If you are interested in fascinating, but disturbing documentaries, here is an Artist you should know…
“Hard manual labor is visible, explainable, portrayable.
This is why I often think of it as the only real work.”
Documentary filmmaker Michael Glawogger was an Austrian film director, screenwriter and cinematographer. He specialized in showing people on the edges of society…
The subjects of his movies were real people – the stories were harsh, poignant and unflinching. He made three documentaries, two of which I have seen and wanted to share with you – because he was a brilliant film maker…
I read about this film and had to see it – in a world when TV shows talk about “dangerous jobs” or “dirty jobs”, this film takes that definition to a whole new level…
Glawogger films six different jobs that are beyond anything you can imagine – intimate portraits of real men doing the most dangerous jobs on earth – here is the trailer:
The film is broken into six chapters, each one highlighting another job – beginning with:
Coal mines in the Ukraine
Here is how the film’s website describes this job: A “mousetrap” is a mine no higher than 16 inches that the coal diggers have excavated themselves. Do you understand? The entire height of the mine that these men work inside is 16 inches!
The miners have to crawl for over 200 yards while lying almost completely flat, then pound the coal into pieces, and shovel these pieces into a metal trough – and all that while lying flat on their stomachs.
This is unbelievably harrowing – just over a foot of space to drag themselves more than the length of two football fields! Director Glawogger’s camera is there to capture all of it…
Sulfar Mining in Indonesia
How about this job? The “kitchen” is the place at the edge of the hot, blue-green lake at the bottom of the crater where sulfur is mined. The “kitchen” spits, hisses, billows up in clouds of hot caustic vapor.
Here molten sulfur flows through long clay pipes, touches the air, and hardens in a matter of minutes. Orange puddles turn into pale-yellow, jagged-edged chunks and slabs.
Equipped with long iron rods, the men stuff a cloth or the sleeve of their jackets into their mouths, and dash up the slope and into the biting fumes. There they break off big chunks of hardened sulfur to carry away for sale.
Slaughter Yard in Nigeria
Forget buying steaks in a supermarket. Here is how they do it in Nigeria: a real slaughterhouse, functioning like an open-air market, because it is…
This is “The Slab,” a large open-air clearing where the cattle is brought alive, then slaughtered, skinned, and cut into portions for sale. There is a charred elevated platform for roasting the beef heads, skin, feet, and whole goats.
One of the Director’s great techniques is to place a subject in front of the place they work, and then let the camera roll. The awkwardness is clear, real and touching…
Next up is one of the most beautifully filmed – and dangerous – jobs of all: workers in Pakistan who live in shacks and literally dismantle old cargo ships…
Shipbreaking in Pakistan
Shamorgar, a little Pakistani mountain village near the border to Afghanistan, is where the old cargo ships are run aground and then taken apart – an amazingly dangerous and toxic environment…
Steel Complex in China
Muscle power and the contribution of the individual are no longer prized as they were in former times. The model heroes of the past, like Mang Tai or Wang Xinxi, are still looked upon as exemplary workers, but whatever charisma they once had no longer seems relevant anymore.
This is a sad look at how men who used their strength in the past have no role in the future, leading to the last vignette:
Leisure Park in Germany
When night falls in Duisburg, the blast furnaces flare up. In neon green and fantastic colors. ARTificial light – In the truest sense. The British light artist Jonathan guides Duisburgians home with this spectacular installation. Visitors to this abandoned steel mill experience the glowing furnaces live and in color – and as the film’s website asks: “Now do you see the light”?
And that is the real point of the documentary.
Here is how the Director describe it:
“Work can be many things. Often it is barely visible; sometimes,
difficult to explain;and in many cases, impossible to portray.
Hard manual labor is visible, explainable, portrayable.
This is why I often think of it as the only real work.”
Read more about this incredible documentary here:
Glawogger then turned his cameras on what is referred to as “the world’s oldest profession”:
First, look at the trailer:
Glawogger turned his camera on the lives, troubles and hopes of prostitutes in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico.
In Bangkok, the camera unflinchingly shows you the bars where women sit behind glass and wait for men to pick their “number”:
You hear from he women who work here, and get a honest sense of what their life is like. What is shocking is to see how prostitution is a way of life in Bangladesh as well:
Finally, the Director heads to Mexico, and a rough border town where the women are all strung out on drugs, and some of the “johns” ride in on mules to see them:
This movie becomes graphic near the end, when a customer is filmed procuring services from a prostitute in Mexico – who then heads back to her room with her female lover, who sprawls naked on a bed and smokes crack. It is sobering material.
The Director’s Tragic Death!
Tragically, Director Michael Glawogger died while on location for a film. 4 days after incorrectly being diagnosed with typhus, he died in 2014 on location in Liberia…
What he has left are two brilliant films….classic cimema verite – there is no narration in these films: you hear from the people profiled as they work – and talk about their work…it is storytelling as its most fundamental – and brilliant: check them out!
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