June 21, 2009

Bangladesh through the eyes of LEAR LEVIN, Part 1

[image: all photographs are copyright of LEAR LEVIN]

LEAR LEVIN needs no introduction. When Muktir Gaan released to packed audiences at Dhaka’s Public Library in 1995, Lear became our favorite American filmmaker. Without his film footage of the 1971 Liberation War, my generation, born long after ’71, would never have seen these rare images of our country during the 1971 war. It was the first time that I saw ’71 in color, projected against the mammoth screen of the Public Library. Up until then I had always imagined ’71 in black and white because all the footage shown on BTV were in black and white. When Amma (my mother) used to tell us about how she and her family escaped from Dhaka taking a small boat over the Buriganga, staying the night at Jinjira, and then walking for days until finally they reached our home village – I pictured every scene of this story in black and white.  But then Muktir Gaan opened my colored eyes. I remember watching the beautiful color of the Bengali countryside and it was hard to imagine that this land of beauty was in the middle of a bloody war. Lear’s intention was to capture the poetic beauty of Gram Bangla (rural Bengal) and juxtapose it with the atrocities of war to jolt and shock the audience into the reality of the bloodshed. Lear has gifted his entire film footage from 1971 to the people of Bangladesh. It is my honor today to have Lear share with us his photographs of Bangladesh from his recent trip last winter. These days Lear enjoys taking portraits and so you’ll see a range of characters and expressions in the photographs below.

Lear in his own words:

I have a deep affection for the people of Bangladesh.  To me, they are unique among the citizens of the world, yet to put my finger squarely on their remarkable quality would require the knowledge of an anthropologist with a degree in philosophy and a mind that reaches far beyond the one I possess.  I am just a photographer; that is all.  When I looked into the eyes of the people that I encountered on the streets, country roads and villages of Bangladesh, I felt that all those deep, dark, piercing windows had swung open for me, and that they had been in place,  waiting for a thousand years for me to arrive.  I was moved and I clicked. It was hard to stop clicking.  I felt that the most humble among the subjects that I photographed held secrets that a Westerner might never comprehend; wisdom gained from an existence from which I was sheltered.  I felt that the constant struggle – even among the more successful classes that I encountered, reflected a strength that I could never sustain.  I felt that the fabric of the people had been pounded and colored and stitched together in a way that only another Bangladeshi might understand.  And, because I witness life through the lens of my camera, I felt that my mission was to capture as much of the spirit, character, eccentricities and goodwill of these unusual people so that I could bring their images home to my family and to my friends and display and discuss them with pride.  I tried to do this in the same honest way that I had tried in 1971, during the war for independence.  Those people close to me in The States who have shared the faces and the moments that were stopped before my lens, have also been moved, intrigued and hopefully, lifted by what they have seen.  As a photographer, with a glorious round trip ticket, a good camera, a few days, wonderful friends by my side, and a little luck, I did the best I could.



To view Lear’s film footage in Muktir Gaan, visit here. Part 2 of Lear’s photographs will be uploaded this coming Wednesday.


[image: all photographs are copyright of LEAR LEVIN]



One Response to “”

  1. Nafis Says:

    I still remember going to watch the release of “Muktir Gaan” with my parents – it was an AWESOME experience! I love the way the music was used in that movie. By the way, I do not know if you have heard this, but there is a compilation of the most popular and famous songs from 71. The album is called “Jaagoroner Gaan” 🙂

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