Drawing Creative Inspiration from Challenges of Life

Children can do anything if they are not discouraged, says three-time Meena Media Award winner child prodigy

Akram Hosen
মীনা মিডিয়া অ্যাওয়ার্ড ২০১৮
UNICEF Bangladesh/2018/Kiron
30 May 2019

Several years ago, a speaker at a discussion of film enthusiasts told students that children could make films if they wanted. Syeda Abrar Toaha Draha, a seventh-grader at the time, took the words quite literally and soon afterwards made a short film using her mother’s mobile phone.

She had been a member of Children Film Society of Bangladesh for several months and had just attended a discussion on script writing, storytelling and storyboards.

After her first project, positive feedbacks from her peers spurred her on to become even more passionate about filmmaking.

Now a 16-year-old, Draha has already bagged several awards for her films and won the first prize in the creative visual category of the prestigious Meena Media Award for her stop-motion animation film “Rise”.

She made the film with her elder sister Syeda Ashfah Toaha Duti. The duo receiving the first prize were quite the showstoppers at the gala reception of Meena Media Award 2018 on November 20, which coincided with the World Children’s Day.

“The main character in the film is a clay doll I made. I wanted to show in the two-and-a-half minute of stop motion how a woman faces hurdles at every step and overcomes barriers to achieve her goal all the time,” she says after the ceremony at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.

Technical terminology

But what is stop-motion animation? “It's a technique I am really interested in,” explains Draha.

Mostly searching the internet, she learnt how objects can be physically moved a little bit between individually photographed frames so that they appear to be animated when the frames are put together and played.

“We placed the clay object in front of a camera and moved it very slightly as we took pictures of it. Our two-and-a-half minute production required more than 1,500 photos. Duti took the photos and I edited them later and made the film.”

 Creative inspiration

“I get inspiration from watching my mother face challenges and overcome them every day like the clay doll in the ‘Rise’.”

Her mother Syeda Azizun Nahar, head teacher of a primary school in Doyaganj, does not mind these activities “as long as I don't get too distracted from studies”.

“I made two such films in the past on child abuse.

মীনা মিডিয়া অ্যাওয়ার্ড ২০১৮
UNICEF Bangladesh/2018/Kiron

Cautious encouragement from parents

Her parents maintain that “too much” involvement in extracurricular activities can hamper studies. “When I told my parents about my passion, they encouraged me, but at the same time, told me to take care of my studies first.

“They never seem to be too worried about me. Nowadays, my mother informs me whenever she hears about a film festival or screening.”

She didn't tell her friends in school about her creative adventure at first. It was after she won a prize that everyone in her class knew about it.

“Many of them say that their parents wouldn't let them spend time on anything but studies.  They keep telling me that I have been able to do this because of my parents.”

Winning spree continues

“I got my first award in 2016 Meena Media Award for ‘The Result’. It was the runner up. In 2017, I won the first prize for ‘The Race’, which is my take on our society’s obsession with better grades in exams.

“Because of our education, children are burdened with massive tasks and deadlines. They are always stressed and under pressure to complete tasks. In exams, they must answer every question. It is happening to every child,” she says.

She believes that girls her age can do anything if they are not discouraged whenever they try something new.

Surprisingly, it was her father who first noticed an announcement of the Meena Media Award on newspaper and told her about it.

“He knew about my passion for films and casually asked me one morning if I was interested in applying for the award. Then I looked it up and got in touch with UNICEF. It all started like this.”

 Future plans

“I would like to study film making. Everyone is making commercial movies these days. I want to work on some real, pressing issues. I want to show my films in Bangladesh and elsewhere,” she adds.