Evelyn Marsters: Champ of the Camp, & migrant labour

When I look at a city-scape, I don’t think about the architectural era of the buildings or grandiose design. My inquiry rests upon the question of “who built this place?” Or, more accurately, where did the slaves, vulnerable workers, migrant labourers, or indentured labour come from? My interest in migration accompanies me on all my travels – I’m always searching for clues left by migrant workers in the local cuisine, fashion, arts, and politics.

You can probably imagine my migration nerdy interest in the film Champ of the Camp a feature-length documentary filmed in the controversial labour camps of the United Arab Emirates. I met the filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour for lunch in Berlin to talk about the issues surrounding contemporary labour camps. It was a lively discussion, drawing many parallels between the flows of labourers in the Middle East and the Pacific region.

I’m heading along to the Berlin screening of Champ on December 7. 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. I’m interested to see how the documentary elucidates the complexities of how and why these camps exist in modern societies.

I also want to find out more about how these massive camps operate, what life is like for those who live and work within them, and if the workers’ hopes and dreams for securing a better future for themselves and their families “back home” can actually be realised.

If you’re in Berlin, come along!

Mahmoud Kaabour is a Berlin-based film director. Find out more about Champ of the Camp.

Evelyn Marsters is an academic research consultant and Deputy Editor at Impolitikal. She has a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Auckland. Read more by Evelyn.