the Office of Global Engagement and the Bangladesh Student Association

The movie follows Shimu, a 23-year-old Bangladeshi woman in Dhaka, the country’s capital. The film begins with Shimu fleeing her village to avoid being married off to an older man, only to find herself working grueling hours in an inner-city garment factory to support her and her husband. After seeing her co-worker killed in a gruesome factory fire, she resolves to form a union. 

Shimu is virtually alone in her efforts to create the union. Her husband and peers are adamant that her place is not at the forefront of the union, but as a wife and worker. Everything is on the line for Shimu: her job, her friends and her marriage, but she does not back down. Demonstrating incredible courage, Shimu continues to fight to secure her rights.

Director Rubaiyat Hossain’s motivation behind the film was to emphasize the importance of group action against unacceptable working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers. Inspired by real-life garment workers’ union organizers, she seeks to highlight the incredible perseverance women all over the world demonstrate as they rise up against maltreatment.

Rather than staging sets, Hossain uses real-world locations to backdrop her characters. She takes us through Dhaka’s twisting alleyways, invites us to a vibrant Bangladeshi wedding and sits us down in a cramped, noisy garment factory with underpaid, overworked employees. The goal of her imagery is not to exploit the city’s poverty or guilt-trip the viewer, but illustrate the reality of these workers’ lives for a largely-ignorant audience. 

The film is both a cultural feast for the untraveled and a much-needed wake up call for the ignorant. Hossain uses the film to remind us how much of the comforts in our daily lives–our technology, clothing and even food–thrives because of exploitation. She urges the viewer not to boycott sweatshops, but to push for more ethical business practices in order to empower the women who work in them.

“The garment workers, especially the women, are underpaid in Bangladesh,” said Dipayan Banik, a Raleigh local who came to watch the movie. “If the minimum wage is seven, they get four or three.”

Mushfiqur Rahman, a graduate student in electrical engineering, said that it can be socially unacceptable to speak out against the gender pay gap. Like the women in the film, this prevents workers from receiving their due rights.

“The bosses want the workers to be submissive,” Rahman said. “I think this movie can give a message that you need to speak, so then there is a chance that you can negotiate.”

Marian Fragola, the director of community engagement for University Libraries, helped pick the film because of NC State’s large Bangladeshi student population and our college of textiles. 

“We really want to have films that take you to someplace maybe you've never been to, or think about parts of a culture that you didn't know about,” Fragola said. “And [the film] does make you think about all the protections we have [in the United States].”

One benefit of the Global Film Series is that it exposes viewers to diverse experiences, broadening their understanding of the world beyond the United States.

“In the United States, there are many people from many, many cultures and varieties,” Rahman said. “In NC State, or in the United States, any person can interact with other persons from other cultures. So that's why watching international movies is important. People should know some basic level of ideas about all of the countries in the world to also relate to in daily life.”

The series’ next film will be “The Serengeti Rules,” screening on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon cinema. For more information about the upcoming films, visit the Global Film Series’ website.

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