Behind the scenes
When news of the Rohingya crisis broke, Nuruzzaman Khan (Bappy) and Boan Wang were highly interested in making a documentary related to this issue. On this note, producer and cinematographer Boan said, “Through our work, we aspire not to tell a story from any general perspective of addressing just the global issue, but from a local point of view so that people can see the real situation in Bangladesh. Instead of focusing solely on the Rohingya issue, we have planned to develop the story in such a way that the Rohingya crisis is a part of it.”
Boan also went on to say that this movie is not about disseminating a massage about international politics or any facts and numbers – its main aim is to provide more support to these people.
The duo is highly motivated towards illustrating the humanitarian aspects of such crisis. “We don’t want to portray any sort of propaganda in our work,” added Bappy, director of the documentary.
“It’s a very character driven movie, without any scenes containing violence. Instead, the audience will get to see the life of refugees, living in a camp with scarcity of food and proper shelter, hoping for a brighter future in a country where they move to,” said Bappy.
Talking about the leading character of the film who is a physician, he said, “We wanted to opt for someone who has the potential, willingness and the capacity to work with people very closely. So, there couldn't be anything better than having a physician as our leading character. Because, due to the very nature of this profession, it allows the character to deal with his patients closely.”
In search of Ali
is the story of a physician’s search for one of his patients named Ali, who he meets during his visit at the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar.
Sayed Muhammad Tawhid is a physician who works with children suffering from cancer at Dhaka Medical College. During his visits at the camp to provide medical services and distributing medicines among the refugees, he gets acquainted with a teenage boy named Ali. What amazed Tawhid most was Ali's good command over English which was highly unexpected. The boy wanted to become a doctor when he grew up. The physician saved the boy’s cell number in order to communicate with him in future.
We don’t want to portray any sort of propaganda in our work
“Thus, we decided to make the documentary based on Tawhid's search for Ali,” informed Bappy.
Tawhid decides to help the boy in pursuing his education. However, when he actually calls Ali, he is unable to reach the boy.
The challenges so far
According to Bappy, one of the most difficult tasks while making a documentary is to create a character, and look for the perfect person to play it. “As a director, I had to convince my producer and cinematographer, Boan, to believe that Tawhid is perfect for this role. If you don’t know your character well, it’s really very tough,” said Bappy.
However, both of them were quite nervous about bringing out the true feelings of their characters in front of the camera.
“While filming a documentary, the story might not be portrayed accurately, which was a big risk for me and Boan,” added Bappy.
As part of their research, Boan and Bappy came to Bangladesh last month, only to conduct their research by interacting closely with Tawhid and visiting the camps.
In the first phase of their seven day shooting, one of their main objectives was to portray the lead character, Tawhid’s challenges and the progress he makes while dealing with the situation.
“Now that there's some progress, we are confident that we have a story worth telling,” said Bappy.
Bappy and Boan are planning to conduct the post-production in Taiwan. “Since the production is based on Bangladesh, so we intend to do the post-production in Taiwan,” informed Boan.
While filming a documentary, the story might not be portrayed accurately, which was a big risk for me and Boan
“We firmly believe people will get to see Bangladesh from a different perspective through this movie,“said the filmmakers.
When asked what inspired them to work on this story, Boan replied, “As Taiwanese, we always had to suffer from identity crisis. Being called Chinese immigrants most of the time, we always end up trying to define our identities. And this is what I always wanted to work on.”
“As a filmmaker, I always chose subjects which are related to humanity. The Rohingya crisis in this film is just an event to illustrate that, but the bigger picture revolves around how Tawhid evolves, despite all his limitations. I need Boan because I needed to understand the background of this particular event from a neutral perspective. Boan helps me to navigate through this and see things clearly,” said Bappy.