A film by Jason Byrne
2009, 51 minutes
No. 063

In 1973, a massive freighter ship called the Bulk Promotor was built by Norway to transport coal and iron ore throughout Northern Europe. In 1985, it was sold to mainland China. Renamed Hupohai (which means 'Amber Ocean') it was used to distribute coal along the Yangtze River. 32 years later, it sails quietly across the Indian Ocean, empty of cargo and carrying only a small crew; it's en route to Bangladesh, to its infamous boneyards, where it will be dismantled and salvaged for scrap.

Filmmaker Jason Byrne, along with Theron Patterson doing location sound, board the ship to document its final voyage. While listening to crewmembers' ghost stories (did the previous crew sabotage the ship?) and fending off pirates (who try to steal the ship's bronze rudder), Byrne and Patterson explore the huge vessel, top to bottom, searching for clues to its past. They find old snapshots in the captain's quarters (an excursion to a Buddhist temple), cassette tapes of pop songs, diary entries. In one still-locked room, they discover a cache of 16mm film reels, remarkably well preserved: communist propaganda, Chinese melodramas. All of these elements are brilliantly woven into the film itself.

Once the ship arrives in Bangladesh, the shipbreakers get to work, dismantling the hulking vessel piece by piece. The scrap is brought to an ironworks factory, where workers amidst blazing furnaces melt the remains into glowing pools of light.

* Official Selection, New York Film Festival
* Winner, Best Documentary, Black Maria Film Festival

"Lyrically tracks the final voyage of a cargo ship filled with touching traces of former workers that will linger even after the boat itself is no more." - The New York Times

"Mesmerizing. As often happens in suspense and horror films set at sea, the filmmakers discover that they are not entirely alone... material traces of the ship's Communist past-life keep surfacing." - San Francisco Bay Guardian

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