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.
What does it tell us about the direction of our society that the list is long of TV shows and films that describe the road into the future as dire and dark? Now add to that list, which ranges from The Road to Mad Max, the narrative short Remigration. What distinguishes this film from the rest of this desperate genre is its focus on a massive problem: the ever-increasing disparity of wealth in this country, a problem that many economists believe is the most serious one facing the U.S. And, while it may not sound like a sexy subject for a film, director Barry Jenkins (who also made Medicine for Melancholy) has carefully crafted a spooky story that rings true and feels like it could be non-fiction before long.
“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.