Bamboo Stories (2019) - full transcript

A group of men in North-Eastern Bangladesh are facing a dangerous mission. They are to conquer the river, with a 70 meter long raft. The ride is 300 kilometre long, always downstream. The ...

I loved you with all my heart,

and still you're hurting me.

The flower chain I gave you as a gift,

to whom did you give it, my love?

Hurt me as much as you want.

I loved you with all my heart,

and still you're hurting me...

Ready, go!

Hey boys!
Are you still bundling?

How are you?
- Fine.

When did you get here?
- Just now. It's boring back home.

Do you want to start now?
- Sure! Here we go!

Push harder!


Very good!

Let's move the bundle!

Is lunch ready?
- Yes.

So what's for lunch?

It doesn't taste as good as at home.

I never thought I'd find you here again.

Yes, for seven months now.

Let's finish the last bundle now.

As fast as possible,
we have to hurry.

We have to leave in a few days.

Bring the stems to the canal.

Sure. I'll take these too.

So much bamboo makes my heart beat faster.

Yeah, I feel the same.

Get more workers.
Or you won't get the job done.

Sure, I will.
- OK, do it fast!

Salaam alaikum!
- Alaikum salaam!

Come on, hurry up!

This is good stuff!

One, two,

three, four,

five, six,

seven, eight.

Length is important.

Do you understand? Length is important.

Hey Moinar!
- Yes?

The length isn't right!

You cut the stems too short.

They're half a cubit short.

They must be 15 cubits long.

You're cutting them at 14.

- Pull! Yes, pull!

It should look nice!
- But it has to hold as well!

Otherwise it could break up.
- Pull!

Hussein, push the raft!
We'll start the engine.

We should follow your raft?
But you anchor in the middle of nowhere!

It's quieter there.
- Where do you anchor tonight?

No idea.

But not in Marguli!
Or we'll be ambushed by pirates.

Folks, is that an engine or is that junk?
You better toss it overboard now!


Well, here we go!
- The engine heard what I said.

Don't stop in every port.
Our first stop is Paharpur.

Straight to Paharpur?
- Yes, that's the first port.

Head on! We only have 13 days
to make the 300 km to Boidder Bazar!

Are you adding the beans now?
- No, later.

The potatoes aren't done yet.

Cut the coriander finely.
- Yes.

What kind of fish is it?
- Dhonia.

We can't just go without working.
- Just sit around at home is bad.

- That makes me sick.

Also as a young man.

I have never been unemployed in my life.

I started out on the raft as a cook.

I was eight at the time
and used to walk around naked.

An uncle brought me onto the raft.

My salary was 25 takas a month.

I supported my family with that money.

It went on like this for many years.
I always came back to the raft.

Then my father decided
I should come home.

Back then,
nobody stood against their parents.

My siblings were growing up.

My father said
I shouldn't work so far away.

I should stay at home.
Actually, he wanted to marry me off.

I was just 18 years old.

I was supposed to get married at 18!

Believe it or not:
At the time I didn't know what a woman was.

Three days after my wedding
I ran away and got on the next raft.

I didn't come home for three months.

This is an insect repellent.

It protects you from leeches and mosquitoes.

It's made of mustard oil and tobacco powder.

Hey, the stems must all be the same length!

Do you understand?

Look here! Right here!

You have cut the stems too high.
Don't cut them too high.

Otherwise they can't regrow.

Start bundling!
- Will do!

Don't cut your hands.

Go for lunch if you want.

Bamboo is very useful.

Poor people like me can work in the forest.

We make our living cutting bamboo.

I can provide for my family with it.

Someone else can then buy the stem
and build a house with it.

Others can build a fence around their fields.

You can easily build a fence using bamboo.

It's thin and flexible.
You can transport this material easily.

Everyone can benefit from it.

I remember...

I was 13 years old at the time.

I used to bunk off school.

I often got into trouble with my dad.

He said if his salary was not enough
to cover our school fees,

he would ask some relatives
and friends for support:

"Help me finance my children's education!"

My dad really tried to motivate me.

He himself couldn't go to school.
I always fooled around with other kids.

So I was expelled from the school
and ruined my chances.

My father told my mother:

"This boy is going nowhere. He'd better
start working with me in the woods."

Boss, I'm trying to make a deal
with this retailer.

If he doesn't increase his offer,
I won't sell.

Yes, break off the negotiation then.

I'll get back to you soon.

Yes. Set a high price.

Sure! I started at 55 takas.

But he seems new to the business.
He doesn't have much money.

Try to sell a few stems anyway.
- Alright, I'll be in touch.

At least a bundle.
- OK.

All right, I'll try.

Sir! My boss says
you have to raise your bid!

In Dhaka we sell this type of bamboo
for 60 takas.

We offer them at a discount price on the way.

If you really want to buy,
we'll make you a good offer.

But not for a taka less!
- OK, name your price.

The very last offer is 42 takas,
just for you!

The boss said 45.
But I'm offering it for 42.

I have one request.
- Yes?

I'm 2000 takas short.
Could I transfer the money by phone?

No, we can't do that.
- But I have most of it.

Sorry, I can wait for the money for one hour,
but I can't give you credit.

Do you understand?

Pull us further toward the shore!

You just keep going with the boat!

Let it go!

Stronger wind
and we would have been done for!

A rope just snapped on the other raft.

Hey, that's enough!

Last monsun we rammed a dredger.
The raft broke right in the middle.

We had to stop.

It took us whole day
to tie everything together again.

We couldn't even have lunch on that day.

One can't afford to lose a single stem.
That would annoy the wholesaler.

So we had to take care of the stems first.

Each bundle hast 400 stems,
and the whole raft?

It's exactly...

...60 bundles.

How long did it take to build the raft?

There were three of us the first five days.
Then two more colleagues came.

Altogether it took us 13 days.

That was the bundling.

I had to relieve myself,
but I just couldn't.

Really? I'm so sorry.
We had to save the raft first.

There are too many people on this raft.
It disturbs me.

We'll build a toilet on the raft for you.

I'll go and order some bricks.

You have high standards...

So you use this corner as a toilet?
- The whole raft is our toilet.

You just have to find an opening
and let it flow.

Very practical!

Toilet, bathroom, laundry room.
All in one!

We also use this water for cooking.

We drink water from the river and pee in it.

So the river gets its water back.
We don't need to store any water.

The water is good here.
- Very good!

Flowing water is always good.
- Of course!

Salaam boss!

I'm where the workers are cutting the bamboo.

There's an elephant nearby.
We don't know if he's on heat.

If he comes any closer,
my workers will flee.

The elephant is over there.

He breaks the bamboo saplings and eats them.

The elephant guide isn't here yet.

Damned beast,
why can't you just leave us alone?

Come on!
Move your butt!

What is the foreman doing?
- Liakot is trying to provoke it.

He wants to find out
if the elephant is on heat.

If it is, it'll attack.
If not, it'll escape.

Shaheen, run! Run now!

Here it comes!

Did you see it? Is it on heat?
- I couldn't recognise that.

I was really scared!

Damned leeches!

Make sure it doesn't crush my bamboo!

Do the elephants come here often?
- Yes, very often.

We usually call the forest tenant,
who sends the elephant guide.

He then scares away the beasts.

Damned troublemaker!
I'm coming after you now!

Do you really have to take
your bath right here?

Get lost! Go away!

Hey, my men are working over there!

Over there on the hillside.

I'll teach you some manners!

There are so many hazards in these woods.
We are constantly at risk.

Some cut their hand or feet
felling the bamboo.

There are even other risks.

For example, snakes or centipedes.

In such a case
I have to take care of my men.

Some have to go to hospital.

Or we go to a village
where a shaman can neutralize the poison.

Such things happen every day around here.

That's why I'm always worried about my men.

Does someone have a problem?
Has something happened to him?

Who showed up for work?
And who's missing?

As foreman,
I'm always worried about my guys.

The stem is covered with very fine hair.

I wipe them off so they don't get on my skin.

Otherwise it starts itching badly
when I carry the stems.

Are you done bundling?

Shoulder the stems now! And cut lower!
- You don't have to tell me that!

I'm not telling you,
- I always cut low.

I meant the newcomers!
Many cut the bamboo...

way too high.

The leeches are a torture.
- They're a plague.

Watch out, the forest tenant is here.
- Let him come!

He should see how we work.

Salaam boss!
- Alaikum salaam!

Do you want your bamboo now?
- No.

You're carrying stems, too?
- Yes, we aren't enough.

Where are you cutting?
- On the hillside over there.

Where? Where exactly?

On the hillside, up there.

Where exactly?
- Over there.

On the spot higher up
that we went to see last time.

You know what I mean?
- How many workers are there?

Well, there are a few already.
- How many?

You see, how long the stems are?
- Very good.

We need more workers.

I'll send some later.

I need to talk to you.

Is there any water?
- Let's drink some water first.

Is it itching?

Yes, all the time!

You're cutting all the types of bamboo,
right? Are you cutting the Zatai bamboo?

They are deep in the woods.
We can't reach there.

It's a dense patch of the forest.

Nonsense! You should have spotted
the Zatai bamboo and cleared a path.

I don't know how you work.
You always look for an easy way.

Salaam aleikum.

Salaam aleikum?

No, I don't know.

I'll have to ask in Dhaka.
If the court has reached the verdict.

Yes, I'll ask. Bye!

We sued the forestry authority.
The lease period is too short.

But we lost the lawsuit.
Now we have to file an appeal.

It's getting complicated now.

We live in the digital age. The forestry
authority should adjust the laws.

For example...
At first the lease period was 12 months.

We were able to cut eight million stems.
There were enough loggers then.

We had also day labourers.
Today, many people go abroad.

There are thousand jobs in construction.

There are so many easy jobs
like masoning, or farming.

Logging is hard work. After three days
of work one has to rest for four days.

We'll never get four million stems
in such a short time.

I paid millions for this bamboo.
But I cannot cut a single stem.

If I cut one,
I have to sleep for two days.

Only loggers can do that.
I depend on them.

God has given me a lot of money.
But not the ability to cut bamboo.

We're in this business for three generations.
First it was my grandfather, then my father.

Continuing the tradition,
I run the business now.

I create jobs for the poor this way.

Let's have a break now.

Did you hear what the leaseholder said?
He has to go to bed, after cutting one stem.


Only one stem!
We have to cut 50 per day.

Still he won't raise our wages.
- He never does.

I just want to be paid properly for my work.

These damn jungle critters
suck all our blood.

If you're not paid enough,
how can you stay motivated?

I want to confront him.
But when I see him, I lose my courage.

But we depend on him.
- How much do you get for cutting a stem?

It's four takas (0.04 euros) per stem.

Even a cup of tea at the bazaar
costs three takas.

And a kilogram of rice is 40 to 50 takas.

And for much does the leaseholder
sell a bamboo?

How much?

Ask the foreman, he knows.
- How much?

He sells some of the stems
to the wholesaler for...

...20, 25, 30 takas, or more.

It depends.

It depends on the deal he makes
with the wholesaler.

Wholesalers pay more for good stems.

They pay less for the bad ones.

Come on, let's get back to work.
We don't have much time.

Let's walk right here.

Alaikum salaam!
How are you guys doing on the raft?

How is the bamboo selling?

Well, the retailers,
that's just how they are.

Let them bargain.
They have a right to it.

You haven't sold anything yet?

If retailers don't want to buy,
there's nothing we can do.

You don't have to bargain then.
Where is Shoheed?

You don't have to cosy up to anyone.
Just keep going.

Are these your bricks?
- Yes. Those are first choice bricks.

These are second choice.

Over there is the sand.
There are more bricks in the back.

Here is the gravel
and there is another type of brick.

So many bricks?
I thought you are a bamboo wholesaler?

Well, it's just a little side business
I have.

This is my office.

This is where I work with my employees.

Don't worry.
They'll make it alright.

Shiraz called.
They have to wait in a port.

- They don't want to carry on today.

The next port is too far away.
It's too dangerous for the raft.

They can't risk travelling at night.

Strong winds or a storm could break the raft.

If the river is so dangerous,
why not use a truck?

Well, that would be too expensive.

Transporting a single stem by truck
costs more than 20 takas.

Shipping it down the river
costs me only nine takas.

On the river we can transport
50,000 stems in a single raft.

By land, we would need 25 trucks.

The waterway is better for the wood too.
- Why?

The constant moisture
keeps the bamboo fresh.

You can also transport
the stems in large bundles.

Water keeps them protected
and it will last longer.

On a truck, they would dry out
and many stems would just break.

It's too expensive.
- Expensive and brings only disadvantages.

My family has been running this business
for generations.

I represent the fourth generation.

We can't give up on this business,
because it is in our flesh and blood.

So your son will take over one day?
- No, it's better if he doesn't.

It's a risky business.

When these children are grown up,
the bamboo business will be gone.

I want him to do something else.

He should learn another profession.

What a time we are living in now.


Look. They're building over there again.

All the earth they are digging up.
- Everything with just one excavator.

Are they building a dam?
- No, a factory.

That's why they are piling up?
- Right.

This excavator works all the time.
Day and night.

They're encroaching on the river.

It digs and piles up soil without a break.

And not a single worker in sight.

We are the retailers,
who buy bamboo from raftsmen.

We then sell the stems in the market.

Do you like this bamboo?
- Yeah. It is good.

We'll now try to negotiate a price
with the wholesaler.

We'll call him now
and hopefully we can agree on a price.

Are these stems new?

Boss, the retailers want to negotiate.
They have seen the stems.

Now they want to hear a price.

Salaam aleikum.
- Aleikum salaam.

What do the dholai
and the shagornal bamboo cost?

Which one do you want?

The cheaper one. So how much?
In fact, we need both types.

He should just name his price!


Name the price for both types.
We'll buy the cheaper one.

The dholai is excellent this time.

We saw that.
Just name a price.

You are the retailer.
You name a price.

Brother, the stems are yours!
We cannot suggest a price.

How many do you want to buy?
- We want 3,000 stems.

3,000 stems, all right...

For the dholai bamboo,
I want 34 takas per stem.

How much, 34?
- Yes, 34.

- Yes, 34. And for the shagornal?

It's already late.
I don't want to negotiate too long.

I want 38 takas for the shagornal bamboo.

You won't sell for less?

No, take a look at the stems again.

There are other rafts as well.
- Lower the price a bit.

No, just look at the stems!

We've already seen them.
- Other rafts will be here soon!

That's why we called you.
- The price is too high!

Let him bargain a bit.

These stems shouldn't cost more
than those we've bought already.

We'll offer you 25 for the dholai
and 32 for the shagornal bamboo.

If someone sells for 25 takas,

then he must have bought the stem
for 15 takas.

No idea. You are the wholesaler!
-, I can't do it for 25.

Whatever deal you cut
with a forest leaseholder is your business!

The transport alone costs ten takas.

If I sell a stem for 25,
I won't make any profit.

That would only cover the expenses.

If you accept our offer,
we could buy even 5,000 stems.

Nobody will sell you for this price.

But we already bought
some stems for this price.

- Yes, absolutely.

Come on, brother!
Let's meet in the middle.

We came on your raft to buy!

All right, our last offer is 27 takas.

If you agree,
we'll buy 5,000 right away.

And we're not going to buy on credit.
We pay at once.

No, you've to offer more!

No, sir! We've already
offered two more takas!

Come on, let's go!
- Two takas!

If you agree, call us back.
- OK, boss. We'll talk again later.

I'll call you after the evening-prayer.

All right.

Would you like to eat something? No?

We've eaten already.

We've eaten at home.
- Aha, you've eaten already.

I have two daughters and a son.

My daughter was born first,
then my son and now the little girl.

Because of a family feud,
I wasn't able

to build a house on my own property.

So I came here and asked my in-laws for help.

They allowed me to build the house
on this property.

They also provided their trees
for the construction.

That's how I built this house all by myself.

We lived with the in-laws back then.

But work in this house never ends.
I have to refurbish these walls soon.

I'll ask the forest leaseholder
to give me some bamboo.

I will refurbish the walls,
if I get some stems.

The wall is breaking down
on this side as well.

She is your mother-in-law?
- Yes.

Where is your wife?

She's busy in the kitchen.

She doesn't want to come out?
- Well, she's a bit shy. She doesn't want to.

What would you like your children
to become once they grow up?

Well, they're not grown up yet,

so I can't really say.

Should your son become a logger too?
- No, no.

I had no other choice.
But not him, no.

I want him to become a teacher
or to pick a similar profession.

I hope he would get a decent job.

The girls will leave eventually.

I can't hold on to them.

They'll be married off one day.

I work hard to save money

so I can marry off my daughters.

That's why I work especially hard.



My sweetheart!

Hi daddy.

How are you doing?
- Fine!

Have you had breakfast?
- No.

Aren't you hungry?

It's 9 a.m. already.
When do you want to eat?

You should have eaten earlier.

Listen, I went to the doctor with the boy.

He has nightmares
and he often yells in his sleep.

He gets scared of something
while he's sleeping.

Now, who is this?
- Mummy.

- Yes, that's your mum.

Do you know where she is now?

Do you want to throw the photos away?

You'll then have to look for them.

It was 7 o'clock in the morning.

My wife was in the kitchen,
cooking on the gas stove.

She didn't notice
her dress had caught fire.

Please don't tear the photos!

It was winter.
She probably thought

the heat she felt
came from the gas stove.

So she didn't notice
how her dress had caught fire.

Finally, she realized
she was in mortal danger.

There was nobody with her.

Some had already left the house,
others were asleep.

We heard the screams
and ran to the kitchen.

But the door was locked
because she was about to take off her dress.


When we finally barged in,

about 50% of her body was covered in burns.

Ten days later she died in the hospital.

My life has been chaos ever since.

I just don't feel well
when I'm at home.

I also don't feel like working here
in the village.

I am often very restless.

I'm often sad when I'm at home.

My relatives told me

it would be better
if I left home for a few years.

Time heals all wounds, they said.

Don't let the mood at home drag you down.

Stay away.

You'd better work somewhere else
for a few years.

That's why the work on the raft
suits me fine.

I chew betel when my throat gets dry.
If I chew it, then the juice comes out.

Do you understand?

Oh! A leech has crept in here.

There it is.

Haven't you use any repellent?
- I have, but not on the upper body.

It just snuck in here.
I noticed how it crawled up slowly.

Do you understand?

I felt it on my skin.

They suck you dry
whenever they can.

I moved from forest to forest
with my father for many years.

When I grew up,
and he became very old,

he was about to die,
and wanted a daughter-in-law.

The family just made a decision.

I did not agree at all

and ran away from home
to avoid marriage.

But they looked for me
and finally caught me.

They found me at the bazaar.

I was hiding there.

My father stood before me
with tears in his eyes.

So I gave in.

But I was lucky with my wife.
She even has a high school degree.

I can just write my name,
nothing else.

I can only sign my name.

But my wife attended school
until eighth grade.

My wife.

Even as a person, she is someone special.

Three years after our wedding,
she gave me a daughter.

You should eat.
I don't want you to run away.

Maybe I'll still run away.
- The food tastes good!

The cook must stay here until the end.

Shiraz, take more fish.

Doesn't Hussein want it?
- No.

You're having problems with the tide, right?
- Yes, exactly.

We could have continued with low tide,

but can't take advantage
of the tide at night, only in the morning.

We don't travel at night.
It's just too dangerous.

Why is it dangerous?

Because the river pirates are waiting for us.

We have nothing,
but they still target us.

Revenues are sent by phone.
- Why do they attack you then?

The pirates know we don't have much.

But all of us have our cell phones.

Four cell phones will get you
some quick cash.

200 per cell phone, that's 800.
They would be happy with that.

They're third-class pirates.
- Poor bastards like us.

They'll even take old clothes and shoes.

It's like in a bad movie.

Nobody would say who they are
although everyone knows them.

Their people collect protection money
even in broad daylight.

The police are in cahoots with them.

They screw us and the pirates too.

Both just rob us blind.

That's just how it is in this country.
What can you do?

Please give me a cigarette!

I need a cigarette.

Did you read the warning label
on the cigarette box?

You see,
what happens if you keep smoking?

"Smoking causes heart disease".
Stop smoking, or it's gonna kill you.

You won't survive a heart disease.
How many did you have this week?

Oh, leave him.
- Three packs so far.

Have you seen
how this poor bastard is dying?

With an oxygen mask.
- Do you know why I smoke?

- I'm worried about my family.

And smoking makes you worry less?

Better send home the money you smoke.
- Poverty never ends.

How should it end if you spend 150 takas
every week on smoking?

Send the money to your family.
They need it.

I cannot think if I don't smoke.
- Nonsense!

Your brain has already dried up
from smoking.

Stop smoking.

Or you'll die like this guy.
- An oxygen-mask won't help then.

You won't be able to breath.

Can you hear how he's coughing?

You will cough like that soon.
Look how he's wrapped himself up?

If you don't smoke,
you won't feel cold either.

You can walk around in a T-shirt like I do.

Stop smoking.


It would be better
if we talked directly to each other...

I'll call you back.
I see some visitors on my raft.

All right.
- Talk to you later.

We don't have any money today!

It's not about money. Come here!
- Sorry?

They are our guests...

What do the police want?

This river police always collects money
from us.

They want bribes?
- Yes.

Do you always have to pay up?
- Yes, always.

But since they've seen you
they just want to talk.

They want to know
who you're and what you're doing.

What happens if you don't pay?
- They would threat to beat us up.

Another group will show up soon to collect
protection money, because of pirates.

It's a work for bums.

I bought an electric rickshaw last year.

For 70,000 takas.

I rode it for eight months.
But I didn't like it.

I sold the rickshaw for 25,000 takas.

Then I went back on the raft again.
I just don't like being self-employed.

Since then, I work on the raft
whenever I can.

Why do you like this job?

Here I can work half a day
and have the rest of the day off.

That's all.

We once bought him a rickshaw.
He did not like that.

We financed his taxi license.
But he did not like that either.

He also quit a job in a restaurant.

How did Shiraz's father earn his living?

He was also a rafter.

You have three children.
- Yes.

It must be very difficult for you
to be on your own?

Yes, it is difficult.
But my family supports me.

Your father supports you?

He is dead.
But my mother and my brothers help me.

Shiraz doesn't have any education.
He can't even write his own name.

How often have I tried to teach him to write.
One should be able to do this.

But he prefers to use his fingerprint.

You tried to teach him?
- Naturally.

You have to know how to write
at the authorities or the bank.

I am always ashamed
but Shiraz has no problem with it.

Is working as a raftsman profitable at all?

How could it be?

How much can you earn doing this job?

Look at the state of the house.
There is not even enough money for food.

How would he renovate the house?
Soon it will fall apart.

He's just able to provide
the family's basic needs.

But you did know Shiraz well earlier.
- No, we didn't know him that well.

He lived far away.

If we had known him better, we would have
never married off our daughter to him.

When he comes home,
he stays a week at the most.

He can't stay longer.
There wouldn't be enough food for everyone.

So he has to go back on the raft.

How do they work in the cold?

At home we can't keep ourselves warm
with even two blankets.

How do they sleep under the open sky?

Shit, that's slippery.
- What do you mean?

Everything is dry here.

Are you hungry?

Say something.
- I'm very hungry.

Well, I didn't forbid you to eat!

The workers started late today.

They thought it would rain.

It took us seven to eight days...

...just working on this reservoir
until it was ready.

Many day labourers worked on it.

About 20 to 25 people all together.

Every single day.

We built this dam right here,
which reaches to down there.

We had to pile up all the mud.
There is a certain technique to build it.

This is the dam wall.

The scaffold gives the necessary hold,
when we pour mud in this opening.

The construction will become very solid.

The wall must be secured down there.

Stems are lying chaotic here.

The work of a whole week floating.

That's just how it is.

Our fathers created
most of the reservoirs up here.

When I was little
I came here with my father.

The forest tenant at the time
was the father of Mamun.

If we dam up the water over there

20 loggers can float
hundreds of bundles right here.

It would be very easy.

Without the reservoir,

we could only float maximum five bundles.

When we open the gate, water-flow brings
the stems down to the valley.

There are a dozen of reservoirs like this.

Next week, we'll open all the gates
and float the stems down the canal.

Hey Mithun, take some of mine.
- I'm fine, thanks.

Come on, take some.
- No, eat yourself.

Please, I have way too much.

Help me out!

We shouldn't waste our food.

My wife fried rice and potatoes.
This way the food won't spoil.

What is he drinking?
- Water from the reservoir.

What, from this reservoir?
- Yes.

My goodness.

What else should I drink?
- I won't drink that.

This water is very good!
- I won't drink it either.

You ate so much rice.
Won't you drink anything?

No, I'm good.

Dad, what's this?
- What?

What is it?
- This is bamboo.

- Bamboo!

I'll fix the wall with this bamboo.
The leaseholder didn't give me any.

Of course, he gets annoyed
when people take it for free.

The leaseholder pays millions for bamboo.

Of course, he gets annoyed
when people take it for free.

If I get caught, he would say:

"You're just helping yourself
from my lease."

It would be very shameful for me.

That's why I do this very rarely.

Only in case of emergency
I steal some stems.

From time to time I just need one or two.

I have a lot to fix in my house.
Everything is broken.

When it rains,
water runs down from the roof

and splashes against this wall.

The wall gets wet, the mud dissolves
and the bamboo scaffolding is damaged.

Then the wall will be ruined.

We have to repair it every year.

You know what I mean?

I built all of this with my own hands.

I cannot afford craftsmen.
They are too expensive. That's the way it is.

The problem is,
we have to buy all our groceries.

Food is expensive.

That's why my husband must work so hard
to earn enough money.

If there's no job in the forest,
I work as a craftsman.

My neighbours ask me often to fix something.

I earn 300 to 400 takas a day.

Everyone pays what they can.

I keep a few chickens and ducks,

to earn something as well.

So that I can cover the school fees
and support my husband.

I am tired.
I need to lie down.

Did you go to school today?
- No, I helped mother cook.

Oh right, she cut her finger yesterday.

- All right.

Did you at least go to school?

Hey, wait a second. What did you do?
- He took care of the goat.

You took care of the goat?

That's no way to earn money.

I spoiled my chances for an education.

You don't need to follow me.

Should your children take over the business?
- No.

I can't imagine that.

Put it away.

It's a complicated business.

My children shouldn't get involved.

They should study
and go into the civil service.

A worry-free job.

Do you have a lot of worries?
- Yes, I have many worries.

But people say you don't lack anything.

People only see the surface.
They don't know what is underneath.

My lease area is in the mountains.
But the residential areas are flooded.

Communication is bad.
The workers can't leave their families alone.

They are already starving,
but they can't leave.

Their houses are flooded.
The roads are cut off.

This year, I'm going to lose a lot of money.

The workers won't understand this.
We cut 50,000 stems this week.

The workers would say it was 200,000.
They only see a canal full of stems.

Bamboo is wood for poor people, you know?

Rich people no longer buy bamboo.
It's only of use to poor people.

The problem is the high price of the rice.
It makes life difficult for the workers.

But I can't tie my wages
to the price of the rice.

If I increase the wages,
my bamboo would be expensive.

Then I wouldn't make a profit.
The wholesalers wouldn't buy from me.

If the boss complains later,
I'll have a problem.

Come on!

No, I can't reduce the price
without the boss's permission.

Otherwise he'll consider me a thief.
- Hey, stay here!

Boss, the negotiations aren't going well.

The last retailers offered 27 takas.

Their phones have been off ever since
and I can't reach them.

Now the retailer Hassan is on the raft.

He's offering even less.

Just 26 takas.
- My offer is fair!

Hello, how are you doing?
Yes? I'm fine, too.

How are you?
- I'm fine, thanks.

Listen, the market is bad at the moment.

Bamboo just isn't selling at the moment.

Yes, that's why I'm asking
for less already.

That's right. But the time is bad now.
Otherwise I would offer more.

The last dealers offered 27,
I'm offering 26.

I'll buy the dholai bamboo at that price.

I'm sorry, I can't sell at this price.
- We won't make a deal this time then?

Yes, I'm sorry too.
- OK.

Let's leave it.
- Listen, take the stems for 27.

No, believe me,
no one would buy it from me at this price.


I buy thousands of stems from you every time.

Have I ever ripped you off?
- No! We're friends, too!

You have your business,
I work for the wholesaler.

Of course, we have personal interests.
But our friendship is of worth as well.

That's right.
- We must not risk that.

Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine...

This root is too deep in the ground.
I'll dig it out later with a shovel.

The forest is a sacred place.

You won't find
such a sacred place anywhere else.

In the canal for example,
you should only pee downstream.

If you pee upstream,

then you conjure great misfortune...

Certain places in these woods are haunted.

If you were to relieve yourself there
you would be haunted by evil spirits.

You could lose your mind over this.
It happened to many people.

In my time in the forest,
I've seen such people.

Their mind has simply stopped working.

Some couldn't even recognise
their family any more.

The forest just drives you crazy.

In my case...

I know this place very well.

I grew up in this forest.

It has been my home since my childhood.

I was in the woods
with my father all the time.

A whole 29 years already.

Are you collecting firewood?

Of course, we are poor people!

Oh girl, you're poor?
You just have to harvest the rice!

I wish we could! Can't you see
how the river swallows our fields?

We can't even save our houses
from the river.

The erosion forced us to move deeper
into the mainland.

Everything is destroyed.

The river is constantly eroding
the soil around here.

At first over there.

And now here.

People have a hard life in this area.

Seven times the river washed away my house.

I had to move seven times.

The river destroyed a lot in our area.

Seven times I had to start all over again.

Seven times.
I'll probably have to move again this year.

It doesn't look good
along by the riverbank at home.

Now I'm wondering
where I can rebuild my house.

It always takes time to settle
in a new place.

But this is my life.

Anyone who faces this
loses quite a lot of things.

But we have no choice.
God has left us no choice.

There were no incidents on this trip.

In the past,
we've been often raided by river pirates.

But this time
we were spared even in risky places.

When did you see your son last time?
- I haven't seen him for a month now.

A month is a long time.
I am looking forward to seeing him again.

Around this time
he'll be playing with his friends.

Yesterday I spoke with him for a long time.

He doesn't believe I'm coming back

because I've promised him so often
that I'll be back.

Here, take it!

Stow it all away.

Untie the string.

My boys are almost every month on the raft.

They've just got back.

They've been travelling
for more than a month.

How can they do this again
without a break?

It's all very well for you.

You can go home every day after work
and see your family.

Some of my men are young. They have to spend
at least a few days with their families.

Have you packed all your stuff?

Yes. Our little community is coming
to an end after a month.

It was even longer.

How are you, darling?

Hey? Why don't you speak?

Are you alright?

I went swimming with grandma.

I see.
Have you already eaten?

Not yet?
- I have.

What did you have?
- Milk.

Is that so?

Why didn't you come to the port
to pick me up from the raft?

How would I have got there?
- Well, you could have walked.

By foot?
- Yes.

Are you scared at night, sweetheart?
- Yes. He's also freezing and sweating.

His pillow is always dripping wet.

He shivers every night.

I don't know
why he screams in his sleep.

Why were you screaming?
- I dreamt of mummy.

What did she say?

I shoved her and she scolded me.

Well, now daddy is back.

What have you brought?
- Some fruit.

I'm on my way again.
Take care of yourself.


Don't argue with the neighbours.
My never-ending back and forth.

The next trip is just around the corner.

Don't you say anything
when he is gone so often?

Well, he is not going forever.

Do you remember the time
when you were just married?

Did he leave you alone often back then?

I can't remember.
He was always on the raft.

We got married very young.
I didn't know what a husband really was.

And you never said anything?
- No!

I was fine when he was gone.

Leave us some money.

But I'll get it next week.
- Just ask for an advance.

Well, let's see.

Haven't you just come home two days ago?
- Yes. Still we have to go again.

30,000 stems are waiting for us this time.

We've to bring them here.

Please hurry!

Push the bundles forward!

Thousands of stems will be floating
down the canal today!

Okay then!
Go on, push!

Now pull!
Go on, move it!

Whose bundle is this?

This one.

Hey, we're going to open
all the flood gates now!

Push forward!

Someone will help you push it forward.

Push the bundles forward!

They're just standing around!

My water is just draining!

Push the bundles forward, quick!

Push the bundles forward, damn it!

It can't be!

Hey Bashu, get rid of this stem!

Throw it away!

It's too thin.

No, no, no!
Just throw it away!

It's running now!

Slowly move the bundles forward!


The stems will now be counted
and handed over to the forest leaseholder.

My work is done for this week.
The stems will be handed over and that's it.

What happens to the bamboo now?

The leaseholder's men
will transport the stems to Juri.

In Juri, the raftsmen
working for the wholesaler will take over.

Tomorrow I have to take care of
a few old reservoirs.

So we'll continue our work without a break.

Back to the forest.

Simon Klingert, Silke Nagel