Italian director Giovanni Giommi (b. 1965) travelled all the way to the south of Bangladesh, to Banishanta. Giommi chose this small island in the Bay of Bengal to tell his touching and visually attractive story of a community of sex-workers in need. Banishanta is a place that suffers from the direct consequences of climate change: the sea is rising and is slowly but surely eating up all the land.
But that is not the only drama that affects this small community formed by several dozen sex-workers and their families. In Bad Weather, Giommi respectfully portrays a few of these ladies and their community as a whole. We meet a strong-hearted prostitute who, despite her daily struggles, found the love of her life – in Banishanta of all places. Together, this young couple survives a barely endurable existence. We also follow a woman who strives for the basic rights of the people living and working in this brothel, and meet a couple of small children who have to deal with the fact that they are being punished by their fellow classmates for no better reason than that they happen to live on the island.
All and all Giommi, who clearly won the hearts of his characters, succeeds in avoiding an excessively ‘realist’ approach or placing too much stress on the sexual aspects of the sex-workers job; he tends to tell their story in a almost a poetic kind of way. He is never a factor himself: he focuses solely on his heroines. His steady camera follows the ladies (and some of the men) in their daily life, but he also gives them the opportunity to talk about what drives them, how they ended up here and how they survive on a daily basis. The film benefits from his beautifully shot scenes (he was DOP as well) and amazing visuals. The inhabitants are aware of things changing around them but do not necessarily know about climate change. They tend to see things happening because of the will of God. Ishmael, the island’s crazy man, gives all their stories a deeper meaning. Is he a mad man or a wise, poetic man who really can see into the future? In the end it does not matter, but he ends up being a key character in this multi-layered portrait of a singular community.
Although Giommi did not get any funding in Italy, he was able to find backing in other countries such as Germany and the UK. His documentary has travelled successfully to several international (documentary) film festivals such as the IDFA (The Netherlands), The Galway Film Fleadh (Ireland), Documentary Edge Festival (New Zealand) and ZagrebDox (Croatia).
Edited by Bernard Besserglik
© FIPRESCI 2012