A new documentary partly bankrolled by the Doha Film Institute about construction workers in Dubai is set to hit UAE theaters at the end of this month.
The film, “Champ of the Camp,” debuted last year the Dubai International Film Festival to high marks.
It tells the story of several men who compete in a Bollywood singing and trivia competition for prizes, all the while providing insight into the lives of the hundreds of thousands of migrants working in the Gulf country.
It was expected to be screened in Doha at the Qumra Film Festival in March, but DFI announced this month that it was postponing that event until 2015, amid widespread layoffs. DFI did not respond to comments about the film.
If the debut goes well in the UAE, Veritas Films hopes to show it in Qatar next month, director Mahmoud Kaabour told Doha News.
Bringing down barriers
Like in Qatar, workers in UAE are often segregated from the rest of the population, and it is difficult to interact or have any sort of relationship with them, beyond charitable giving.
Additionally, current media reporting of workers lacks the voice of these men themselves, which leads laborers to be depicted as poor and needy, versus dignified and proud, Kaabour said.
This documentary was a “small attempt to bring down a barrier that separated the labor community from the general public for years,” said Kaabour, a Lebanese expat who was raised in Dubai. And because the movie is narrated by the workers themselves, the film also “shows without telling,” he added.
It took some two years for Kaabour and his team to gain the necessary permissions to film freely in the labor camps. After getting approval from the government, companies and the men they were taping, the filmmakers shot the movie between June and October of 2012.
Interwoven into the narrative thread of Champ of the Camp is the theme of loneliness and yearning, as the young men interviewed for the film share details about the responsibility they bear of supporting their families back home.
But also obvious in the movie is the symbiotic relationship between the workers and the Gulf countries that they are helping to develop, as evidenced by one Pakistani competitor who was taken on a trip to the Burj Khalifa, which he had helped build, but never seen.
“Labor accommodations are surely a pre-requisite to the Gulf’s economic standing. This is how cities here rose,” Kaabour said.
Here’s the movie’s official trailer: