Feature film honors Italian missionary to Bangladesh

Italian-Bangladeshi production chronicles the remarkable life and work of Father Marino Rigon
Feature film honors Italian missionary to Bangladesh

Father Marino Rigon was an Italian Xaverian missionary lauded for outstanding contributions to education, culture and socioeconomic development during his six decades in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Father Rigon's Facebook page)

A new feature film pays tribute to Father Marino Rigon, an Italian missionary lauded for his outstanding contributions to education, socioeconomic development, culture and literature as well as Bangladesh’s independence struggle during his more than six decades of service.

The Father: An Untold Story is a joint venture between Bangladesh and Italy. More than 200 actors from Italy, New Zealand, Brazil and Britain have participated in auditions for the film in various cities in Italy. Shooting is expected to start soon in Venice and Vicenza, Italy, and Khulna, Mongla and Jessore, Bangladesh, according to the Dhaka Tribune.

Bangladeshi writer Shahaduzzaman scripted the screenplay of the film, which will be helmed by Hemanta Sadeeq, a local film producer and director.

Sadeeq and Rocco Cosentino, the Italian producer of the film, have been in touch with Father Rigon’s family and received their support, executive producer Lisa Asma Akter told the Dhaka Tribune.  

The film is an effort to honor the “selfless sacrifices” of Father Rigon for the people of Bangladesh, said director Sadeeq. “Father Rigon was an extraordinary man who made unconditional sacrifices for the people of Bangladesh. This film will be a tiny homage to this great soul,” Sadeeq wrote on his Facebook page.

The Church has hailed the new initiative to honor the missionary, said Bishop James Romen Boiragi of Khulna, where Father Rigon was chiefly based.

“Father Rigon made tremendous contributions in uplifting the status of poor and marginalized communities, in education, culture and literature. His life and work have brightened the image of the Church in the country and abroad. We are glad and grateful that a new film is being made to pay tribute to Father Rigon,” Bishop Boiragi, chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Social Communication Commission, told ucanews.

The Church has taken some initiatives to keep the memories and contributions of Father Rigon alive. Over the past few years, it has organized the Rigon Mela fair at St. Paul’s Church in Mongla, where the priest undertook most of his missionary work.

“The fair attracts a large number of people of all faiths and ethnicities. They come together, pay tribute to and revisit the contributions of Father Rigon. It also fosters harmony among people of various faiths,” Bishop Boiragi said.

A series of seminars have been held on the life and works of the Italian priest. “These seminars highlight the contributions of Father Rigon in education, culture, socioeconomic development and his role in supporting humanity during the 1971 independence war. We have documented the seminars and will publish a booklet soon,” the bishop said.

A missionary from Venice to the Sundarbans

Marino Rigon was born on Feb. 5, 1925, in Venice. After his ordination as a Xaverian missionary priest in 1951, he was sent to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1953. Father Rigon was based mostly at St. Paul’s Church, Mongla, near the Sundarbans mangrove forest, which is covered by southern Khulna Diocese.

In 2014, he returned to Italy for medical treatment but only on condition that he be buried in Bangladesh after his death. Father Rigon died on Oct. 20, 2017, in Vicenza, Italy, at the age of 92. His remains were buried at St. Paul’s Church in Mongla on Oct. 21, 2018, with state-level honors.

Father Rigon pioneered setting up dozens of schools and hostels for children of the impoverished and marginalized communities in the country’s southern coastal region. He started a handicrafts center for unemployed rural women and advocated for the rights of farmers and fishermen.

During the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, Father Rigon supported and sheltered hundreds of displaced refugees and guerrilla fighters.

Father Rigon also translated about 40 Bengali books into Italian, including the works of Nobel laureate writer Rabindranath Tagore, popular folk poet Jasimuddin and the songs of Lalon Shah, a famous mystic singer, philosopher and social reformer.

Father Rigon's outstanding work brought him numerous awards. In 2009, he was conferred with honorary Bangladeshi citizenship and a local TV channel produced a 40-minute documentary on his life and works in 2010. In 2012, he was awarded the Liberation War Honor and Friends of Liberation War Honor.

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