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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors

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The Other Face Of Dubai: The Workers

Documentary seeking to promote change:


This YouTube video is a short documentary from Vice. The purpose of this video is to broadcast the injustices that immigrant workers face on a daily basis in Dubai. This video is important as it gives the audience a different view of Dubai. Dubai is a depicted as a luxurious, fa and fast growing city but rarely are the issues of labor exploitation addressed. In the article by Haines "Cracks in the Fa├žade: Landscapes of Hope and Desire in Dubai" the author says that the city has marketed itself as a city of prosperity, luxury, and wealth that is beginning to gain global recognition. Haines touches on the topic of labor exploitation; he states that Dubai relies on immigrant labor. Often times immigrant laborers are segregated into dilapidated neighborhoods. Although their wages are higher in Dubai than in their home countries, the living expenses are also higher which makes it difficult for workers to prosper. Many employers hold the work visas of these workers as a way to ensure that they will work for them for a certain period of time. Immigrants in Dubai according to the Haines article depend on their work visas, if they violate any laws their visas are automatically revoked and they are returned to their native country. In Hari Kunzru piece "Transmission" Guy the protagonist describes that everywhere he goes in Dubai he runs into workers from Thailand, the Philippines, and other countries. This attest to the fact that immigrants are the back bone of the country. The documentary "Dubai: The greatest city on earth" claims Dubai built its wealth on the extraction of oil; currently the city profits from the exploitation of workers.


Documentary with little to none commitment to creating change: 


Champ of the Camp is a documentary that debuted in Dubai's International Film Festival on December 2013. It was directed by Lebanese born Mahmoud Kaabour. This new documentary seeks to portray everyday life in thirteen of the most controversial labor camps of the United Emirates Estates. This documentary takes a different spin at portraying life in labor camps. The documentary looks at the singing competitions that take place in the labor camps. These singing competitions are organized, ran, and performed by workers in the camp. The purpose of these signing competitions are to create a space by workers for workers where they can express themselves, and at the same time enjoy some time away from the labor exploitation they experience on a daily basis.  The director says that one of the greatest surprises in the movie are the moments of camaraderie. Kaabour says that he was interested in capturing the life in the camps through people's narratives, and to showcase that not all moments in the camps "are as sad and gritty as you can imagine." When the singing competition first began seven years ago it had 30 contestants, three years later it had 3,000. The competition that the film documents had 7,000 people participants. Kaabour says that the competition is a "narrative of thousands of men who left their homes, to fly here, and help it grow." The director hopes that after people see this film they will be able to have a more rounded view of the city, and how it was built. However, the director is a bit problematic as he says he welcomes any positive changes or awareness to Dubai's labor camps but is not interested in judging the morality or standards of the camps. Although, Kaabour is showcasing the labor camps in Dubai he fails to take a stance against the labor exploitation found in the camps. Thus, it may be argued that he helps to feed into the exploitation of the workers. 


By: Thania Lucero
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