Michael Glawogger is an interesting film documentarian, and this film
from 2005 is perhaps the easiest one of his films to obtain in a
DVD format which plays in North America. This is about manual laborers
in 4 different settings around the world. There is only minimal narration
and interviewing; most of the film speaks to the viewer simply by seeing
the scenes and listening to the sounds of the people at work. Of course
it's not easy work, which is why he found it interesting.
He picked 4 settings, and each one begins with a one-word title.
"Heroes" depicts a small group of men mining a coal seam in the Ukraine.
Not a big commercial mining operation--no, the seam is too thin to be
viable as a large operation. They crawl in and out--actually even crawling
is generous; almost the entire time they are inside the mine, they are
wriggling around lying flat, as there isn't even enough room to crawl.
The coal is enough to provide fuel for a few families, and some left over to
sell for food and other necessities.
The second section is called "Ghosts" and is about sulfur mining on a semi-dormant
volcano in Indonesia. Small, wiry men carrying up to 200 lbs of sulfur down slippery,
muddy, razorback foot trails from the upper volcano to a buyer down below.
Section three, "Lions", is about a large, open-air butchering operation in Nigeria.
I had to skip this section as it is very graphic depicting animals of various kinds
getting slaughtered and trimmed for sale.
The final section, "Brothers", is about men who work at a port in Pakistan, dismantling
old ships to be sold as scrap iron. Generally, LARGE old ships. In some ways I found
this last section the most interesting of all, and a suitable conclusion.
Glawogger does not appear to be making any particular political, economic or environmental
statement with his film. At least, he does not do so overtly, leaving the viewer to
ponder your own opinions on what he has recorded. I found the film fascinating (skipping
"Lions" anyhow), and hope I can view his other documentaries as well.