A ship’s death is worth a man’s life.........................
‘I’m not scared, I could die today, tomorrow, or a day later’ a ship dismantler said in the movie Iron Crows. This mind-grasping documentary takes you into the lives of ship breakers who belong to the Bangladesh’s poorest of the poor.
In the seaport city of Chittagong, Bangladesh, you can find the world’s largest ship demolition yards, which dispose more than half of the world’s ships. For the movie Iron Crows, Korean director Bong-Nam Park went to a yard called PHP that supposedly had the best working conditions. However, if you watch the 59 minute long movie you will be shocked. The movie depicts a scene where the 21-year-old Bilal barely escapes death. The danger the workers expose themselves to will have you sitting on the edge of your seat and is nothing compared to National Geographic’s ‘World’s toughest jobs.’
The workers, who range from age twelve to older than 60, acknowledge the jeopardy they engage themselves in. Yet, they are desperate for a pay of merely two dollars a day to provide for their families. One worker states ‘Here we live and die. Do you understand? This is all we have.’ The PHP port is a long dirty shore where huge ships are docked. Hundreds of men dismantle ships with blowtorches at once while only a few of them wear helmets. The most unimaginable thing of all is that hardly any of them wear shoes.
The visuals of the movie are breathtaking. The demolishment of the ship is almost surreal for the viewer as it entails life or death. It is the environment in general though in which these workers live in that is touching. Working and living at the port is given a double view by director Bong-Nam Park. On one hand the HP port has a dark and un-earth like atmosphere but on the other hand the ship graveyard is not the focus, but the unfortunate stories of the men are.
Most of the workers come from villages far from Chittagong to earn money. The 21-year-old Bilal, was followed to his village to go see his new born daughter who was born blind. The trip home took four days. Sometimes during Iron Crows you wondered where these men got their energy from if they demolished ships day in and out. It was disturbing to see how both Bilal’s lives, at PHP and in the village, were so wretched.
The irony of the movie is that a ship’s death is a worker’s life. Iron Crows will take you into a mesmerizing dynamic of Chittagong’s poverty. Although you will feel pity at times, Bong-Nam Park wants the viewer to see the beauty of the irony.
In 2009 Iron Crows won the Award for the best Mid-length documentary, 2009, IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam).