The second film of the Human Rights Film Series, “Thread,” was screened at the Konover Auditorium in the Dodd Center on Tuesday. The event was moderated by UConn English and Asian American Studies Professor Cathy Schlund-Vials. The film was directed by Cathy Stevulak, and co-produced by Catherine Masud.
The award-winning documentary revolves around Surayia Raham, an Indian-born artist who moved to Bangladesh after the partition of India. Raham, who wanted to be a painter, took up kantha, the technique of embroidering quilts. Through this process, Raham was able to teach and employ impoverished women in Bangladesh and positively affect their lives.
The documentary shows some of the women that Raham trained and how they were able to support their families and put their children through school with their embroidering jobs. Many of the women were given bus fare to travel to work, but chose to walk miles to use the extra money to feed their families.
The film also goes into detail about the copyright battle Raham went through. The non-profit organization that helped her get started wanted to copyright and retain her designs. Raham went on create Arshi, which is Bengali for mirror, in order to continue to create new designs.
After 25 years, Raham handed off her business to the Salesian sisters, the female branch of the Roman Catholic religious institute. Raham eventually lost her copyright battle.
After the screening, Stevulak and Masud discussed how the project came to fruition and some of the hardships of making the documentary.
Stevulak lived in Bangladesh with her husband for two years from 2001 to 2003. Stevulak was interested in textile work and in the lives of women in Bangladesh. Stevulak and her husband found a piece of Hasad and were able to track her down.
Masud, who had experience in film-making, was contacted in 2009 to help make the film but was pregnant at the time. She would later commit to helping make the documentary. The film took six years to produce. Stevulak and Masud decided to use a local team to help make the film instead of flying in filmmakers.
There was hardship during the filming of the documentary. A car accident took the lives of Masud’s husband, Tareque Masud, and the cinematographer of the film, Mishuk Minuer. Catherine Masud was also critically injured.
“That was another challenge to overcome but we just kept in touch and kept going,” said Stevulak.
Sarah Tasneem, a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, was in attendance at the screening. Tasneem, who was born in Bangladesh, was happy with the positive perspective the documentary had on the people of her country. Tasneem noted that many times, the media tends to only show the negative aspects Bangladesh and thanked the filmmakers for the positive outlook.
A recent graduate of UConn, Sahil Laul, was also in attendance.
“I think that it portrayed a different narrative about Bengali women which is something that you don’t see in mass media,” Laul said.
To end the event, Stevulak shared the lesson of the film. “Keeping this whole idea of going beyond the me to the we and doing small things with good intentions and we’ll all be part of a better world,” Stevulak said.
Edison Escobar is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.