Ship breaking, or scrapping, is a dangerous business with severe health and environmental hazards. As a result, the industry now resides almost exclusively in developing countries, notably in India and Pakistan where risks of personal injury lawsuits and workers’ health claims are virtually absent. Like water wearing away rock, a sea of men and boys, armed only with rudimentary tools, swarms the derelict hulls and decks and engine rooms and slowly they break down beached leviathan tankers and cargo chips. In the course of their work, the laborers separate and identify any parts and pieces that may have resale value. This short, direct cinematic piece provides a fascinating glimpse of a harrowing enterprise.
For someone from Sheffield, England, the idea of living in a thatched bamboo hut in the Thai jungle might seem a dream. For dispossessed Karen refugees from Burma, the opposite is the case. Indeed, the Burmese refugees look forward to leaving their tropical camp and moving to the north of England, but they do so with a turbulent mix of emotions and excitement. Moving to Mars captures perfectly the welter of human feelings that attends life in exile: the ineffable sadness for lost family and friends, the gnawing pain of injustice endured, the heady promise of new beginnings, the ragged ups and downs of acculturation in a new and vastly foreign homeland. While the film shows that the path of the exile can, however improbably, lead to happiness, it also reveals clearly, and sometimes harshly, that the way there is enormously challenging.