Neither Union Carbide nor its successor, Dow, has apologized to the people of Bhopal, India, where what is still known as the world's worst industrial disaster took place 30 years ago this week. The number of deaths caused both directly and indirectly from the disaster differs, but it is in the tens of thousands with over half a million people suffering some form of injury. Every single horse in the area died as a result of the poisoning and mass burials and cremations of both humans and animals took place in the days that followed.
This past weekend, a film made by Indian director Ravi Kumar has hit the cinemas and is playing Chicago, D.C. and San Diego, and opens this week in India, at film festivals in Japan and around the world. The authenticity of how the story is told is due in great part to the fact that first-time director, Ravi Kumar is a native of Bhopal himself. His choice of Martin Sheen to play the head of Union Carbide' s CEO at the time of the disaster was a brilliant one, as Sheen portrays the villain as multifaceted and all too human. His series of bad choices and outright distancing of himself and Union Carbide from responsibility is juxtaposed to those who are on the ground, working in Bhopal day to day.
Add to the list of well-known actors, both Indian actors Rajpal Yadav and Tannishtha Chatterjee, and a fascinating and disturbing story of corporate greed and cost cutting plays out far from the corporate headquarters where all that matters are profits, not human beings.
We see the lives, the joys and the suffering, of the Indian men, women and children and the poverty which forces many of them to choose to work for Union Carbide. We also see the all too typical Western executives who outsource their dirty work to impoverished areas of the world, and then when something goes wrong, they hide behind so-called first world protections, lawyers, and the profits which can pay for these.
I met Ravi several years ago and learned about his film and know how much hard work he put into getting the film made, directing it himself, remaining authentic to the story and the lives of those lost and those still affected today by the Bhopal disaster. Thirty years later, someone needed to make sure that Bhopal and those whose lives were ended, and changed forever, were not forgotten. We have Ravi Kumar to thank for making sure this is the case. I encourage everyone who has the chance to see this film, to do so. Sadly our world has had far too many industrial disasters due to greed, be it the BP oil spill, or the incompetence and lack of transparency of TEPCO following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. We need cinema to show us these stories. This is the power of the moving image at work. Visit the website of Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain: http://bhopalmovie.com