Carnegie Mellon University Home

Dietrich College News

“Shipbreakers” will screen at 7:15 p.m., on Friday, March 21, in McConomy Auditorium and will feature a panel of experts discussing the issues the film raises.

February 2014

“Shipbreakers” Film Documents Dangerous Scrapping Work

In Alang, India, there is a six-mile stretch of an oily, smoky beach where huge ocean vessels no longer seaworthy are run aground, broken apart and stripped of everything from portholes and paneling to furniture, engines and propellers.

Forty thousand migrant workers making $1-2 per day do the scrapping. They cut the ships apart by hand, working in extremely dangerous conditions and without any safety or labor regulations.

To bring this process of shipbreaking to life — and to highlight the human rights and environmental issues involved, the late filmmaker and Carnegie Mellon Professor Paul Goodman, CMU’s Ralph Vituccio and Tom Clancey, an award-winning cinematographer whose resume includes Hollywood films such as “Fast & Furious,” spent four years making the documentary “Shipbreakers.”

They had shot the footage in India and were working on the script when Goodman passed away.

Goodman’s widow, Denise Rousseau, the H.J. Heinz II University Professor of Organizational Behavior and Public Policy, stepped in to keep the project moving. Working off Goodman’s original script, Vituccio rewrote it to include more of the environmental and human rights issues.

“We were invited to the European Parliament in Brussels to present our unfinished work to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform Conference on global regulations for shipbreaking,” said Vituccio, an assistant teaching professor in the Entertainment Technology Center who has won several awards for films and interactive media on topics including racism, conflict management, art history and military service. “There, we were able to interview people involved in trying to set new regulations for the industry.”

“Shipbreakers” will make its U.S. premiere as part of CMU’s 2014 International Film Festival, running March 20 – April 5.

“This is one of the most dangerous industrial sites in the world — there are explosions all the time, people die, people are maimed,” Vituccio said. “The ships are 20 stories high and several football fields long, and the men are wearing sandals, climbing up the ships on rope ladders and using chisels and hammers to break up propellers and other precious metals.”

The ship owners make millions off of the process. Yet, the environmental pollutions are devastating because the ships are laden with toxic materials, which are buried in surrounding farmlands or simply left to pollute the once pristine tidal flats.

“Every ship is a sump of toxic waste,” Vituccio said. “If workers aren't killed on the job from explosions or falling objects, exposure to toxic waste, for many, will result in longterm illness or early death. They don’t have a union or any protection. If they complain, they don’t get hired. There’s no pay standardization, and if — or when — they get hurt, there is no medical or lost wages compensation.”

Vituccio hopes “Shipbreakers” brings awareness to how shipbreaking in less-developed countries has become a major international concern because of the human sacrifice involved and the environmental damages it causes. It pales in contrast to places, such as the U.S., where international laws for dealing with the proper disposal of toxic substances and occupational safety are followed.

“Shipbreakers” will screen at 7:15 p.m., on Friday, March 21, in McConomy Auditorium and will feature a panel of experts discussing the issues the film raises.

The film recently was nominated for Best Feature Documentary and Best Producer for Feature Documentary at the 2014 Madrid International Film Festival. It also has been accepted at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, Flagler International Film Festival and the American Online Documentary Film Awards.

The theme of this year’s International Film Festival pays homage to Goodman, a revered filmmaker, and will highlight the work across different cultures, which was his professional focus.

“Paul was about the process. He was a world-renowned organizational psychologist and was interested in work processes — how people organize, get along and manage each other. He was passionate about how film could help tell their stories. We all miss him,” said Vituccio, who had worked with Goodman on numerous films during the past 15 years.

CMU’s International Film Festival is sponsored by the Humanities Center.

For a full festival schedule and to purchase tickets, visit .

Stay connected with CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Twitter and Facebook.

Other sources of Carnegie Mellon news include the university news service website and the Carnegie Mellon Today magazine.

Contact Shilo Rea, Director of Public Relations at or (412) 268-6094.


About the Quick Links

Follow the Dietrich College on Twitter and Facebook.
Sign up to receive Dietrich College News, the college's monthly e-newsletter.

  Four Dietrich College Graduates Receive Fulbright Awards
From addressing clean water shortages in urban Mexican communities to teaching English in Brazil, Germany, Montenegro and Turkey, five recent CMU graduates – four from the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences – will be making a global impact through this year’s Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Read more.
  Dietrich College News: July 2014
Features this month include new autism and health psychology research, what the World Cup and the Russian Revolution have in common, alumni stories, faculty accomplishments and much more. Read Dietrich College News.
  Autism Stems Mostly From Common Genes
Using new statistical tools, Kathryn Roeder has led an international team of researchers to discover that most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches. Read more.
  International Impact of the Humanities
Sports fans may have had their eyes on Brazil as it hosts the 2014 World Cup, but beyond the soccer fields, the country is facing a different form of competition. Many of the issues are eerily similar to those raised in the 1917 Russian Revolution, putting historian Wendy Goldman's work in the spotlight. Read more.
  Only 25 Minutes of Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Stress
Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs. Read more.
  Save the Date: Celebrating the Work of Steven Klepper
The Dietrich College and Department of Social and Decision Sciences will hold an academic conference and community memorial event on October 17, 2014 to celebrate the work of Steven Klepper. Read more (pdf).
  Heavily Decorated Classrooms Disrupt Attention and Learning In Young Children
Published in Psychological Science, CMU's Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman looked at whether classroom displays affected children's ability to maintain focus during instruction and to learn the lesson content. They found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed. Read more.   Watch a video.
  Four Students Begin Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program
The program provides summer funding to rising seniors in the Dietrich College's senior honors program as they undertake early-stage research and development of their thesis topics. In this video, the four students participating in program's inaugural year discuss their projects which range from relationship research to anthropology and ethnography studies. Watch the videoFind out more about the program.
  Mapping the Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University — which has a long history of the humanities and social sciences collaborating with other fields to solve problems — and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences held the first Pittsburgh-area discussion of the "Heart of the Matter" report and its implications for improving education and creating a sustainable global society. Read more.   Watch the video.  View photos.
  New Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program Announced
The program will provide summer funding support to rising seniors in the Dietrich College senior honors program as they undertake early-stage research and development of their thesis topics. Read more.
  Richard Scheines Appointed Dean of Dietrich College
Scheines, professor and head of the Department of Philosophy, has been selected to lead the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences as dean, effective July 1, 2014. He will succeed John Lehoczky, who has served as dean since 2000 and will return to the Department of Statistics’ faculty. Read more.
  Students, Alumni Attend Under Construction
Nearly 60 alumni returned to support 150 current students and help them build their careers. The second annual “Under Construction: Building Your Future” event encouraged students and alumni to explore the diverse fields available after graduation. Read more.
  Video: The Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University
The Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences is proud to have distinguished faculty and talented students who are leading the humanities into the 21st century. In this short video, Dietrich College faculty, staff and alumni talk about the college’s excellence in the humanities. Watch the video.


H&SS Home | Admissions | Advising & Careers | Departments & Programs | Research | Computing & Libraries | News | Alumni

Site Index | About H&SS | Message from the Dean


Carnegie Mellon University
College of Humanities & Social Sciences | 5000 Forbes Avenue | Baker Hall 154 | Pittsburgh, PA 15213 | (412) 268-2830