Brought in by the millions to fuel the construction requirements of a booming Arab economy, men who journey from the Indian subcontinent live eight to a room in industrial-sized living facilities far removed from the glistening skyline of fantastical towers they build and from the luxurious lifestyle of the rest of the city. While the living and working conditions of laborers makes headlines in the international press and is a constant focus for regional governments, the reality of the laborers on an individual level has remained largely unknown, even for local residents.
In the daily life of the UAE, there are few opportunities for social dialogue or attempts to celebrate their humanity, personal histories and aspirations.
The Western Union Camp Ka Champ competition (‘Champ of the Camp’ in Hindi) is one such notable attempt to give a voice to these men. The competition tests the singing abilities and musical knowledge of contestants in the Bollywood repertoire. The Middle East’s first and only song contest for laborers, it is played out across several months in the same dramatic manner as ‘American Idol.’ From a modest beginning in 2007 with 3 labor facilities in Dubai, it has grown to cover nearly 100 facilities across the United Arab Emirates, now reaching over 100,000 laborers in total.
Veritas Films learned of the singing competition in 2009. The following year, we organized a public concert for the competition winners, the first time that any of our audience ever came together with the labor community in a moment of acknowledgement and pure celebration of human talents and passions. The laborers sang their greatest hits accapella to the cheers and wild applause of the audience and we knew then that we had to make a film to take this message to a wider audience. In 2012, Veritas Films made history by being the first company to ever secure permits to film a feature-length documentary in the labor camps.
We hope this inspires a desire in our audience for deeper connections, greater integration, and personal involvement with the labor community. There are several organizations in the UAE doing phenomenal work in the labor camps, through a variety of stimulating and enabling initiatives. We urge you to please visit their websites to find out how to make in-kind donations or get involved in upcoming activities: