Can They Hear our Songs?
ORIGINAL TITLE: TEULUKE AAMAR GEET BUR XUNA PAI JANU?
15 MINUTES 34 SECONDS | ASSAMESE | ENGLISH SUBTITLES | BLACK & WHITE AND COLOUR | 2021
Trailer and production stills of Can They Hear Our Songs?
The recurrent nightmares of two Assamese Muslim women interact, overlap, and confront each other, revealing intimate narratives from the lives of Assamese women belonging to marginalized communities over the years in the face of domestic, social, and political oppression. Jebin dreams of a boatwoman who's taken an oath to trudge along her native landscapes, carrying her boat on her back. Fatema recounts a nightmare where she's abducted by a couple of army men, forcing her to reveal the whereabouts of her rebel husband.
In 2015, I’d undertaken research on the history of Assamese cinema and stumbled upon a glaring omission: the absence of films with Muslim characters with strong agency. I’ve grown in the company of my mother and paternal grandmother who’ve bequeathed me with a deep intellectual and spiritual tradition of Sufism, the knowledge and practice of which is slowly disappearing from the cultural map of Assam. It has always been crucial for me to explore the experiences of Assamese women, especially from marginalized communities such as mine, highlighting the deeply intricate relationship between their personal stories and the socio-political history of a place and community. This film intends to explore this concern, attempting a cinematic language where dreams and memories are as real as physical reality, true to the essence of Sufism. I strongly believe the dreams and memories of individuals and their personal stories are windows that make the political narratives of a place visible. My travels across Assam, interacting with people from various communities, and listening to the stories of my own family members have helped me immensely in this regard and I wish to explore these narratives further through the medium of Cinema. Furthermore, the film is also an attempt to delve into the slowly vanishing local traditions of a marginalized community, in the face of political ideologies that have perennially discriminated against people on the basis of their gender, religion, ethnicity, class, and caste.
About the filmmaker
Mehdi Jahan completed his Master's in Mass Communication from AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia in 2011. He taught film studies in various institutes including Guwahati University, Seamedu Media Institute, Pune, and Assam School of Journalism. He shot noted Assamese filmmaker, (late) Altaf Mazid’s film, ‘Sabin Alun’ (2015), which won the Cinema Experimenta award at the Signs Film Festival, Kerala, 2016, and was screened at the Yamagata festival, Japan, in 2019. ‘Jyoti and Joymoti’, his first short fiction film, was shown in several national and international film festivals, including ‘Signs Film Festival’, Kerala, 2018, where it won the best film award and Bogoshorts-Bogota Short Film Festival, 2018, in the International Competition section. ‘He used to bring me apples’, his second short fiction film, was featured in noted film critic and curator, Raju Roychowdhury’s best short films of 2019 list, published by film journals, ‘Senses of Cinema’ and ‘Desistfilm’. It was awarded 'Best Film' at the Shades International Film Festival, 2020. His first feature length fiction film project, ‘All Our Loves’, was selected for NFDC ‘Film Bazaar’ Co-Production Market, 2019. His feature length documentary project, ‘My boat seeks a river and other stories’ was selected for Let’s Doc Fellowship Programme 2020, where it received a 'Special Mention' award. His short experimental film, ‘The home my mother never found’ (2020) was screened at the TENT (Theatre for Experiments in New Technologies) BIENNALE 2020, Kolkata, the international competition of the 6th Moscow International Experimental Film Festival, the 'Internacional 1 – Identidades Fílmicas' section of the 5th MUTA Festival Internacional de Apropiación Audiovisual', Peru, and the 'video screening program' of the 16th edition of SIMULTAN Festival, Timișoara, Romania. His next short fiction project, ‘Can they hear our songs ?’ (2021) received the Reframe Genderalities Film Fellowship 2020.
Writer, Editor, Director | Mehdi Jahan
Cinematographer | Sunayana Singh
Sound Design and Mix | Rahul Rabha
Production Sound Mixer | Eemon Koch
Cast | Mala Goswami, Jyotishree Ru Baishya, Adhiraj Kashyap, Sariful Haque
Kandhamal Film Festival on Justice, Peace and Harmony 2022 (Online)
TENT Biennale 2022 - International Festival for Experimental Films and New Media Art, Kolkata.