The Hilsha 1

The Hilsha ইলিশ 

Molla Sagar

This film was made with Hilsha fishermen in the Char-Tufania region. The Hilsha fish (also known as Illish) is considered an important delicacy in Bangladesh. It provides valuable nutrition, income, and jobs.  

The Hilsha is based around the life stories of a group of small-scale fishermen, and the challenges they face. The folk songs they sing, and their candid interviews weave a troubling narrative; These men are living far away from home, renting a mooring for their impermanent homes on shifting islands called ‘Chars’. The land they sleep on is as precarious as the life out at sea where they are held hostage by pirates and the majority of fish taken by larger boats.  

The film is narrated by Billal Hossain, who explains how he and his crew came to the char to alleviate poverty. Despite the personal and financial sacrifices they have made, not seeing their family for long periods of time, they still face poverty and hunger. Billal has found himself giving money to moneylenders, getting paid badly for their catch and being charged extortionate rates for rent of their mooring. 

Molla Sagar is a prominent documentary filmmaker in Bangladesh. Sagar makes films with a deep respect and empathy for the people he depicts. The subjects in his work do not live in a space of pity; he aims to show their resilience in the face of impossible challenges.  

Sagar’s films focus on people living in all corners of Bangladesh struggling to attain the basics for survival because of issues caused by environmental disaster. His films cover the killing of a river, the salination of farmland, the consequences of open cast coal mining, land grabbing, protest, and the fight for survival of people living on the coastal belt while they are hostage to the climate emergency.