Tareque Masud was born in Nurpur Village of Faridpur District in Bangladesh. At an early age he was sent off to madrassa (Islamic school) by his deeply religious father. He studied in the madrassa system until 1971, when the upheaval brought about by the 9-month Liberation War interrupted his education. After Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan, he entered general education, completing his HSC from Adamjee Cantonment College and eventually graduating from Dhaka University with a degree in History.
Tareque was involved in the film society movement from his university days and started his first film Adam Surat (1991) (The Inner Strength), a documentary on the legendary Bangladeshi painter S.M. Sultan, in 1982. His 1995 feature length documentary on the '71 Liberation War, Muktir Gaan (1995) (Song of Freedom) brought record audiences and became a cult classic. He also made many other films on the war, including Muktir Kotha (1999) (Words of Freedom), Narir Kotha (Women and War) (2000) and Naroshundor (The Barbershop)(2009) . In 2002, he completed his feature film The Clay Bird (2002) (The Clay Bird), which was based on his childhood experience in the Madrassa. The film won the Critics' Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) at the Cannes Film Festival (2002), was the first Bangladeshi film to compete in the Oscars, and was released in many countries around the world.
In addition to his film making work, he was also a pioneer of the independent film movement in Bangladesh. Tareque was a founding member of the Short Film Forum, the leading platform for independent filmmakers. In 1988, he organized the country's first International Short and Documentary Film Festival, which is held on a biannual basis to this day. He was also known as the 'Cinema Feriwalla' (Vendor of Movies) for the way in which he showed his films, touring remote towns and villages throughout the country with his mobile projection unit. His wife, American-born Catherine Masud, was his creative and life partner. They met at the time he was completing work on Adam Surat (1991)and spent the next two decades making films together through their production house 'Audiovision [bd]'. Together they wrote scripts, often co-directed, and toured the country and the world with their films. Catherine also edited all of their work. Masud died on August 13, 2011 in a tragic road accident while returning from work on location for his upcoming feature film Kagojer Phul (The Paper Flower), on the 1947 partition of Bengal. Also killed in the accident was his longtime cinematographer and friend Mishuk Muneer, along with three other colleagues. Catherine Masud and four others survived the accident. Since his death, Catherine has established the 'Tareque Masud Memorial Trust', which is dedicated to the task of archiving and memorializing Masud's work through publications, educational projects, screening programs, and the completion of their unfinished oeuvre.