The Gurmani Centre Screens “All That Perishes at the Edge of Land” by Hira Nabi
On October 17, 2019 the Gurmani Centre invited Hira Nabi to screen and discuss her short-film “All That Perishes at the Edge of Land”. This was the first time the film was being shown in Lahore. Bilal Tanweer, co-director of the Gurmani Centre began the event by briefly introducing the film maker. Following this, Dr. Saba Pirzadeh gave a more detailed introduction to the films Hira Nabi has worked on and the international forums she has displayed at. The audience was also shown one of Hira Nabi’s shorter films, El Retorno, to illustrate the varying themes and topics that the filmmaker is interested in.
“All That Perishes at the Edge of Land” was shown after this. The thirty minute short film captured the lives of shipbreakers at Gadani port in Balochistan. It poignantly highlighted the bleakness and hardships of their work, while simultaneously capturing glimpses of humour and fraternity amongst the workers. The film also highlighted the destruction inherent in the task of shipbreaking itself. Aerial shots of the ship being taken apart brought home the sheer scale of destruction going on. The narratorial voice given to the ship, “Ocean Liner”, further humanized it.
In the following discussion with Dr.Saba Pirzadeh, Hira Nabi discussed her concerns and intention while making the film.“I wanted to use the camera to bear witness to these stories,” she said. She also explained why the workers individual faces were rarely focused on throughout the film, and their words were juxtaposed against scenes from the yard instead. “I wanted to universalize the narrative,” she said, “and tell the story of the shipbreakers as a collective, not just one or two stories.” She also said that she wanted to give viewers a “sense of how the workers become invisible in this infrastructural industry, where you see the work that they do but not the workers themselves.”
Hira Nabi also talked about her artistic and academic influences. She cited Abbas Kiarostami and Michael Haneke as some of the filmmakers she took inspiration from. She also mentioned Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor as a text that influenced the way she “read the workers’ stories”. “It made me think of violence as something slow and drawn out,” she elaborated. She pointed to the long term effects of shipbreaking on the workers’ health as this kind of violence. “What does it mean when someone works at the yard for just a few months, but discovers they are suffering from Asbestosis six years down the line?” she said. “It doesn't count as a workplace accident, then how do you deal with it?”
The film and the discussion surrounding it brought to light the exact extent of the exploitation underway at Gadani Port. It also highlighted the ways in which evolving forms of filmography can be used to make powerful commentary in the Pakistani context.