– . – DocuScope
An Observational Piece of Documentary
THE LAST THAKUR is a bold proposition: a Western set in Bangladesh that uses techniques more familiar in an observational documentary. It’s also the feature debut of Sadik Ahmed, a filmmaker and cinematographer trained at the National Film and Television School, whose graduation film TANJU MIAH screened at festivals worldwide and won plaudits everywhere it was shown. Ahmed was nominated for a prestigious Grierson Award, the main annual award for British documentary.
So while he has chosen a fiction film for his first feature, it seems that the documentary influence doesn’t shift easily: THE LAST THAKUR is a beautifully shot western, set in a mythical village in Bangladesh not long after a war. A stranger arrives in town and enters an ongoing conflict between the Chairman, the village’s popular leader, and Thakur, an outcast Hindu overladen with troubles. All the hallmarks of a western are there: the central conflict, the stranger who disrupts the status quo, the sparse and imposing landscape. However, in place of the long takes and still camera is a verité style more familiar from the observational documentaries of Maysles and Pennebaker.
Sadik Ahmed says of his approach: “Everything about the film I just designed to look and feel like a documentary. The way we placed the extras, crossing the frame, long lenses, observational, long takes. Even the acting style, I tried to keep it quite observational. I wanted the whole film to look and feel like an observational piece of documentary.”
For documentary purists, the idea of using drama techniques in a documentary film is sometimes contentious, although films like TOUCHING THE VOID have gone some way toward addressing that. And yet the use of documentary techniques in drama seems much more readily accepted; from Ken Loach to Paul Greengrass and beyond, the shaky camera and use of non-actors are accepted devices in drama (if not necessarily in westerns).