THE LOG LINE
To please the God, one religion must worship her, another must kill her. To save one life, one must sacrifice another.
Mohesh, a beloved cow owned by a poor Hindu villager is prayed to as a God. When she has to be sold, her new owner sacrifices her in the name of God. A neorealist film, shot in rural Bangladesh, featuring mostly non-actors. .
The God of Small Things is the story of my childhood.
I was struggling to come up with an idea for my thesis film when two things happened almost concurrently:
1. The terror attack in Paris by Muslim extremists, killing nearly two hundred civilians in the name of Allah.
2. And a photograph I came across on social media. It depicted Muslims celebrating their second most important festival “Eid Ul Adha” or the “Happiness of Sacrifice.” Hundreds of Muslim men were standing on the balcony of a mosque, looking down on the courtyard. Below some 25 slaughtered cows were laying dead in the river of their own blood, covering the courtyard, slaughtered in the name of Allah. This brutal photograph took me immediately back to my childhood.
I follow the debate about Islam, flooding the media. Some say that Islam is the religion of Peace.
I come from a conservative Muslim family. In my culture, it is a must for a family to kill a cow during the ritual of sacrifice every year. As a child, I was expected to witness the ritual of killing out of respect for (and out of fear of) the Muslim god. “It was the sacrifice” I was making for my Allah, who wanted me to prove my love for him.
When I was eight, I refused to partake in the ritual. I could not bear the pain of killing a massive ox. I did not have the guts to witness blood gushing out from the arteries of the animal I fed just few hours earlier.
Why should I call my religion peaceful when it teaches me, a child, to kill? Which begs a larger questions: why is a society shocked every time a religious extremist goes out on a rampage killing people of other faiths (as well as of his own)?
Bangladesh, where I come from, is the country where the Hindus, who are the minority, live side by side with the Muslims, the majority. The Hindus are native to the land and the region. The Muslims are the converts; they came in later. Although they both discriminate against each other, they live together as Bengalis, sharing common history, civilization, and the breathtaking nature as well as constant struggle with poverty, diseases, and natural disasters.
Hindus believe that a cow is the Goddess, who protects and provides for the family. Muslims must sacrifice the cow to make their own God happy. One religion must kill what the other worships.
Neither the Hindus nor the Muslims treat the cow as a cow, the animal. They both use it to their advantage to benefit their respective religion. The god of the minority gets slaughtered on the altar of the god of the majority. There is no reconciliation, no middle ground between them. That’s the social irony of Bangladesh, as the both people are expected to live together in a peaceful coexistence.
The God of Small Things is a neorealist (or neo-neorealist) film. Its action takes place in a remote poverty stricken Bengali village (known from the films of Satyajit Ray), with no electricity, no hospital nearby, and no classrooms in the school. The village people are blinded and divided by their deeply felt religious identity. They are either the Hindu or the Muslim.
In my film, I make an effort to show the beauty of both religions with their daily rituals, rich tradition, simple lifestyles, and happy faces of the people who practice them.
But I realize that underneath the human layer of each religion lives a blind hyena of religious dogma ready to strike at any moment.
The film was shot using natural light mostly. With my cinematographer Yann Seweryn, I tried to preserve the raw and earthy look and beauty of the region where we shot. Most characters in the film are played by the locals, non-actors. All extras are the villagers. The village and its inhabitants are equally the backdrop of the story and one of its characters.