The Great Abandonment: the extraordinary exodus of India’s migrant labourers
Commissioned by The Guardian
“The Great Abandonment is an immersive and revealing insight into how devastating the covid lockdowns were for labourers and their families in India. The journalists showed bravery and resilience in giving a voice to the millions who found themselves on the fringes of society with nowhere else to turn.”
-News Features Award Jury
In 2020, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced one of the harshest Covid lockdowns in the world, causing nearly 200 million migrant labourers to be stranded without wages, food and housing. Many walked across the country to return to their home villages, while others, caught in limbo with their families, were forced to wait, living on the street or under flyovers they had once laboured to build. And as workers’ rights eroded, the push for unionisation gathered momentum in the country.
Filmed in Mumbai, this documentary reveals the deep divide between those who have and those who do not, while questioning the actions of India’s leader.
Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya are Cannes award-winning Indian documentary filmmakers.
Their work is supported by the Sundance Institute, Pulitzer Center, MacArthur Foundation, the New York Times, the Guardian, Al Jazeera English, Field of Vision, IDFA Bertha Fund, Catapult Film Fund, Filmmaker Fund, National Foundation of India, India Foundation for the Arts, and Arts Council of England. They are current fellows of the inaugural Diane Weyermann fellowship. They have been fellows of Sundance Labs, BBC World Service, Cluster of Excellence Heidelberg and Goethe-Institut. They are members of the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Shirley and Amit’s debut film The Cinema Travellers premiered as an Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival 2016, winning the Special Jury Prize for L’Oeil d’or: Le Prix du documentaire. The film has won 19 awards globally, including the President’s Medal in India. The Hour of Lynching won a World Press Photo and the Sandford St Martin Journalism Award in 2020.