Bangladesh Lifts Ban on a Controversial Movie About Its Garment Industry

The film follows the Rana Plaza factory collapse of 2013.

Depicted in the film 'Rana Plaza,' Bangladeshi garment worker Reshma Akter was rescued after 17 days from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in 2013. (Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

Sep 8, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

A garment worker's rescue from the rubble of a Bangladeshi factory collapse in 2013 offered a Hollywood ending to one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

But when a local filmmaker decided to make a movie based on the miraculous survival story, a court banned its release in Bangladesh last month on the premise that it could negatively affect the country's labor force.

On Sunday, a panel of four judges had a change of heart and agreed to lift the restriction, according to The Associated Press. The reversal came at the insistence of the movie's producer, Shamima Akhter, who reasoned that Rana Plaza—named after the now infamous factory—had already been approved by Bangladesh's Film Censor Board. At the time, Akhter had agreed to delete several scenes that the censors considered too graphic. The Rana Plaza collapse claimed more than 1,000 lives and injured 2,500 others, raising international outcry over workers' safety.

RELATED: Two Years After Factory Collapse, Fashion's Front Line Still Hopes for Safety

The initial six-month ban on Rana Plaza's release was prompted in part by a petition launched by labor union president Sirajul Islam Rony, who objected to the movie's "humiliating" portrayal of workers as a "cheap commodity," according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Rony worried that the film might scare the millions of women who labor in Bangladesh's roughly $25 billion garment industry. Western retailers including H&M, Benetton, Zara, and Gap are among the country's biggest buyers.

The feature-length movie tells the story of Reshma Akter, a 19-year-old seamstress who was rescued after being trapped for 17 days underneath the eight-story factory building that crumbled in April 2013. When rescuers discovered Akter in Rana Plaza’s basement, she became a legend in Bangladesh, and international media hailed her as a heroine.

Rana Plaza building and rescue workers on April 25, 2013. (Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/Getty Images)

The fatal building failure, which triggered widespread criticism from human rights organizations and workers' unions, happened less than six months after a fire in a nearby garment factory killed more than 100 people. An inspection organized by the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh last year led to the temporary closure of two factories with overcrowded floors. More than 150 fashion brands have since signed on to the accord.