Sixteen Decisions - Film Festivals

· 2000 Houston Worldfest, Bronze Award, Women's Issues
· 2000 Hawaii International Film Festival
· 2001 New England Film and Video Festival
· 2001 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival
· 2001 Los Angeles International Independent Film and Video Festival  
· 2001 Global Visions Festival
· 2002 Women with Vision Film Festival
· Recently selected by WMHT for PBS broadcast

Sixteen Decisions - Synopsis click here for press coverage or click here for FAQ's

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.’

Producer, Gayle Ferraro, gives the audience the benefit of her experience with the women. She offers reflection and clarification to provide an engaging context for western viewers with a culture that can feel antiquated and obtuse in its harsh shrouds. The film shows the effects of a society that practically considers women as property and forbids them to speak or move their bodies in public. Using the courage the women show even leaving their houses, Ferraro builds the story to subtly suggest the viewer look more deeply at their own unexamined views and find meaningful challenges in their lives as well. With Selina and the women of Bangladesh as inspiration, it isn’t hard to do.

For more information about the film see

Sixteen Decisions - A poor woman’s social charter

1. We shall follow and advance the four principles of Grameen Bank—Discipline, Unity, Courage and Hard work—in all walks of our lives. 2. We shall bring prosperity to our families. 3. We shall not live in dilapidated houses. We shall repair our houses and work towards constructing new houses at the earliest. 4. We shall grow vegetables all the year round. We shall eat plenty of them and sell the surplus. 5. During the plantation season, we shall plant as many seedlings as possible. 6. We shall plan to keep our families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health. 7. We shall educate our children and ensure that we can earn to pay for their education. 8. We shall always keep our children and the environment clean. 9. We shall build and use pit-latrines. 10. We shall drink water from tubewells. If it is not available, we shall boil water or use alum. 11. We shall not take any dowry at our sons’ weddings, neither shall we give any dowry at our daughters’ wedding. We shall keep the center free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage. 12. We shall not inflict any injustice on anyone, neither shall we allow anyone to do so. 13. We shall collectively undertake bigger investments for higher incomes. 14. We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help him or her. 15. If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any center, we shall go there and help restore discipline. 16. We shall introduce physical exercise in all our Centers. We shall take part in all social activities collectively.

Listen to a track from "Sixteen Decisions" and learn how you can buy the CD of the soundtrack.