A ship berthed at Gadani and the shipbreakers coming from all over Pakistan to break it discover that they might have more in common than otherwise imagined, when they enter into a conversation.

"Nabi’s monumental docu-fiction film All That Perishes at the Edge of Land (2019) is a powerful commentary about the ocean as a key space of globalization and of the lives defined by shifting economic parameters. Humbly filmed and beautifully choreographed, it is the result of extensive and painstaking research and ‘slow’ evidence-gathering at Gadani, southwest Pakistan, one of the largest ship-breaking sites in South Asia. Nabi deftly connects the deindustrialization of the North to the harsh daily realities experienced by labourers in the Global South."

— Frieze Magazine
Synopsis: 

Ocean Master, a decommissioned container vessel, enters into a dialogue with several workers at the Gadani yards. The conversation moves between dreams, desires, places that can be called home, and the violence embedded in the act of dismantling a ship at Gadani.

As the workers recall the homes and families they left behind, the long work days mesh indistinguishably into one another, and they are forced to confront the realities of their work in which they are faced with death every day. How may they survive and look towards the future?

Reviews

"Hira Nabi's fable is an imaginative but all the more scathing critique of capitalism. Like a blind spot in any conversation about the 'post-industrialized world', the spectacular but ultimately terrifying sight of western maritime fossils on the beach can not be ignored. By bringing the ships to life, and by actually listening to the otherwise invisible people who work on dismantling them, Nabi creates a space between the real and the possible, where something new can grow."

— Mads Mikkelsen, CPH:DOX catalogue 2019

“Nabi’s cinematography is incredible, and turns this reductionist activity into art. It somehow, almost paradoxically, makes the suffering of the workers a meaningful, beautiful effort.”

— Screen Comment

“At the heart of Hira Nabi’s semi-fictional video depicting the toxic exposure and hazardous working practices in the ship demolition industry lies a meditation on death, both of humans and things. The intimacy of the workers’ statements reveals the fractured reality of their jobs, and discloses the story of the toxic as far from a linear one. Such works show the necessity of not just transmitting those stories that usually fall off the radar but of putting them into a broader sociohistorical and environmental narrative.”

— Metropolis Magazine
Director's Commentary: 

Where do ships go to die? This question remained with me over many years as I first became aware of the ship breaking yards on the Indian Ocean. Where did the ships come from? Why did (at one point) 80% of the world’s ships come to these three yards in South Asia: in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan to be taken apart by blowtorches and exacting labour?

I started this film with these questions in mind. As I spent more time at the yard, I became interested in the non-human elements and stakeholders as part of this industry: the contamination of the water, the impact upon the shoreline, the movement of fish away from the shore and these waters, the air that was made heavy with the release of fumes while welding. It was the sum total of violence experienced by humans and other-than-human lives that caught my attention. The decommissioned vessels, the workers, and the environment are locked in battle with one another. What would a relationship of empathy between the ships and the workers who are both there not out of their own free will or choice, look like?

My intention was to document the yard as well as to facilitate a dialogue between the workers and their immediate environment, in making a film that moved beyond a workplace documentary. For this reason, I used a variety of forms, relying upon documentary, narrative and magical realism to create this work.

All That Perishes was made with the shipbreaking workers and would not have been possible without the workers union. It was and still is very important to me to make a film that is collaborative, and yet critical at the same time. There are limited cinematic works on Pakistan’s environment, and ecological destruction and with this film I am trying to start to fill in the gap.