Shipbreaking Documentaries:

Shipbreaking Documentaries:

  1. Iron Eater
  2. Iron Slaves
  3. Iron Crows
  4. The Shipbreakers (ILO 2000)
  5. Shipbreakers (Canada 2004)
  6. Into The Graveyard
  7. The Last Rites
  8. Workingman's Death - Brothers 
  9. Gadani Terminal

Iron Eater:

Director: Shaheen Dill-Riaz
Film Genre: Documentary
Country: Bangladesh
Produced by: Lemme Film for BR, RBB and arte 2006
Running Time: 75 min; 85 min
Version: German/Bangla with German or Bangla subtitles
Location: Chittagong Shipbreaking Yard, Bangladesh


·         GRIMME AWARD 2010 in the category Information & Culture
·         NEW BERLIN FILM AWARD 2008 - Best Documentary
·         Int. Documentary Film Festival Tel Aviv, 2008 - Best Documentary
·         ONE WORLD AWARD NRW, 2007
·         22nd Int. Documentary Film Festival Munich, 2007
·         GRAND PRIX 2007 - Festival Int. Du Film D'Enviornnement, Paris
·         1st Prize - Film Festival South Asia in Katmandu

The annual famine in the north of Bangladesh forces the peasants Kholil and Gadu to leave their homes, together with their relatives. They sign on as seasonal workers in the ship-breaking yards in the south of the country. In the dockyards lining the beaches of Chittagong they dismantle in manual labour the waste of the western world: tankers and huge container ships. Here they are known as "lohakhor" - the "iron eaters". Director Shaheen Dill-Riaz witnesses a system of exploitation from which very few workers are able to escape: not only do the seasonal workers from the north carry out the most dangerous tasks in the shipyard, at the same time they also become ensnared in an inescapable debt trap. They are lured to the shipyards by a complicated system of advance payments and loans and have to buy their provisions from the local grocers. There they incur debts that are later deducted from their wages. Often the men don't even have enough money left to pay their fare home.

Iron Slaves:

Director: Kahlid Khan
Writer: Kahild Khan
Producers: Robert Congdon & Khalid hasan Khan
Film Genre: Documentary
Country: Pakistan
Location: Gadani Shipbreaking Yard, Pakistan
Presented by: Outfield Productions with Rock Creek Productions
Year of Production: 2010 

Iron Slaves (2010), Shipbreakers of Gadani in Pakistan, a feature documentary about those who have been enslaved by iron. A documentary on the labour of Gadani shipbreakers by Outfield Productions and Rockcreek Productions, screening sponsored by Human Rights Commisssion of Pakistan and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research on the International Day of Abolition of Slavery, December 2, 2010.

Over 50,000 men live in poverty on the beaches in Pakistan. They have no clean water, electricity or medical care. They work around the clock scrapping ships. Injury and death are common. They are displaced from their families.

‘Iron Slaves’ on YouTube:

Iron Crows:

Director: Bong-Nam Park
Film Genre: Documentary
Country: South Korea
Language: In Bengali with English Subtitles
Duration: 59 minutes
Location: Chittagong Shipbreaking Yard, Bangladesh

IDFA 2009 WINNER of the Best Mid-Length Documentary

“...Perhaps the most important achievement of this powerful film is the courage, dignity and humility of our heroes trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of crushing poverty. This film is a tour de force!”
– IDFA 2009 Jury’s comment

The world center for shipbreaking is located in the port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh — perhaps the poorest nation on earth — is home to the ship-breaking industry. Here huge megaton behemoths that once sailed the seas are sent to be broken apart by men and boys (some as young as 12, often wearing flipflops) who earn $2 a day, from which they send money home to their families. They wrestle with thousands of tons of iron and asbestos, wielding blow-torches, hammers and crowbars. Here is where half of the world’s retired vessels are dismantled by 20,000 people who risk their lives to eke out the barest living. Much like MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES (a record of industrial waste in China), IRON CROWS is a remarkably beautiful film, in this case, not just for its superb cinematography, but also for its indelible insight into how some of the most exploited people in the world retain their courage, decency and fortitude.

Synopsis: (Iron Crows)

Under torrential rains of sparks, blowtorches tear through the thick steel skin of a ship. As they are cut lose, the pieces of metal plummet to the ground with a roar. This is the ship graveyard that serves as the final destination for a significant part of the world's fleet. Here, crows make their nests from pieces of iron wire. In Iron Crows, South Korean documentary filmmaker Bong-Nam Park shows how workers risk their lives for two dollars a day at the world's largest ship demolition yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Ekramul is only 12, but poverty is more powerful than the law against child labor. Rufik remembers how it all began back in the 1960s, with a ship that washed ashore. Twenty-one-year-old Bilal barely escapes death with the camera rolling. The impressive footage evokes an atmosphere of menace and danger, but the faces beam when a new ship comes in. Most of the workers send a portion of their meager salary back to their families, and they are proud of that. But Bilal has not succeeded in saving $700 in 10 years, as he had dreamed he would. His visit home to his wife, where he sees his undernourished, blind child for the first time, is heartbreaking.

Source: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

The Shipbreakers:

Director: International Labour Organization
Producer: International Labour Organization
Genre: Documentary
Language: English with subtitles
Year of Production: 2000
Duration: 23 min 13 sec
Location: Chittagong Shipbreaking Yard, Bangladesh


Few nations are willing to accept the dirty and dangerous work of dismantling a ship by hand. It is one of the world‘s most unregulated and hazardous industries, leaving a trail of debris, disability and death in its wake. At the same time, it is an industry that supplies much needed income to Bangladeshi workers who have few decent alternatives.

Watch ‘The Shipbreakers’ online: (Accessed on 23 August 2011)

An International Story of Greed, Survival, And Environmental Disaster

Director: Michael Kot
Country: Canada
Theme: Human Interest
Language: English
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada and Storyline Entertainment
Year of Production: 2004
Duration: 72m 48s
Location: Alang Shipbreaking Yard, India


  • Gemini Award for Best Photography in a Documentary Program or Series (Derek Rogers)
  • Ecofilms Festival First Prize - Golden Deer Award
  • Golden Sheaf Awards for Best Director Non-fiction and Best Nature/Environment Documentary
As visually mesmerizing as it is compelling, Shipbreakers takes the viewer into the heart of Alang, India, a vibrant shantytown where 40,000 people live and work in the most primitive conditions. Since the early '80s, the rusting hulks of thousands of the world's largest ships have been driven onto the remote beaches of Alang, off the Arabian Sea, to be dismantled, piece by piece. Sold for scrap, the ship owners rarely bother to abide by the UN Basel Convention, which bans shipments of transboundary waste. One worker a day, on average, dies on the job, some from explosions or falls, but many will contract cancers caused by asbestos, PCBs and other toxic substances. Shipbreakers vividly captures both the haunting beauty of the ships and the deplorable conditions of the workers--in an unforgettable portrayal where Third World ingenuity meets 21st century global economics.

Into The Graveyard:

Director/Producer: Prathamesh V. Rane
Film Genre: Documentary
Country: India
Year of Production: 2011
Time: 00:22:15
Location: Alang and Mumbai Shipbreaking Yard, India

The Mumbai Port Trust Dock and General Employees Union (MPTDGEU) released their new film "Into the Graveyard" in January. The 20 minute documentary on shipbreaking by V. Rane and Sinatra S. Dinz has been submitted to the EMF Unions in Motion film festival in connection to the EMF Congress in June 2011.

The Alang Shipbreaking yard in India is the largest in the world, producing 30% of India's steel. MPTDGEU, the union that has made a huge effort to achieve workers' rights and social justice in the shipbreaking yards of Mumbai and Alang in India have produced a gripping documentary on the daily struggle of the workers.

Scrapping ships is one of the most work-intensive and dangerous jobs there is and probably the worst for metalworkers around the world. In Alang, 194 workers lost their lives in the shipbreaking yards in the last two years alone. This documentary explores the appalling working conditions of shipbreaking workers in India.

‘Into the Graveyard’ can be viewed on YouTube at:

Source: International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF)

The Last Rites:

Director: Yasmine Kabir
Country: Bangladesh
Producer: Yasmine Kabir
Film Genre: Documentary (Silent)
Year of Production: 2008
Duration: 17 min
Location: Chittagong Shipbreaking Yard, Bangladesh


  • Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film, Film South Asia, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2009
  • Egyptian Film Critics Association Prize for Best Film in all Categories, 13th Ismailia International Film Festival, Egypt, 2009
  • Jury Award, Experimental Film competition, 13th Ismailia International Film Festival, Egypt, 2009
  • First Prize, Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Film Festival, Turkey, 2010

Director’s Statement:

‘The Last Rites’, a silent film by Yasmine Kabir, depicts the shipbreaking yards of Chittagong- a final destination for ships that are too old to ply the oceans any longer. Every year, hundreds of ships are sent to yards in Bangladesh. And every year, thousands of people come to these yards in search of jobs. Risking their lives to save themselves from hunger, they breathe in asbestos dust and toxic waste. The elemental struggle between man and metal figures throughout the film, as men carry the weight of steel ropes over their shoulders, pull huge parts of the vessels inland, and bear great metal plates. ‘The Last Rites’ is an allegorical portrayal of the agony of hard labor.

Over 30 years ago there was a great cyclone in the coastal area of Chittagong. It was a violent storm, with winds whipping over 70 mph, taking with it, whatever lay in its path. The next morning, locals were amazed to find a gigantic ship grounded in the middle of the paddy fields, like a beached whale. It sat there for 4 years, waiting, before people realized they could take it apart piece by piece, till not even its skeleton remained. That was the beginning of the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh.

For years after, I would hear about the shipbreaking yards, and was curious to see for myself. A friend, who worked with the local fishermen in the area, promised to take me there. What I witnessed was a world I had never seen before and would never forget.

In a city of dying ships, I saw workers, toiling ceaselessly, as though banished forever to an underworld. The place was an inferno with smoke rising; littered with ship body parts, metal shards, asbestos, and oil spills. Barefooted workers would take apart, bit by bit, the dying ships with their bare hands. On their shoulders, row upon row of workers bore great metal plates to their destination. The work carried well into the night.

The film would remain an historical record of the tragedy of shipbreaking.

Jury Statement, Film South Asia 2009, Nepal.

Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film.

"At the end of viewing the package of 35 films in FSA ’09, the Jury was unanimous in its assessment that one of the shortest films eminently qualifies for the biggest award. We name Yasmine Kabir’s The Last Rites for the prestigious Ram Bahadur Trophy. This gem of a film fully satisfies the demands of what could be described as a ‘complete’ film. There is the superb tandem of camera and sound. It is sharply etched and tightly edited. It connects the ‘death rituals’ of shipbreaking with the struggles for life of a community of people. It treats its extended silence as its strength. In a happy way, it invoked for the Jury the memories of Robert Flaherty’s memorable documentary ‘The Man of Aran’ and, in that sense, connects the origins of the documentary genre with its contemporary practice. The film made us feel proud to be part of FSA ’09".


They're called the shipbreaking yards: the graveyards of ocean-going vessels near Chittagong in Bangladesh. In the foreground, fishermen wade through low water with nets in hand; in the background, we see the gigantic ships on their sides, waiting for the day they'll be taken apart.

The Last Rites is a short, silent account in which director Yasmine Kabir is more in search of the poetry of the images than an all-encompassing record of the events. She juxtaposes the insignificance of the men against the towering sides of the ships. The fire of the welding machine is the only warmth in the dark backgrounds of cold steel. This is where the ships come to die. Not all at once with a bang, but slowly, only as fast as the men can dismantle them. After all, the ships aren't taken apart with big cranes, but rather by the welders, piece by piece. One sheet of metal at a time, until nothing's left, and then more ships arrive for dismantling.

Source: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)

Workingman’s Death - Brothers:

An unflinching portrait of physical work in the 21st century

Director: Michael Glawogger
Written by: Michael Glawogger
Country: Austria
Film Genre: Documentary
Producer: Pepe Danquart, Erich Lackner and Mirjam Quinte
Year of Production: 2005
Location: Gadani Shipbreaking Yard, Balochistan, Pakistan
Language:  Pashto, Yoruba, German, English, Igbo, Indonesian, Mandarin, Russian
Duration: 122 min (Brothers 22 min 19 sec)

Workingman's Death is a 2005 Austrian-German documentary film written and directed by Michael Glawogger. It premiered at the 2005 Venice Film Festival. The film deals with the extremes to which workers go to earn a living in several countries around the world.

The film is composed of 6 differently titled chapters. The first 5 depict hazardous conditions of hard laborers around the world and the sixth shows contrasting scenes of youths in a former German industrial complex which had been converted into a leisure park:

  1. Heroes – Miners of Donets Basin, Ukraine
  2. Ghosts – Sulfur carriers in Ijen, Indonesia
  3. Lions – Butchers in an open-air market in Port Harcourt, Nigeria
  4. Brothers – Welders in the Gadani ship-breaking yard in Pakistan
  5. The Future - Steel workers in Liaoning, China
  6. Epilogue – Youths in Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord in Germany


Awarding Body
Directors Guild of America
Best Director - Documentary Feature
Michael Glawogger
European Film Awards
Best Documentary
Michael Glawogger
German Film Awards
Best Documentary
Pepe Danquart
Erich Lackner
Mirjam Quinte
Gijón Film Festival
Special Jury Award

Leipzig DOK Festival

London Film Festival
Grierson Award
Michael Glawogger
Yerevan Festival
Golden Apricot for Best Documentary



Workingman’s Death follows the trail of the HEROES in the illegal mines of the Ukraine, sniffs out GHOSTS among the sulfur workers in Indonesia, finds itself face to face with LIONS at a slaughterhouse in Nigeria, mingles with BROTHERS as they cut a huge oil tanker into pieces in Pakistan, and joins Chinese steel workers in hoping for a glorious FUTURE. Meanwhile, the future is now in Germany, where a major smelting plant of bygone days has been converted into a bright and shiny leisure park.

Workingman's Death shows 5 striking portraits of heavy manual labour, something increasingly less visible in our technological 21st Century.

In the Ukraine, a group of men spend long days crawling through cramped shafts of illegal coal mines. Sulphur gatherers in Indonesia brave the smoky heat of an active volcano and the treacherous trip back down. Blood, fire and stench are routine for workers at a crowded open-air slaughterhouse in Nigeria. Pakistani men use little more than their bare hands to dismantle an abandoned oil tanker for scrap metal. Steelworkers in China fear they could be a dying breed.

Today's manual workers are no longer celebrated with hymns of praise. They must be content with encouraging one another that backbreaking work is better than no work at all.

Workingman’s Death - Brothers:

Description: Pakistani men use little more than their bare hands to dismantle an abandoned oil tanker for scrap metal

Watch the video on You Tube:

Review: (By Seventh Art)

The fourth part of the film, titled ‘Brothers’, sees the film shift base from Africa back to Asia, this time to a shipyard in Gaddani, Pakistan. We witness workers dismantling large ships, piece by piece, where one false move could result in death (In fact, all the workers shown in the film stand on the verge of death. They risk their lives in order to survive). The group consists of a large number of native and immigrant workers – perhaps from Afghanistan – who help and motivate each other at the workplace. They pine for their beloveds, whom they get to see only during the year ends. We also get to see one photographer who visits the shipyard, offering people a chance to get photographed with a rifle for ten rupees. Are we supposed to pity these workers that they are misguidedly revering terrorists? Or are we supposed to see how deep the Islamic resistance to westernization goes? Glawogger doesn’t answer, and perhaps rightly so. The problem in this section, however, lies in its aesthetics. Glawogger shoots the dismantling work from various angles and distances, creating a symphony of destruction. He uses ultra slow motion and lets us see every speck of dust that rises as the pieces fall. The sense of awe near completely undoes the drudgery that we are witnessing. That Workingman’s Death is shot in film makes it all the more beautiful and hence very objectionable. But that is not the biggest flaw of this segment.

Gadani Terminal:

Director: Basile Sallustio and Frank De Four
Film Genre: Documentary
Photographer: Jungle Films
Sound: Jungle Films
Year of Production: 1985
Production & distribution: Jungle Films
Original Language: Pakistani
Version: French-English
Duration: 10 min
Location: Gadani Shipbreaking Yard, Pakistan
Broadcasters: RTBF, RTL, NKR, Broadcasters salles de cinéma en Belgique


The beach of Gadani, 50 miles north of Karachi in Pakistan, has become one of the two world biggest cemeteries of super tankers, cargoes and other vessels in the world. Ten thousands Pakistanis work there on the rusty sand of Gadani and break down these steel giants coming from all the harbours of the world.

* Compiled by Dr. Tridib Ghose