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.
When a Chapman College film professor challenged his students to submit their work to Mountainfilm, there were no guarantees. The student work was judged alongside all others submitted. One student film, however, rose to the top. Bobby Moser and MJ Lat’s We Come from Jambiani takes on the subject of the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, a deeply impoverished land whose people are at the mercy of inhospitable forces outside their control, and looks at the Zanzibar Action Project (ZAP), an aid undertaking that provides relief in the only way that outside aid can ever truly work—based on what the people themselves deem their needs to be. In addition to beautiful cinematography, the pace, sensitivity and incision of this film combine to reveal a true talent in the making.
“You don’t have the right to kill people in the name of God,” says Ashraf al-Khaled, the main character in this Oscar-nominated short documentary. He has some moral authority; in 2005, an Iraqi suicide bomber walked into his wedding and killed 27 members of his family, including his father and father-in-law, and 130 people overall. It was the most ever by a single terrorist and considered by the planners—who are interviewed in the film—to be “a great killing.” With characters like this, Killing in the Name certainly veers into the heart of darkness, but it also touches your heart when it introduces you to the relatives of victims and a father whose son became a suicide bomber. Given that it only focuses on the Muslim world, the result is certainly an incomplete portrait of terrorism today, but the details we do see are both insightful and unsettling.
“People keep looking at our shoes and boards in a weird way. They think that they are attached to the boards through some sort of magnetic field.” So says 17-year-old Afghani Murza, a young teenager from Kabul who has found his oasis in a place called Skateistan. Directed by former professional snowboarder Orlando von Einsiedel, the film Skateistan documents how a physical action as simple as skateboarding can help to dissolve barriers between boys and girls and empower children to believe in their ability to create positive change, even in a bomb-scarred country.