A Place Called Home: The five UAE expats who took on the world
The expatriates who feature in movie documentary talk about their lives and the experience of filming it.
1. Mina Mirasevic, 29, from Serbia, Etihad Airways cabin crew, lives in Abu Dhabi
Determined to see the world and have a better life, Mina Mirasevic came to Abu Dhabi from her home four years ago and started working as cabin crew.
Since then, she has risen through the ranks to the position of cabin manager.
For Ms Mirasevic, the experience of being a part of the film was intense and stressful at times, but also rewarding.
“I was doing something that I had never done in my life and I felt obligated to show my life, my country, my job, my family and my friends, just as they are,” said Ms Mirasevic.
She said that the stories of others featured in the documentary had an effect on her.
“I realised how lucky I am that I can see my parents and sister whenever I need to, and that I work and enjoy my job. I get paid to travel, meet amazing people and see different cultures,” she said. “I saw people struggling for their loved ones and those who are dependent on them. I admire all the characters in this documentary and I feel honoured to share my story with theirs.”
2. Bikram Singh, 46, from India, labourer at Arabtec, lives in Abu Dhabi
Bikram Singh came to UAE 16 years ago to work as a labourer, with the goal of earning enough to give his children a better life.
While he has given them a good education, he has not been able to build a house for his wife, Anita.
“When I came here, sometimes people would not treat me well and I realised it was because I was not educated,” he said. “I was determined that my children study, although there was opposition from the family.”
He said many told him it was a waste of money to educate his daughter, Harpreet, because she would eventually get married. But his daughter, now 18, is studying law at university. His son, Karnbeer, 16, is studying non-medical science.
He said he enjoyed being part of the film.
“The best part of the experience was the crew interviewing my daughter. I think it is because of her that my story was selected,” Mr Singh said.
“The film makes a difference to me because through it I can encourage others to educate their children. In India, there are many who still don’t believe in educating children.”
3. Evelyn Mayormita, 27, from the Philippines, teaching assistant, lives in Dubai
When Evelyn Mayormita left her home country for the UAE, her daughter Shane-May was just six months old. When the documentary was being filmed, the single mother had not seen her child in two years.
Ms Mayormita, who works at Jumeirah Baccalaureate School in Dubai, decided to take part in the film to help people understand the circumstances of many Filipinos who live here.
“There are many people from Philippines working here and I hope they will feel proud of it,” she said.
Her daughter, now seven, has been raised by Ms Mayormita’s mother.
“Shane-May treats my mother like she is her own mother and me as though I am her sister,” she said. “It was difficult for me to leave her. But we are not so close. There is a distance between us now,” Ms Mayormita said.
Her remittances have also helped her mother to set up a small shop to generate some extra income for the family. Ms Mayormita said at times she found it harrowing to speak about how she misses her relatives. “The movie is very emotional and I didn’t want to talk about my family because it’s difficult for me,” she said. “I didn’t want to be on camera. But once it was over, it was nice to have seen myself on television and I felt proud of myself.”
4. Kalam Noor, 56, from Bangladesh, businessman, lives in Sharjah
After first coming to the country to work in a motor spares shop in 1989, Mr Noor and started a textile and tailoring shop with a workforce of just three people.
Now, he owns four shops and employs 150 people. His shops, Al Kashkha Tailoring and Textiles, make and sell kanduras and other traditional clothes. His success has enabled him to give his children a good education.
Jasmine, his oldest daughter, is a pilot while his oldest son, Rasil, is studying engineering at the American University of Sharjah.
His other daughter, Amna, is studying medicine, while the youngest son, Rahaad, is in school.
Mr Noor has helped hundreds of people in his home country by providing employment.
While he has enjoyed watching the final product, he found the filmmaking process stressful.
“I was nervous initially but I relaxed later. If someone does good work, then it is good that people come to know about it. Being a part of the documentary is a big thing for us,” he said.
5. Bethi Malesh, 32, from India, labourer, lives in Dubai
When A Place Called Home was being filmed, Mr Malesh had not yet met his three-year-old son.
He met the boy only when he travelled to his village near Hyderabad earlier this year.
He was signed up for the film when its producers came to his labour camp and heard about his predicament.
“I was afraid to be a part of the film at first but I think it is very realistic,” said Mr Malesh.
“It was good to visit my home. It felt wonderful. My son and I were meeting for the first time, but he knew about me.”
His neighbours were also delighted to feature in the film.
“People in my village are so excited about the film because some of them were a part of it. I am hoping to send them a copy of the film so they can watch it.”
While he often longs to go home to be with his family, he admits he is obliged to stay here for financial reasons.
Updated: June 2, 2015 04:00 AM