Director: Arkus | Producer: Gargi Chakrabarti |India
Forsaken without food, water and wages, abandoned seafarers struggle to stay afloat in desperate conditions just miles off-shore.
No wages, no food, no water – welcome to modern day slavery. ‘Afloat’ is a genuine emotional story showcasing the struggle and survival of the abandoned seafarers. It is a commonly occurring phenomenon in the Arabian Gulf that when a shipping company runs into financial trouble, they abandon the ship along with the crew in international waters. Shipping laws across the world and especially in the Arabian Gulf are weak, which fails to address such gross human rights violation. When a ship owner is unable to make payments, the respective governments take away the license which makes it impossible to recover any money. Left without options, the owner abandons ship and stops paying the crew. They also send no provisions, thereby forcing the crew to survive without food, water and bunker fuel. By law, the crew are not allowed to leave the ship, if they do so, they risk being arrested. Moreover, they don’t have relevant visas and their passport gets confiscated by the respective governments. The abandoned ship then transforms into a floating prison. This life in limbo goes on… not for months but for years. A major character in the film is Captain Ayyappan Swaminathan, whose complete story arc we get to view from being an abandoned seafarer to drawing media attention and to finally reaching home. Another important layer of the story is back home in India where families of the sea farers struggle to make ends meet, without any sight of paychecks. They are forced to borrow money, mortgage or even sell their belongings. Time and money are both lost, as are the lives spent in endless wait, both on sea and for those waiting on land. There is no voice to this unpardonable loss, no documentation to this pain and injustice, no sign of liberation. The protagonist of this issue based documentary film is Reverend Canon Andrew Bowerman – the director of Mission to Seafarers (a Christian charity organization) for the Middle-East and South Asia, who liaisons between the various stakeholders and fights for the rights of the seafarers.
I would like to confess that I was completely unaware that such an distressing yet extraordinary story was unfolding just a few miles offshore from where I live. I received a call from Ms. Gargi Chakrabarti – the producer of the film, she had just come across an article about the subject, and asked me to research it a bit more to see if I would be keen to take it up along with her. A simple google search and I could not go back to my blissful state of ignorance. The victims’ suffering was mostly undocumented so far, and it was something I felt strongly about, especially when I saw the condition of the families. For every abandoned seafarer, there are 3-4 more people in their family affected. Being an ex-pat myself for past 8 years in Abu Dhabi, I am empathetic to their pain, of living away from your loved ones and not being able to be there for them in the time of their needs – which is an immediate connection for me to the topic. This spurred me on to straightaway connect to the person who is doing the most for these suffering seafarers – Andrew Bowerman – director of the Mission to Seafarers for the Middle-East and South Asia. He was receptive and extremely delighted to aid us in our endeavors. He has granted us access and sincerely trusts our intentions regarding the film. Through his reference, I was able to connect and communicate with various suffering seafarers and their families. They have kindly opened up their homes and hearts by trusting us with their most vulnerable moments and thoughts. So now, it is not only my wish but also my responsibility to tell their story to the world.
Arkus is an Indian writer-director based in Abu Dhabi. In the year 2015-16, he was selected for Arab Film Studio’s 1-year short documentary film making, an all-expense-paid residential program conducted by Image Nation, Abu Dhabi. Arkus’ short-animation film script ‘An Apple, A Day’ was nominated for the Sunbird Production Award at Palestine Cinema Days in Film Lab Palestine, 2019. Furthermore, he was selected for The Young Filmmakers’ Circle (1-year fiction film making all-expense-paid program), conducted in partnership with Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, Germany and Orient Meets Occident by Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation in 2019-20.
Gargi Chakrabarti is an Indian producer-researcher based in Abu Dhabi. She brings with her a strong research skill set (past clients include Unilever, Sony-AXN, UTV – Disney India), a knack for sniffing out stories as well as production management and problem-solving abilities. In recent years, she has worked with other directors on short documentary film projects namely Hartom (2017) and AS-IF the King (2019). At present, Gargi is directing and producing a short documentary film with Arab Film Studio by Image Nation, Abu Dhabi as a part of their all-expense-paid one-year residential documentary film making program.
We expect to complete the film by the first quarter of 2022. Research and Development – This stage was supposed to completed by June 2020 which has got delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis but will be completed by February 2021. Pre-production – From February 2021 till October 2021 we would concentrate on preparing for the production and collecting funds for the same. As we cannot shoot during the rainy season in India (June till September), we will completely avoid shooting during those months. Also, during this stage, we will have a far clear picture of our status of funding and plan our production accordingly. Production – From October 2021 till December 2021, the production will spread over a period of 3 months. Wherein we will go on board the abandoned vessels and film the rusting ships and the abandoned sea-farers. Post-Production – From December 2021 till March 2022. The editing will take a concentrated one and half months of time due to multiple languages followed by 1 month for color grading and sound mixing.
Estimated budget (without taxes) 252,700 USD
Right now the project is in the research and development stage wherein the producer has made a seed investment of 5000 USD to start the project. This investment allowed us to travel, meet and establish a close connection with our subjects in Abu Dhabi (UAE), Dubai (UAE), Kumbakonam (India) and Mumbai (India). We are yet to travel to Guwahati (India) to meet with one of our film’s character which has got delayed due to the current pandemic. During the research shoot, the subjects were filmed and a small development trailer has been created for the project to attract financing. Moreover, we have started applying to prestigious documentary labs and pitching forums in hope that we develop the project further as well as get funding, co-producers and collaborators.
Arkus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +971-553042550