Chittagong, a seaport city of Bangladesh, is home to the world’s biggest ship demolition yard. From the age of 12, Bengali men find themselves working here, dismantling and breaking apart ships for less than two dollars a day. Working in such treacherous conditions, danger is ever-present.
As one worker states, “nobody can escape from accident here. I could die today, tomorrow or a day later. We must make a living by doing anything we can, we must earn food somehow”. The stark reality for these men is that in order to provide food—a basic necessity to sustain life for themselves and their families—they must risk their lives on a daily basis.
The men sit and laugh amongst themselves, discussing one worker Alam’s new bride and his pretty mother-in-law. One of the men jokingly asks, “Can I meet her?” Director Bong-Nam Park awakens us to one simple fact that could be easily overlooked amongst the squalor of the ship graveyard—these men are human, they are just like us. We are one and the same. The only point of separation is their experience of poverty and, for that, each member of the audience should feel “blessed”.
… these men are human, they are just like us.
The men of the Chittagong shipyard and their families suffer the physical effects of poverty—as told through the story of one shipyard worker whose child is born blind as a result of his wife’s malnutrition during pregnancy. We are exposed to the heartbreaking, hidden realities of this experience, realising that poverty denies these men and their families life’s simple pleasures.
Forced to leave their families at a young age to earn money for food, the men of the Chittagong shipyard have a limited childhood. They are denied the joys of sleeping next to their wife each evening; feeling the love and connectedness that comes from being around their family each day; and watching their children grow.
Forced to leave their families at a young age to earn money for food, the men of the Chittagong shipyard have a limited childhood.
Through the stories of these men, we learn that the need to strive for a world where the right to freedom from hunger and poverty afforded by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is not limited to the practicalities of sustaining life. The denial of these rights and freedoms so too denies those human beings who suffer from poverty and hunger a full experience of their humanness and the freedom to enjoy their lives in whatever way brings them happiness.
… we learn that the need to strive for a world where the right to freedom from hunger and poverty … is not limited to the practicalities of sustaining life.
“I pray to Allah every day to free me and my family of this misery”, one shipyard worker states. I’ll pray to Allah that humanity finds a way to make that possible.
Iron Crows screened as part of HRAFF at ACMI on Saturday 21 May, 7:00 pm. Visit Iron Crows on Facebook here.