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Taslima Nasrin - the price of freedom
Year of production - 2001
Duration - 1min 45sec
Tags - Asia, Bangladesh, Fearless - Stories from Asian Women, Screen Asia, artists, belonging, biography, censorship, civics and citizenship, conflict, creativity, culture, family life, gender, identity, migrants, multiculturalism, poetry, refugees, social justice, values, women, writers, see all tags
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The clip opens with Bangladeshi music and a map of Bangladesh. We see a re-enactment of Taslima Nasrin, at home in the 1960’s, as a nine year old resenting her brothers’ freedom. Now in exile in Sweden, Taslima Nasrin recounts the patriarchal structure of her affluent family. She feels her mother was not treated well by her father, and recalls abuse within the extended family. We hear that at the age of twelve she wrote her first poem, The Free Bird in which she dreams of flying to freedom.
This digital resource is from the project Screen Asia, a joint production of the Asia Education Foundation, Australian Children’s Television Foundation and Screen Australia Digital Learning. Click here for more digital resources for Asia.
Taslima Nasrin – the price of freedom is an excerpt from the documentary The Price of Freedom an episode of the four part series entitled Fearless – Stories from Asian Women, produced in 2001. Fearless – Stories from Asian Women, is a Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Mask Productions. Produced and developed with the assistance of ScreenWest and the Lotteries Commission of Western Australia. Produced in association with SBS Independent.
In the middle years of schooling, students can synthesise, analyse, reflect on and apply their learning to personal experiences of Asia in an increasingly independent way. They engage in cultural exchange, reflecting their enhanced understanding of their own culture, and their richer and broader framework of knowledge and understanding of Asian cultures. The aim is that students will increasingly empathise with people from different cultural backgrounds, and develop intercultural values and skills to participate in, learn from, contribute to and engage confidently in diverse cultural environments at home and abroad.
All state and territory syllabuses for English, SOSE and Arts
This clip is from episode 2, The Price of Freedom, a 2003 documentary series titled Fearless – Stories from Asian Women, directed by Mathew Kelley and Peter Du Cane.
Fearless – Stories from Asian Women examines the experiences of four women fighting for justice. Each is from a different culture and has her own fascinating story. All are united by their refusal to remain silent and accepting. These courageous and committed women are prepared to risk everything in pursuit of human rights. This compelling series examines the issues that incite them to action, their personal motivations and their hopes for the future.
The Price of Freedom portrays the poet Taslima Nasrin and her struggle against women’s oppression and forces of fundamentalism. In 1994, she plunged Bangladesh into a wave of general strikes and mass protest. Her crime: to write her thoughts about how religious fundamentalism has consigned women to a secondary role in modern society. For her outspokenness, the nation’s leaders issued a fatwa against her, and the court decided she must leave Bangladesh. This clip is from the story of Taslima Nasrin, now living in exile in Sweden. It shows how she continues to resist the forces of oppression despite attempts to silence her, and her dreams for the future of global society.
Teachers should note that the video clip ‘may offend religious sensibilities’. However, it will assist students to understand Asia, to develop informed attitudes and values, to know about contemporary and traditional Asia, and to connect Australia and Bangladesh (National Statement for Engaging Students with the Studies of Asia)
For further background preparation, ask students to create a ‘Fact File’ rubric of three columns. (You will find a model on page 50 in In our Own Backyard: Connecting to Global Issues in Our Region, edited by Bronwyn Collie, published by Curriculum Corporation, 2006.) Label your three columns ‘Feature of Comparison’, ‘Bangladesh’ and ‘Australia’. To complete the rubric, research information for the following ‘features of comparison’ for both countries: Geographic area, Population, Government, Capital population, Dominant language, Other main languages, Main ethnic groups, Religions, Average income per day/year, Average life expectancy, National literacy rate, Major exports including any to Bangladesh/Australia, Major imports including any from Bangladesh/Australia, Cultural exchanges with Bangladesh/Australia.
Also, the class should be shown a map of the distribution of Islam in the Asia—Australia region. If students are not familiar with Islam, or other world religions, some of the activities and further references are designed for the teacher to address this, so that students develop intercultural skills and understandings. The teacher should establish student prior knowledge, and decide whether to work through these first. The teacher should also familiarise themselves with ‘folk Islam’. This is discussed in the full film version of The Price of Freedom.
Activity 1: Ask students to discuss and respond to the following questions:
- Describe the portrait of Taslima’s mother. What camera techniques are used in the presentation of the portrait?
- Taslima feels guilty about her treatment of her mother for much of her life. What are the three reasons for this?
- Taslima believes women are oppressed. In which areas of the world, and in which systems does she say that women are oppressed?
- What do you think would be Taslima’s reaction to the January 2009 presidential election in Bangladesh between two female candidates, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wajed? Why?
Activity 2: Individually, in pairs, or in a group, students are asked to write their responses to the following:
- Based in Sweden today, why does Taslima get a good feeling from writing?
- What does Taslima dream of, and what does ‘Utopia’ mean?
- “I don’t know what will happen in the world in 200 or 500 years but why shouldn’t we try?” Is Taslima inspirational or foolish to dream and write of a better world so far into the future?
Activity 3: Individually or in a group, students are asked to research and write their responses to the following:
- Can we say that today Taslima has achieved her childhood dream to become ‘free as a bird’? Why or why not?
- Research the PEN writers group, which looked after Taslima in exile in Sweden. What does the acronym PEN stand for, and what is PEN’s function? Invite Australian writer Arnold Zable to your school to present a workshop about PEN.
- What does this film clip tell us about the power of words, and the power of poets, writers, artists and filmmakers?
- Visit the website of Le Van Tai. He chose to leave Vietnam for Australia because he could not express himself freely as a writer and artist. What similarities can you find in his autobiographical stories and Taslima’s story? What similarities can you find in the symbols used by Taslima and Le Van Tai? Present these in a Venn diagram.
- Can you find a motif in common with the stories of Taslima, Le Van Tai and Professor Huong in Meet Professor Huong of Hanoi in Vietnam Symphony? Describe this motif and its effectiveness.
Fearless – Stories from Asian Women Study Guide, Film Australia and ATOM.
Fearless – Stories from Asian Women – The Price of Freedom, full film version, 2003, Film Australia.
Barnard and Cho, 2005, Islam, P16–19, in The Really Big Beliefs Project, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.
Barnard and Cho, 2005, Christianity, P8–11, in The Really Big Beliefs Project, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.
Deveny, C, Fear of God, or just fear of difference of opinion?, The Age, 18 February 2009.
Kabir, Mystic Song 1, in Literature, Voices and Visions from India for the Senior English Classroom CD Rom, 2004, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.
Kwok, J and McKnight L, 2002, Film Asia, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.
Naheed, K, 1997, I am not that woman, in Dimensions, by Bott, Grafton, Millard, Trevaskis, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.
Townsend & Otero, The Golden Rule, activity, P128–129 in Awareness and Appreciation of Cultures – The Global Classroom, Hawker Brownlow Education, 2000.