“Champ of the Camp” is the first ever feature-length documentary filmed in the controversial labor camps of the United Arab Emirates. The film follows a massive Bollywood singing and trivia competition that searches across more than 70 camps throughout the country to find and crown the champ of all camps.
Watch the trailer:
Narrated (and sung)
entirely in the voices of the laborers, the film alternates between the
x-factor style suspense of the competition and the gritty reality of the labor
environment, while weaving in intimate access scenes of their daily routines and
emotional reflections on their life as laborers in Dubai.
From the massive industrial kitchens where hundreds of men cook at the same time to the busses that shuttle them to their worksites in the city, from spiderwebs of laundry lines to pop-up barbers and massive prayer areas, the film opens the modern day labor camp for observation.
Brought in by the millions to fuel the construction requirements of a booming Arab economy, these workers live eight men 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.
They find solace and entertainment in the movies and music of Bollywood, performing for each other once a year in this competition on the Bollywood canon. “Champ of the Camp” presents both a tribute and parody to Bollywood by presenting its most famous songs against the backdrop of a life of manual labor.
The film chronicles the stories of characers such as Dhattu, a middle-aged Indian sweeper saving to marry off his daughters while singing Amitabh Bachchan songs every day; Adnan, a Pakistani who excels in the Bollywood repetoire and is proud of his work on the world’s largest tower; and Bangladeshi Shofi, an illegal resident of the UAE whose breathtaking voice earns him multiple rounds of victory in the competition.
Their stories typify the lives of millions of Asian laborers across the Gulf, painting a complete portrait of this vast and isolated population of men who come to build the dream cities of the Arab world while supporting their societies and economies back home.