“Made in Bangladesh” opens with a close-up of a woman threading a sewing machine. As the closing credits begin, the sounds of a sewing machine return from that initial sequence; it may not be until that moment that you realize just how much the movie has taken you — minutely, step by step — through an arduous process.
The film, directed by Rubaiyat Hossain, follows a group of garment factory workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as they take steps to form a union after one of their own is killed in a fire. Shimu (Rikita Nandini Shimu) becomes the leader of the effort, obtaining signatures, furtively capturing images of her workplace and pressing bureaucrats not to stall on the paperwork.
The manager (Azaz Bari) and the floor boss (Shatabdi Wadud) — who think nothing of withholding wages from the women or forcing them to sleep at the sweltering factory without a fan — fight the moves to unionize at every turn. For the most part, so does Shimu’s patriarchal husband (Mostafa Monwar), even though he is unemployed at the film’s start.
None of this plays out at the level of subtext, and much of the dialogue is straightforwardly expository, as the women learn about Bangladesh’s labor code or as a workers’ advocate (Shahana Goswami) tells Shimu the value of the shirts they make. The characters, who are largely ignorant of their rights, need the explanations, but there are times when the lessons feel like needless hand-holding for viewers. Still, as Shimu’s efforts ramp up and appear increasingly futile, “Made in Bangladesh” acquires a quiet power.
Made in Bangladesh
Not rated. In Bengali, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.