Anyone wondering how Asia's tsunami survivors fared in the aftermath of the disaster will find some unsettling answers in From Dust. Travelling to Sri Lanka to make what he thought was going to be a very different film, young documentarian Dhruv Dhawan discovered an appalling lack of reconstruction. Despite generous aid from around the world, none of the survivors' homes had been rebuilt a full year after the event. Until the tsunami hit on December 26, 2004, killing a million residents and leaving another million homeless, Sri Lanka had never enforced an obscure law prohibiting people from building their homes within 300 feet of the coast. But after the disaster, the authorities became so strict that many survivors had no choice but to relocate to the hills. For fishermen like Ravi and Siril, this policy meant a double heartbreak. Australian aid worker Cameron suspects that the government is planning to launch a massive real estate development initiative on the newly cleared coastline. Though the film hardly intends to discourage aid to disaster zones, it is highly critical of the way the Sri Lankan government handled the tsunami crisis. Among other things, Dhawan reveals how the government taxed humanitarian aid and forbid the American soldiers deployed to the island from rebuilding a single home. While the film brims over with political implications, it also brings the viewer into close emotional contact with three men who survived the tragedy and offers deep insight into how it changed their lives.
Dhruv Dhawan is from northern India and spent his childhood growing up in Dubai. He studied Visual Ethnography at Duke University and trained as a director in New York, where he focused his skills in observational cinema. He directs and shoots his documentaries, creating an intimate style that brings audiences into close contact with his film's characters. After the Asian tsunami, Dhawan lived in the tents with Sri Lanka's survivors documenting their strength and struggle over the course of a year. From Dust opened with strong reviews from Variety, The Times, and Reuters and is selected to compete at Hot Docs 2006. Dhawan currently freelances as a director and writer in the United Arab Emirates, where he creates work for the emerging commercial sector and broadcast industry in the Middle East.