No tickets are required to see Rainbow Collective’s latest documentary at Rich Mix this month, though the screening isn’t free.
Instead, audience members are asked to bring along a bag of non-perishable food, to be donated to a food bank.
The Food for Films initiative shows how the East London-based Rainbow Collective is more than just a film production company.
Its founders, Richard York and Hannan Majid, formed the social enterprise to raise awareness of human rights issues.
Since its inception in 2006, the pair have shot, directed and produced documentaries in South African, Bangladesh, Iraq and the UK.
Their latest documentary Mass E Bhat, which premiered at the East End Film Festival in June, is the story of one man’s struggle to grow up and follow his ambitions in modern Bangladesh, with an original score by John Pandit.
The documentary follows Nasir, a social worker in the slums, who reflects on his early life working in rubbish dumps and sweatshops and how he achieved his dream of an education and the respect of his community. Along the way we meet several children whose lives mirror Nasir’s past but whose futures are uncertain.
Rainbow Collective crews are always diverse and often include students and local volunteers. “We wanted to use our skills as filmmakers to create social change,” says Majid.
Mass E Bhat wasn’t an easy film to make. Early on, Majid and York struggled to find the right structure that would hold the film together.
But then they did some work for Al Jazeera, which gave them experience of shooting quickly and under pressure. Returning to the documentary, they made “brutal edits” and managed to create a more focused film. The result is a striking documentary that manages to capture the movement, life and colour of Bangladesh.
Education and youth are a key part of Rainbow Collective’s vision. Footage that failed to make it into the final cut is going to be used to provide students with film training, with students getting the chance to re-edit the outtakes.
“So much of our work is about young people, which feeds into our youth projects,” says York.
This training aspect is designed to make entrance into the film industry more accessible. The filmmakers see Mass E Bhat as a way of reaching out to cinema goers and raising awareness while passing on the skills of documentary making to another generation.