Dhaka, Bangladesh, is the new location for the new sci-fi/thriller OMMI. Filmmaker Amit Ashraf, the mind behind this project explains how the film confronts the issues of 3rd world injustice. He states has how the setting of the shipyard ‘layers the story’s moral complexities with those of First World exploitation of Third world; of Islamic values; and it reveals terrorist imperatives for examination.’
Born in Bangladesh, this is a topic close to Ashraf’s heart and through his film he is driving the audience to ask these important existential questions, right now.
The sense of anxiety looms over the copper wasteland off the shores of Bangladeshi coasts What was once a stunning sea-side landscape is now a derelict graveyard for ships to be deconstructed, gutted and reused for valuable metal.
Every inch of the ship has value, with metal being turned into building materials, metal sheets and furniture. Mega ships of monstrous sizes (70 meters tall, 400 meters long) that once beckoned the seas now lay docile, empty and decayed for the shipbreakers to disassemble. The shipbreakers that work on this land are subject to horrific work conditions, as fatal accidents are a regular occurrence. Dismembered limbs, gas explosions, poisonous chemicals and scorching fires are all too common in the Bangladeshi shipyard.
The vast majority of the workers are from very poor backgrounds and feel they have to endure these conditions to survive and provide for their families. Some, haven’t even reached adulthood Shrii Dham, a 15-year-old employee of the Chittagong shipyard explains says, “we need to do it, because we have to support ourselves and our families. How can we live without a job?” Mohammed Shumon, a metal cutter, describes the horrors of working in these conditions:
“Some people had their heads or limbs cut off. Then their severed parts were carried away in body bags. I know my job is dangerous and scared that I might get seriously injured. But I have to work because my father has cancer.”
On top of the horrific conditions, the pay is incriminatingly bad with workers getting a mere £1.50 a day. According to human rights groups in the area, the management of these shipyards are notoriously bad, with workers being treated like “animals”, easily replaceable and expendable.
This highlights the systematic injustice that exists within these oceanic wastelands. With 20,000 employees, the government benefits from approximately £70 million in revenue. Social justice for these workers needs to be incorporated through a top down approach. The tears of the families affected by these abhorrent and fatal conditions will continue if strategic measures aren’t fully implemented by both 1st and 3rd world policies.
Although this film grapples dark themes, it’s able to address these issues within a futuristic sci-fi world, having action/thriller beats that aims to inform and thrill the audience. OMMI showcases this injustice in a unique and engaging way, raising awareness around 3rd world issues that are very present to this day. From its origin, cinema has been a tool to educate and inspire people, allowing them to discover untold worlds. It’s our hope that OMMI will at least be a conversation starter, and at most be a game changer in the socio-political landscape of 3rd world injustice in Bangladesh.
Written By William Budd