By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik August 18, 2011 at 1:35AM
World art cinema has lost an important voice.
Bangladeshi filmmaker Tareque Masud, the acclaimed director of "The Clay Bird," has been killed in a bus crash near Dhaka. His wife, Chicago-born producer Catherine Masud, was seriously injured in the accident.
A highly political filmmaker, but with a subtlety of touch that brought him plenty of critical accolades, Masud will be sorely missed.
"The Clay Bird" (trailer below), which won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 and was Bangladesh's first Oscar submission in 2003, told the story of a young boy living at a madrasa or Islamic religious school. While the film was heralded by Western critics, with its thoughtful examination of religious zealotry, it was initially refused a certificate by the Bangladeshi government, who said it gave a distorted image of the madrasa system, according to reports.
In his New York Times review, critic Elvis Mitchell called the movie "easily one of the finest pictures of 2003 or any other year. Mr. Masud's expansive fluidity is rapturous, inspired equally by the floating equanimity of Satyajit Ray and the work of the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who deftly uses ritual behavior to provide social commentary."
"It's evident that Mr. Masud loves all his characters, even the small-minded ones — the sign of a real director," continued Mitchell. "It's no small achievement to make a picture that extols the necessity for clear, free thought while dramatizing the barriers that challenge such a capacity."
Masud's other films include the 1999 documentary "Words of Freedom" and 2005's "Homeland." According to The Guardian, at the time of Masud's death, the couple had been working on "The Paper Flower," which deals with the problems of the partition of the Indian subcontinent, a sort of prequel to "The Clay Bird."