2023 Digital Video Storytelling, Series, Large Newsroom winner

Risky Business

About the Project

The first episode in this submission exposes modern day slavery at Pakistan’s brick kilns. We followed the Meghwars, a family who borrowed money from a kiln owner more than two decades ago to pay a hospital bill. Now three generations churn out 1500 bricks a day to pay off their debt. The youngest member of the family is 12-year old Dileep who told us that he doesn’t remember a life before this and that he has not thought about the future. And worst of all he seems resigned to his fate and thinks that he deserved it, telling Insider, “If you borrow money, you have to work it off.”, words heavy with despair and wisdom beyond his years.

In the next video, we step inside the world of Rasidin, a trash collector who climbs a towering landfill to scavenge for food and anything he can sell. Each day, he dodges giant excavators, avoids landslides and methane eruptions, and prays his family makes it out of this precarious life. He is one of thousands of pemulung living at this massive garbage dump near Jakarta, and his environment has forced him to adapt. “In the past, I couldn’t stand the smell of garbage,” he says. “I often vomited. But now I can say that I’m immune to the smell.”

We also meet Salim Pandikhell, a scrap metal collector in Afghanistan who pulls apart old land mines and grenades to sell the copper inside. The work is extremely dangerous, but Pandikhell risks his life every day to earn money for his family. Still, he worries he will never be able to save for his future, and there are times he wishes he was dead, “just so [he] wouldn’t have to be so desperate.” In that same documentary, we meet 10-year old Salahuddin, who was the victim of a bomb that went off when he was playing with his friends. His wounds are a testament to how dangerous it is to be anywhere near these weapons, let alone collect them for a living.

In Colombia, we enter the jungle where cocaine production is thriving. It starts with impoverished locals stealing oil from a major pipeline and risking their lives to illegally refine it into bootleg gasoline. That gasoline is one of the main ingredients in making cocaine. We also embedded with the Colombian police to see how they are cracking down on all aspects of the cocaine supply chain even as they face threats from cartels.

In India our guide is Rinky, an ambitious teenager who works in the coal belt of Jharkhand. She hopes to become a banker or a beautician one day, but first she must spend her mornings carrying 90 pounds of coal up and down the steep hills near her home. She is one of hundreds of children who work in these coal mines and live in the slums nearby, where mining explosions and overheated, sinking land make every moment of life dangerous.

Judges Comments

‘Risky Business’ managed to take a tried and true populist format like ‘dirty jobs’ using shock and awe to cajole viewers into learning about some of the most important stories they can know – what life is really like for those working some of the most difficult, thankless, and terrifying situations we can imagine.