Heartland Film Festival: “Under Construction”

By Bob Bloom

“Under Construction” is a feature from Bangladesh about a middle-aged actress dealing with the challenges of age and the traditional expectations of her husband and mother in a Muslim world.

For years, Roya has portrayed Nandini, the epitome of Bengali womanhood, in the political play, “Red Oleanders.”

Now, she is being replaced by a younger woman and must redefine herself as a performer and a woman.

The pressures on Roya are immense. Her husband wishes that she quit acting so they can start a family. Her mother, whose husband ran off with an actress, disapproves of Roya’s life and wishes she would be satisfied as a old-fashioned Muslim woman.

But Roya cannot bring herself to give up performing, despite being discouraged.

Like the buildings going up around her apartment complex, Roya decides to reconstruct herself and write, direct and star in an adaptation of “Red Oleanders” that has more meaning to a society and culture that seems to be at odds with itself.

Her inspiration is Moyna, her young housemaid who, after becoming pregnant, takes a job sewing garments in a factory.

When tragedy hits close to home, Roya becomes even more determined to complete her project.

“Under Construction” opens a window and displays the cultural restraints that most Westerners only have read about or seen on the news.

Roya wishes to establish and keep her own identity — not as her husband’s wife or her mother’s daughter, but as her own woman.

She is conflicted though, finding support only from a Westernized Bengali artist who has settled in London and has returned to Dhaka so he can present a production of “Red Oleanders” at an international theater festival.

“Under Construction,” even at just under 90 minutes, is languid. It takes its time unfolding as we slowly watch Roya grow spiritually and emotionally.

Shahana Goswami brings a muted strength as well as vulnerability to Roya. She is both hesitant and committed to throwing off the cultural shackles of society, fearing the consequences, yet expectant about the freedom it would mean.

“Under Construction” is a meaningful feature because it eschews melodrama for quiet introspection.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

3 stars out of 4
Not rated: sexual situations

For showtimes and ticket information about the Heartland Film Festival, visit: http://heartlandfilm.org/festival/

“Under Construction” will be shown at the following times and theaters:12:15 p.m. Monday, AMC Showplace Traders Point
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, AMC Castleton Square
11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, AMC Castleton Square
12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, AMC Showplace Traders Point

  • ReelBob

    Let us know if you plan to attend Heartland what films you are looking forwrd to seeing.