Untying the Knot tells the powerful story of Rumana Monzur, a Bangladeshi-Canadian woman who was viciously assaulted by her husband in Bangladesh, leaving her totally blind. From the aftermath of the attack to Rumana’s present life in Vancouver, the film traces Rumana’s journey and her courageous pursuit of a challenging goal: to become a practicing lawyer in Canada.
Interwoven with Rumana’s story are the unfolding journeys of three women in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, whose relationships mirror aspects of Rumana’s own abusive marriage. Tradition, family pressure and social stigma all play a role in controlling women’s lives in a patriarchal society. Untying the Knot lays bare the unspoken sacrifices women must make in the name of marital expectation. With remarkable access to the subjects’ lives, the film is an intimate portrait of how women are surviving, and fighting to change, the social codes that bind them.
Characters in the film
Rumana Monzur: The survivor of a brutal domestic attack, Rumana is a remarkable and inspirational woman. After being blinded and disfigured by her abusive ex-husband, Rumana might have fallen into grief and isolation. Instead, she took control of her life and refused to abandon her dreams. Today, Rumana is a lawyer with the Department of Justice in Vancouver, Canada. She’s also a sought-after public speaker and an inspiration to her peers. Rumana’s devotion to her daughter, Anusheh, is her source of strength and her reason for persevering — as she fights for accountability and strives to make the world a better place.
Latifa Sharmin: Sharmin is a DJ and radio host for a popular station in Dhaka. She was previously married for three years. Her ex-husband was physically and emotionally abusive, beating and kicking Sharmin whenever he was angry. Now she is divorced and has returned to her father’s home, where she’s under pressure to get remarried. Her divorcee status is a source of shame for her family, and also impacts her two younger sisters. Sharmin is asking her family for more time — time to find someone to fall in love with. But her parents and relatives are growing impatient. Will Sharmin be forced to settle, in the name of family honour?
Jannatan Naima: Naima sees herself as an anomaly in Bangladeshi society. She’s a headstrong, career-orientated, independent woman who refuses to change or compromise her lifestyle. She smokes shisha, drives a car and loves to travel — often by herself. Naima didn’t want to get married. She knew she wasn’t “marriage material,” according to Bangladeshi norms. But she finally agrees to marry Sadman, who promises to accept her for who she is. Their wedding day could not be happier. But as Naima rebels against any restriction on her freedom, the tension in their marriage escalates. As we learn more about Naima’s childhood, we gain insight into her strong point of view.
Zasmin Haque: Zasmin lives in constant fear of her husband, Ajmal. Though she has a master’s degree in mathematics, she works as a school teacher with a very low income and limited potential for growth. Ajmal is hot-tempered and erupts easily, screaming insults, throwing objects, stopping short of hitting her because she threatens to call the police. Zasmin is protective of her two sons, who witness their father’s abusive behavior. She is considering taking legal action against Ajmal. But without financial independence and little support from society, she has no place to go. What decision will she make?
Zana Shammi is a Canadian-Bangladeshi journalist and filmmaker. She is an alumna of DOC Toronto’s Breakthrough Program (2016), documentary Channel’s Doc Accelerator (2014), and Reelworld Film Festival’s Impact Film Lab (2015).
Zana’s first film, a short doc about an orphanage in Bangladesh, aired on TVO in 2011. In 2015, she worked as a freelance producer for Global Television’s award-winning investigative series, 16X9. Untying the Knot is Zana’s first feature documentary film.
Before coming to Canada, Zana worked as a journalist in her hometown of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is a graduate of the Broadcasting and Film program at Toronto’s Centennial College, and holds a master’s degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from the University of Dhaka.
For over 20 years, Lalita Krishna has been making documentaries that have screened on all major networks, and featured at film festivals around the world. Lalita’s films are acclaimed for bringing important topics to the forefront and have often been a catalyst for change. Through her company, In Sync Media, she also creates websites and mobile apps to enhance the documentary viewing experience and facilitate impact campaigns.
Lalita is the Co-chair of the prestigious Hot Docs documentary film festival and the Co-Chair of the Ontario chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada. The winner of the 2013 WIFT Crystal award for Mentorship, Lalita also received the Trailblazer award given by Reel World Film Festival in 2012, and was honoured to receive the Dreamcatcher award given by the Hopes and Dreams festival, New Jersey, for using her craft to better humanity.
Katy Swailes is a multi-platform content creator based in Toronto. She recently co-produced the award-winning documentary film The Ravenite, which premiered at the 2018 DOC LA Film Festival and is distributed by Journeyman Pictures. Since 2012 Katy has co-produced programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, including the documentary TV series, Absolutely Canadian; the short film competition series, Short Film Faceoff; and the award-winning national radio program Writers & Company. She is currently in production on a one-hour documentary film about NY-based artist and pigeon-keeper, Anton van Dalen. Katy began her career in the nonprofit sector, with Toronto’s Women in Film & Television and the Centre for Independent Journalism in Malaysia.
John Minh Tran csc
Director of Photography
JOHN MINH TRAN csc is an award winning Cinematographer. Born in Vietnam and raised in Calgary, John moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson University for film studies. Since graduating in 1995 he has remained in Toronto working as a cinematographer in documentary, drama and commercials. A winner of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers’ (CSC) Best Documentary Cinematography award for Waterlife (Primitive), directed by Kevin McMahon, John has also received CSC nominations for Standing Waves (Primitive), directed by Kevin McMahon, and Mozartballs (Rhombus) directed by Larry Weinstein. In addition to the CSC, John received a Gemini nomination for Cheating Death (NFB), directed by Eric Geringas. In 2013 John’s feature documentary Our Man in Tehran, directed by Larry Weinstein and Drew Taylor, premiered at TIFF. John’s list of commercial work includes TV spots for LCBO, Manulife, Coca Cola, ScotiaBank, Petro Canada, Canadian Blood Services, Plan Canada and many more. In 2015 John won the Canadian Screen Award for his work on Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein film Our Man of Tehran.
Rob Ruzic has been editing documentaries for over 15 years. His work has screened at film festivals worldwide and has aired on CBC, TVO and PBS. He has tackled a wide range of subjects, encompassing social issues, nature, visual arts, sports, music and biography. Whatever the subject may be, he brings to his work a keen sense of story and a focus on creating engaging narratives that reveal character.
He has recently worked with director Rama Rau on League of Exotique Dancers (2015), which was the opening night selection at Hot Docs and was awarded Best Editing at the History Film Festival in Croatia. Gambling on Extinction (2014), directed by Jacob Kneser, has screened at over 15 film festivals worldwide and was even screened at the German Parliament. Mugshot (2013), directed by Dennis Mohr, screened at Hot Docs and won the Yorkton Golden Sheaf Best Art and Culture Documentary Award. Rob’s work in shaping the story earned him a nomination for Best Writing in a Documentary Program or Series at the Canadian Screen Awards.
My Father And The Man In Black (2011), directed by Jonathan Holiff, was a Top Ten Audience Favourite at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Remembering Arthur (2005), directed by Martin Lavut, premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival and was named one of the best films of the year by Artforum Magazine.
Rob is currently working with Rama Rau on the feature documentary The Daughter Tree.
Over the last 25 years Ken Myhr as written music for more than 100 award-winning documentaries, dramatic series and feature films. He began his professional life as a session guitar player, arranger and producer in the burgeoning Toronto recording scene, contributing most notably to numerous Cowboy Junkies and Jane Siberry recordings. He’s performed on concert stages worldwide including at The Royal Albert Hall, Massey Hall, Radio City Music Hall and has played live on The David Letterman Show, The Tonight Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Since his migration to film in the early ‘90s, Ken’s won an Emmy, a Golden Sheaf and has been honoured with seven Gemini / CSA nominations for Best Score. In 2015 a film he scored about renowned African filmmaker Ousmane Sembene garnered wide critical acclaim, screened at Cannes and Sundance and was short-listed for an Oscar. His feature film Herman’s House won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Best Documentary. Vavoom feature The League of Exotic Dancers opened Hot Docs with sold-out houses and rave reviews. Always searching for the perfect sound, Ken Myhr combines eastern and western musical techniques to underscore the story at hand.