Anecdotes from Bangladesh: A Look at the Intersection of Culture, Gender and the Documentary Process Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • DeKornfeld, Ora
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • In summer 2013, I travelled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to visually document one woman’s experience with obstetric fistula. I spent three weeks in Bangladesh, filming daily life, conducting interviews and upon my return, editing the footage into a short-form documentary film in which I attempt to convey the personal journey of Anawora, a fistula patient. Initially, the purpose of this paper was to cultivate a space in which I could 1) reflect on my experience in Bangladesh and 2) analyze gender disparity, racial power dynamics and cultural norms in Bangladesh through the lens of the documentary process; however, as this written reflection evolved, the paper became equally about understanding and challenging the limitations of the documentary process itself. Informed by a concrete journalistic code of ethics, I had made assumptions about what the documentary process necessarily has to be. Consequently, during the making of the film, I found myself constantly redefining and questioning what documentary can be while simultaneously reassessing how truth fits into that equation. By taking my skillset and applying it in the field, I tested my assumptions of what I believed the documentary process to be with the reality of how the process transpires and takes form when confronted with a foreign culture. I encountered numerous obstacles that challenged my moral code in a journalistic sense but also on a personal level. In almost every case, these obstacles emerged from my failure to fully anticipate the impact of Bangladeshi gender relations and cultural norms on production. In my mind, these obstacles were preventing me from getting to my story. I wanted to tell the story of a Bangladeshi woman named Anawora and her experience with obstetric fistula, a hole between the birth canal and one or more of the adjacent organs. I felt as though I was crashing into the organization of culture surrounding the specific story I wanted to tell. Upon further reflection, I realize these obstacles are part of the story-- both Anawora’s story and the broader narrative of Bangladesh. In the finished documentary, I attempt to show the context of culture in order to both orient the audience in this world and represent reality as I experienced it. In this reflection, I’d like to share some anecdotes that are representative of moments when I reassess my methods and expectations.
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: CGI Undergraduate Health Fellowship, John Hope Franklin Award
  • Funding: Tom and Elizabeth Long Excellence Fund for Honors
  • Hondros, Kristin
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Highest Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 16 p.

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