Length: 60 minutes

Released: 2000

Format: Beta, 35mm, DVD

Theatrical Distribution: Aerial Productions

Educational Distribution: Berkeley Media

International Broadcast: Tapestry International

Soundtrack: Available on CD (Listen Here)





Sixteen Decisions

At first "Sixteen Decisions" looks, sounds, and feels more like an art or experimental film than a documentary about women in rural Bangladesh. The film opens with a Bangladeshi folk singer’s voice substituted for a flute as we begin the descent into the rural landscape, which provides the backdrop for the graphic-art treatment of the ‘16 Decisions’ of the Grameen Bank. We emerge from the montage to meet Selina, 18, and mother of two children, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, and Gayle Ferraro, filmmaker. Their combined presence and voices articulate, interact, and develop a powerful and profound story, revealing a reality of past and present pain, uplifting goals, and the need for resources to move forward.

As the documentary unfolds, the viewer is inadvertently involved in the current-day discussion on international development, which includes issues of micro-credit, social equity, cultural survival and access to reproductive and health care. For instance, the debate over whether providing direct capital to the poorest can alleviate widespread abject poverty is articulated for a general audience. Likewise, self-empowering structures such as the ‘16 decisions’ demonstrate the challenge to traditional social roles and values, which undermine women’s progress. Overarching anthropological questions are raised as they transition from a barter to a cash economy.

While covering these important and meaningful topical issues, the real power of "Sixteen Decisions’" is in the depiction of Selina’s everyday life. Selina, 18, is like most rural Bangladeshi housewives. She was a child laborer at 7 because her parents were too poor to feed her. Her parents arranged her marriage at 12 and sold their land for dowry, leaving themselves as beggars when her father lost his eyesight. Selina’s family is not unique. As Dr. Yunus says in the film, "dowry is a killer in Bangladesh," as families sell their meager possessions to raise money for a dowry. Weaving in and out of the past, present and future we learn that with a $60 loan Selina has a rickshaw business—and hopes. As we experience Selina’s everyday life, with its seemingly endless drudgery, she reflects on key issues such as dowry, birth control, education, and housing. Selina relates the path her life has taken what she hopes to learn and provide for her two young children.

A counter point to Selina’s life, which provides rich visual imagery, Dr. Yunus, founder and president of the 22-year old Grameen Bank, provides the objective reality of dealing with economically oppressive conditions found in developing countries. With the experience of loaning $2.3B to 10 million women, the banker acts as annotator for the film describing the need, evolution, impact and hope for women and society through the ‘16 decisions.’

THESE ARE THE 16 DECISIONS A Woman's Social Charter in Bangladesh - Created by Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus





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