Jun 13, 2017-
On Sunday, as part of its weekly event Sunday Cinema, the Film Critics’ Society of Nepal (Ficson) screened the documentary The Desert Eats Us, at the Union House in Anamnagar.
Directed by Kesan Tseten, the film revolves around the stories of Nepali migrant workers residing in the gulf country of Qatar. The film, which weaves into its narrative roughly dozen stories of the workers working therein, is about how the desert metaphorically eats up Nepali migrant workers, and, deeply unsettlingly, sometimes literally as well.
The film has as its subjects, among others, journalist Devendra Bhattarai (who, at the time the film was shot, was the co-ordinator of Kantipur national daily’s weekly Qatar supplement), and Sagar Nepal, who, unlike many other workers, was maintaing a decent living in the country.
In one harrowing episode that journalist Bhattarai recounts towards the end of the film, he tells us how one Nepali worker was killed in his room, part of his body eaten later, by his own (non-Nepali) roommates. “It’s unbelievably tragic. I don’t know what to make of it. I can’t believe if the incident actually happened. It is settled in the back of my mind like a myth,” Bhattarai says of the event.
In another episode, a Nepali is stranded in the country. He visits the Nepali Embassy in search of help. Does he know the whereabouts of the agent who sent him to Qatar? No. Does he know the name of company he was promised to be working? No.
“Things like this are commonplace in Qatar. It obviously shows the lack of awareness among the émigrés. There are several instances where a worker is betrayed by his own family members. A brother selling an invalid visa to his own brother, a brother-in-law duping his wife’s sister—things like this keep happening,” Bhattarai says.
Then there are the usual episodes where the workers are compelled to work and live in inhumane conditions. In another of the many moving instances in the film, Bhattarai visits a…