The Salt in Our Waters (Nonajoler Kabbo) at London Indian Film Festival
The debut feature from Tisch Film School graduate Rezwan Shahriar Sumit, The Salt in Our Waters explores the effects of climate change on a coastal village in southern Bangladesh. Sculpture artist Rudro (Titas Zia) leaves the city to venture where his father once assisted with aid relief for the community after a cyclone hit. He sets up a studio in the local village of Patuakhali, Barisal, creating beautiful, elegant figures, many of which depict the human body. Soon, his modern outlook is met with contempt, creating a divide between the traditional and more progressive ways of urban life.
The locals are led by a chairman and faith leader (portrayed excellently by Fazlur Rahman Babu), who feels threatened by Rudro’s creations, interpreting the artwork as a form of idolatry – an affront to the very core of Islam. The artist is again targeted as the village experiences a shortage of fish, the popular ilish (hilsa) native to South Asia. When he attempts to explain the effects of climate change, Rudro faces antagonism as superstitions come up against scientific logic. However, he has a few people on his side, like his tenant Bashar’s daughter, Tuni (Tasnova Tamanna), and her little brother Taher, played by one of the many wonderful non-professional cast.
Sumit was initially inspired to write the feature when visiting the fishing village as an undergraduate, observing men head straight into the sea, riding the intimidating waves as generations before them did; one of the striking moments in the film features the fishermen confronting the huge, cresting swells. Cinematographer Chananun Chotrungroj captures the dusky blues of the balmy evenings with a distinct eye. Elsewhere, the previous day’s lightning storm is juxtaposed with a slanting shaft of soft-hued rainbow. Edila Turin’s costume design is also masterful, with brightly coloured saris contrasting with the overcast weather. Arnob – one of Bangladesh’s most prolific artists – provides the score that complements the melodic sermons. In one touching scene a villager laments the oncoming cyclone, while the community wait for safety.
Tuni is reticent, and although her friendship with Rudro does not flourish, it remains evident; when she shows him a colossal, stranded ship, which stands stark against the vast sky and beach front, their bond is natural. Although there was perhaps a missed opportunity with the demise of troubled adolescent Nisar, the filmmaker presumably intentionally left more to be desired.
Sumit’s debut is a testament to his abilities both as a writer and director, capturing a part of Bangladesh not usually seen on screen. A talent worth watching.
The Salt in Our Waters (Nonajoler Kabbo) does not have an official UK release date yet.
The London Indian Film Festival is on from 17th June until 4th July 2021. For further information visit here.
Watch the trailer for The Salt in Our Waters (Nonajoler Kabbo) here: