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Storytelling through filmmaking: spotlighting transgender voices


Identity, process, challenges and triumphs - filmmaker Estiak Prottoy reflects on his experience working on the GRRIPP South Asia digital storytelling project and the personal journey that accompanied it.



Transgender Journeys:

The journey of self-discovery and acceptance is unique for every individual, especially for those who identify as transgender. In today's world, there is still a lot of stigma and discrimination associated with being transgender, which can make it difficult for people to share their experiences with others. However, when people do share their stories, it can create awareness and understanding, leading to greater acceptance and empathy.


“Breaking Barriers: A Storyteller's Journey of Empowerment and Acceptance Through Listening”. Photo Credit: Rafatul Islam (Assistant Director of Chitrokarkhana). Photo taken and used here with permission.

Spotlighting marginalised communities:

GRRIPP South Asia is supporting a very interesting project exploring these themes – “Digital Storytelling for Community-based Inclusive DRR for Empowerment: Addressing Implications of Intersectionality in Disaster Risk Reduction“, which involves documentary filmmaking. I had a dream of creating a thought-provoking documentary. So, it was with a deep sense of responsibility that I took on the role of the project director. The mission was to bring to light a pressing social issue and inspire change through the power of storytelling.


Transgender identity is a normal variation of human experience, and it is important to recognise and celebrate the diversity of identities that exist in our world

Digital storytelling can be a powerful tool for sharing personal experiences and perspectives, and it offers a great opportunity to work with different communities and individuals, especially those who are marginalised.


Transgender individuals often face discrimination and marginalisation, and their voices are often not heard in mainstream media. By giving them a platform to share their stories, it can help to increase visibility and understanding of their experiences, as well as raise awareness about the challenges they face.


Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a transgender community at Kanaipur in Faridpur district where I recorded their journey through a video documentary. The experience was eye-opening and enlightening, and I learned a lot about what it means to be transgender in today's society. Transgender identity is a normal variation of human experience, and it is important to recognise and celebrate the diversity of identities that exist in our world.


[it's] important to provide opportunities for transgender individuals to thrive and showcase their talents and abilities

It is true that transgender individuals often face significant challenges and discrimination in accessing opportunities and resources. Many are marginalized and face stigma, violence, and exclusion from mainstream society. This makes it even more important to provide opportunities for transgender individuals to thrive and showcase their talents and abilities.


Digital Storytelling in Practice:

As the project director of the documentary, my responsibilities primarily involve background data analysis and project design.

Background Data Analysis

Research: After establishing our documentary focus on the transgender community, I conducted extensive research on the subject matter. For this, I along with my team, went to Gazipur & Faridpur for a “recce”, or field research.


Data collection: We then gathered relevant data and information with the help of one of the locals named Alam.

Project Design

From the moment I arrived at Kanaipur in Faridpur district, I could sense that Shapla*, part of the transgender community, was nervous about sharing her story. She had never spoken about her gender identity publicly before, and she was understandably apprehensive about how others might react. However, as we talked more and more, she started to open up about her experiences and feelings.


“Finding Love and Respect in the Unfamiliar Faces”. Photo Credit: Amirul Shakil (Assistant of Cinematographer Chitrokarkhana). Photo taken and used here with permission.

I was struck by the depth of emotion and complexity of her story. For Shapla, being transgender was not just about the physical changes she had undergone, but also about the mental and emotional struggles she had faced. She talked about the confusion and uncertainty they felt as a child, the fear and isolation they experienced as a teenager, and the hope and relief they felt when she finally came out as a woman and as transgender or Hizra (also referred to as Hijra – a transgender community present across South Asia for centuries).


Through her story, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the challenges that transgender individuals face every day. From discrimination and bullying “by society and friends”, to healthcare disparities and social exclusion, being transgender is not an easy journey. However, despite all of these challenges, Shapla remained positive and hopeful about the future.


Opening up and being vulnerable is a powerful tool for personal growth and self-expression

After our conversation, we began filming for the video documentary. The process of opening up and being vulnerable is a powerful tool for personal growth and self-expression. It was fascinating to witness the transformation of Shapla and others from the community, who initially appeared shy but gained confidence in front of a camera. Some found it empowering and cathartic to share their stories, particularly those who have overcome significant challenges or struggles. They spoke candidly about their fears and hopes and shared their journey with great honesty and vulnerability. It was a truly inspiring experience, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.


However, it's important to remember that not everyone feels comfortable in front of a camera or sharing their personal experiences in such a public manner. People have different personalities, levels of and comfort zones. Some individuals preferred to keep their struggles private and felt uneasy being the center of attention.


It was a truly inspiring experience, and I felt privileged to be a part of it

As I reflect on my experience, I am struck by the importance of sharing stories like this. By creating awareness and understanding about what it means to be transgender, storytellers can help to break down the barriers and stigma that prevent so many people from living their lives to the fullest. I am so pleased to be a part of GRRIPP South Asia's project on digital storytelling and I hope that this video documentary will be a small step towards greater acceptance and empathy for transgender individuals everywhere.

*Name has been changed

 

Headshot of Estiak. He is South Asian, wears trendy round glasses, facial hair and wears his dark hair tied back. He is wearing a white shirt and smiles at the camera confidently with his arms crossed in front of him.

Estiak Prottoy: is a rising Documentary Filmmaker who is currently working for GRRIPP South Asia on the Digital Storytelling part 02 in Bangladesh. He is passionate about promoting social justice. After graduating from ULAB with a degree in Digital TV and Film Production, he gained valuable experience working with international NGOs and underprivileged communities. He is well known for his ability to tell compelling stories, and some of the documentaries that have received recognition and appreciation.


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