In his documentary film The Networker, filmmaker and director Shaheen Dill-Riaz introduces us to Sohel, a thirteen-year-old boy from Dhaka with a fascinating job. He travels to the most isolated places in Bangladesh to help connect people to the outer world – all he needs are a few cell phones. And a thick skin, as he is witness to even the most intimate conversations.
At his father’s request, Sohel left home after seven years of school. There was more urgent business to tend to. He equipped Sohel with three cell phones, all connected to different network providers. And then he sent his son off on trips from the capital city of Dakha to the remote islands in the northern part of Bangladesh.
Sohel works as a “networker”. For the desperately poor islanders he is the only gateway to the outer world. For them, Sohel and his collection of cell phones are the only way to make phone calls to their loved ones, who often work in other cities or even abroad.
The Networker: A boy’s journey as a go-between and a social worker
Director Shaheen Dill-Riaz accompanies Sohel on his travels to the most outlying islands and regions Bangladesh has to offer. Dill-Riaz’ experiences from films such as Korankinder or Ironeaters shine through notably, and he subtly picks up the intimate touch those films convey. As a result, he manages to create a fine-grained portrait of Sohel as a young boy growing up in an unusual way.
Working as a networker means that Sohel not only leaves the protection of his parents’ house: Step by step, he is also losing his childhood. With the power of his cell phones he enters the lives of the poor farmers as a self-conscious businessman. He offers his services with the routine of a seasoned salesman.
Yet, at the same time, he is also an involuntary witness to various family dramas and the ups and downs that characterize long-distance relationships. Those moments are the defining scenes in The Networker. They show how compassion for his customers overwhelms Sohel, and he cannot help but to offer some advice.
|Title:||The Networker / Der Netzwerker|
|TV premiere:||January 16, 2011, 18:30|
The Networker photos (Zip)