by NEA MAATY (Nea is a staff journalist with the Focus Media Arts Centre)
In recognition of the large Bengali community living in Regent Park and St. James Town, we interview award winning filmmaker Lalita Krishna and director Elizabeth D’ Costa about their latest film Bangla Surf Girls. The film premieres online at the virtual 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival (April 29 – May 9, 2021).
As a producer, Lalita Krishna is interested in stories that change lives and focus on issues related to poverty, women’s rights, child labour, and domestic violence. With 20 years of experience in the documentary film industry, Lalita observes that these problems exist not only in poor far away countries but also have relevance here in North America.
Bangla Surf Girls is Lalita’s latest film. It is an inspiring story about the resilience of three girls who join the surf program in their local community in Bangladesh. We find these girls among the children who sell food and goods at the beach. To play, to learn, and to have fun are unique life experiences for these girls whose peers must struggle with responsibilities like earning money for their families, cooking, or just getting married. For the surf girls, there is an opportunity to do something different from what their moms, aunts, and grandmothers did.
The story has unexpected surprises. According to the director Elizabeth D’Costa, “It doesn’t always have to go the way you planned or expected. In real life, unexpected things happen and as a documentary filmmaker you follow the characters and let people decide. You have to be open to changes in life.”
Elizabeth, who speaks Bengali, visited the slums of Bangladesh. She even lived there to build the trust of the girls and worked hard to understand their lives. The area was a bit dangerous, “One person was murdered a day before I started shooting,” Elizabeth said, but she felt safe in the area because everyone made sure she was in good hands. The director was able to build a beautiful friendship with the girls and their family, all of which needed time and patience.
One of the struggles the director faced was capturing the numerous things happening in the girls’ lives at the same time. It was challenging for Elizabeth and Lalita to decide what to keep in the film and what to edit out. Another challenge was the girls’ young ages. As a result, sometimes the girls struggled to make a clear choice. Low light in the slum was another difficulty faced by Elizabeth. Finally, there was the weather. Sometimes they didn’t get the waves required for surfing, even though they were prepared and ready with the right lenses and the drones.
As a result of all these difficulties, the film took three years instead of the one year that Lalita planned. She says, “It took so much patience and persistence to complete the film.”
For more of the interview with producer Lalita Krishna and director Elizabeth D’ Costa, visit https://youtu.be/trzWCOHcov4.