FROM DUST: the untold story of life after the tsunami
2006, 56 minutes, DVD
Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125
What happens in the aftermath of a natural disaster? How are billions of dollars in aid spent by local governments? How does the desire for economic development influence the rebuilding process? Filmed in Sri Lanka, From Dust examines one government's controversial response to the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in December 2004.
It is estimated that over 220,000 people lost their lives during the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Sri Lanka was the second hardest hit country. It suffered over 35,000 deaths and a staggering 1 million people lost their homes and livelihood along the coastal stretch. In the days following the tsunami, the government of Sri Lanka, flush with international aid, began to enforce a puzzling and obscure law known as the "100 meter rule," which prohibited the rebuilding of homes within 100 meters of the coastline. Government officials claimed this would create a buffer zone against future tsunamis (though its common knowledge that the 2004 tsunami reached land nearly ten times past the buffer zone). To ensure this mandate was followed, the government undertook vigorous policing of the coastline - tearing down homes that had been rebuilt, issuing false tsunami warnings, and even prohibiting U.S. army and relief agencies from working in the area.
The people who lived within this zone (mostly fishermen whose livelihood depended on the sea) were promised relocation further inland. However, to this day, many of them remain homeless. Less than a year after the tsunami hit, the government of Sri Lanka began accepting lucrative bids from international hotel and resort chains for the much-coveted coastal real estate. Similar buffer zones have been enforced in the tsunami affected regions of the Maldives, India and Indonesia where coastal communities have been pushed out in favor of commercial interests.
An incisive documentary about the role and responsibility of government in times of crisis, From Dust presents interviews with survivors, aid workers, US army personnel and government officials to offer a troubling look at the economic opportunities that can arise in the wake of a disaster.
Subjects & Collections
Festivals & Awards* Official Selection, Association for Asian Studies Conference, 2007
* Official Selection, Hot Docs Film Festival, 2006
* Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival, 2006
* Official Selection, Dubai International Film Festival, 2006
Reviews“A timely and enlightening film.” – Variety
“[Three and a half stars] Highly recommended! From Dust paints a sad portrait of the consequences when opportunism follows disaster.” - Video Librarian
“A classic tale of how developing countries on the long march to prosperity often ride roughshod over the poor.” – Reuters
“An eloquent film… A shocking documentary.” – The Times
“Powerfully moving.… In these days where it feels like the media’s a blur of one-disaster-after-another, the boundless relevance of Dhawan's film is tremendous. The sad truth of its examinations is difficult to digest and could supplement the discouragement felt in the aftermaths of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina… From Dust is the product of honest, dependable non-fiction filmmaking.” – Cinematical