Film based on Baldia factory tragedy to be screened at One World Film Festival

'Discount Workers' also explores negligence by the concerned bodies

Our Correspondent September 11, 2020


A Pakistani-German co-production Discount Workers, a feature-length documentary film, will have its world premiere at One World Film Festival in Prague, Czech Republic. The festival is the largest human rights film festival in the world. The film, which will be screened on September 11, in accordance with the 8th anniversary of the Baldia factory fire, that killed over 260 workers, follows the struggle of Saeeda Khatoon, Abdul Aziz and the others who lost their children in that tragic incident. The workers in that factory, Ali Enterprise, were making clothes for the German retailer KiK.

The film is co-directed by Ammar Aziz and Christopher Patz. Ammar Aziz is an award-winning Pakistani filmmaker, known for his film A Walnut Tree. Christopher Patz is a German lawyer and filmmaker.

Aziz in a press release said, “Every time we tell someone about this film, the first question is if we have ‘exposed’ the alleged criminals belonging to a political party responsible for the fire. The point is that the Pakistani state, the German clothing brand KiK and the Italian auditing company RINA that, merely three weeks before the fire, awarded the factory with the international SA 8000 certificate which is supposed to guarantee occupational health and safety – all of them want to shift the responsibility entirely on the alleged criminals."

The director went on to add, "Of course, what they did was horrendous but that’s not an excuse for you not to provide safety measures. Besides, even such a tragedy has not changed anything for thousands of other factories and informal workplaces where workers continue to lose their lives and their health deteriorate each day. The state and the European brands and audit companies must realize their criminal negligence in such cases.”

Christopher Patz, co-director of the film, shared, "Making this film we're able to contribute to a global movement for new laws to hold companies accountable for the human rights and environmental violations taking place in their supply chains and global operations. It's not right that people in Pakistan die making jeans for Europeans."

"Now new laws are being demanded by civil society all over Europe, in order to hold corporations to account, and to ensure that overseas workers and communities can use courts in Europe to get justice. This is one of so many similar stories, and we hope and trust it will inspire European citizens to keep pressuring their parliaments to do the right thing so that we don't keep having to buy products made with such heinous human suffering," he added.

Veronika Janatkova, the Czech producer of the film noted, “We read discussions and articles on global supply chain almost every day. Amid this ongoing debate, the focus of the majority is usually somewhere else: on productivity and effectiveness and how to produce quicker and cheaper than ever before, with the price falling down. Most affected are the ones at the end of the production chain. When I got to know about the Baldia Association, it opened a new perspective to me."

She added that the aim is to cause change. "This initiative, formed by the most vulnerable, is taking a powerful action and aims to shift the paradigm. The unlikely heroes point out the broken procedures and work on bringing the corporations to the court to hold them accountable and take the responsibility. By making this film we want to support the fight for justice in global supply chain.”

After the screening in two different theaters of Prague, the film is set to have its German premiere at Berlin Human Rights Film Festival in October. The Pakistani premier was supposed to take place on the anniversary of the fire this year in Karachi but because of Covid-19, it has been postponed.

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