Select Page

The Liva Collective



Chapter 3

Text and photographs by Bartolomeo Pampaloni

the workers restaurant

 Part Three

My Venture into the actual countryside: Chittagong

Chittagong turned out to be much more charming and greener than Comilla, with hills surrounding the landscape. Some of the last indigenous communities of the country live there, having survived the millenniums, the wars, colonialism and urban devastation.

The Chittagong girl

In Chittagong, you can’t make one step without being surrounded by groups of curious and ecstatic eyes, identical to what you experience in Dhaka. But here they belong to bodies that move around you, follow you, ask you, in their broken English, always the same question: “Where do you come from, mister? Italy?”

on the tracks of Chittagong railway station

And just by who you are, if you like it or not, you represent the culture that you are running away from, you are the consumerist blunder that everybody dreams about, you are the welfare, you are the culture, the technology, the observed and venerated idol that now wanders around the dust of their roads.

Playing Cricket

The Bengali people, even if they sometimes overwhelm you, are of a unique kindness and warmth, always ready to help, to take you to the bus station, to stop a rickshaw and guarantee they make you an honest price, to offer you some food: it rarely happens that they take advantage of your status of being a rich Westerner.

Street children in Chittagong

Even in the most dangerous places like the slums or the markets, not one time did we feel like we were in danger, no matter how bizarre the situation. We constantly found ourselves surrounded by crowds of intrigued men and wherever we walked there would always be the eyes of the road on us.

Rickshaw Driver

Everybody wanted to take a picture and more than one time they pointed their cell phones at us and asked if it was okay to photographs us. We were a rarity, a species from another world.

Time to make a film

Back in Dhaka, with only three days left of Bangladesh, Enrico and I decided we wanted to make a film about Bangladesh. We decided to shoot the film in a neighbourhood which grew around a noisy and crowded crossing from which market stalls and sheds filled up the sides of the railroad, where every fifteen minutes an overloaded train ran through, marking the time like a cumbersome stroke that doesn’t allow distractions or delays.

A slide in the slum

Kollol – a man whose real job or nature we never really got to understand – became our guardian angel.   He first helped us to cast some street kids and then he took on all the responsibilities of shooting, helping us to find locations, organizing the sets, the transfers, the meals, ensuring the translations and the communications with our actors, playing a role himself and finally even achieving to stop – with great easiness – the traffic of dozens of cars and trucks in a location where we needed to shoot, by speaking briefly to a couple of policemen.

Meherunnesa, Enrico and Kollol during the shooting

We got the impression that the film came to us, rather than us orchestrating it ourselves. For example, a ten-year-old girl called Meherunnesaen, was staring at us with a helpless look from outside the window of a photography shop. She was following us from the railroad where we previously stopped. When we left the shop, she offered us a lollipop. She didn’t speak English, so we couldn’t communicate verbally, but she brought a gentleness, a luminous grace, that caught our affection immediately.

Ext, Night, Railroad Slum.

The shooting has ended with the last scene: the young girl carrying her little brother in her arms, with the train breaking through the darkness and messing up her hair, covering with its sound the screams and the cries of the young kid. Enrico pays and thanks all the people that participated in the movie, then we are taken into a shiny metallized suv of a film producer that came to meet with Enrico.

Air conditioning is turned on and the guy immediately start speaking about cameras, costs, ballerinas, Italy, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred thousand dollars, as his driver engages the first gear we move across all the eyes of the crowd that stare at us. Meherunnesa, her sisters, her mother and all the others, especially the kids, vows their hands looking to us from the back window of the car. In the head resound the words of the mother: don’t forget about us.

In the eyes the tears of Meherunnesa, her first shoes that Enrico bought her, that tomorrow she will proudly wear at school. And while the enterprising producer keeps on speaking, something inside silently breaks. “Consider the convenience and the farsightedness of such a fast growing market as the Bangladeshi one. If you want to make good business think about it, mister. Think about it.

In my head the words of her mother still resound:

‘Don’t forget about us’.

While the train runs

a short film by Enrico Parenti, Bartolomeo Pampaloni & Kollol Alimuzzaman.

Support our Collective!

Share this post with your friends!