Workers of the rain forest
Enrique Torres | San Diegotitlan, Califas | 06/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set to the backdrop of the rainforest in the Amazon, Charcoal People is a documentary about the people who work hard to create charcoal. This movie hits you like a brick; this is not a sexy melodrama about middle class lovers romping in Rio, it is a hard hitting statement about the living and working conditions of workers destined to hardship. The workers are similar to coal mine workers in the United States. The natural beauty is juxtaposed with the laborious human condition, highlighted by a narrative and interviews with the various workers. You will meet a man in his seventies with the sinewy body of a young athelete, lifting heavy pieces of lumber, recently felled and now being placed into a kiln. Attention is given also to the kiln makers who travel the wastelands of the depleted rain forest. The kiln makers live a nomadic existence, hiring out to the highest bidder, making beautiful hut shaped ovens ready for the wood to burn and turn into charcoal. The kiln makers, the people who cut and load the wood are basically indenturesd servants whose families before them worked the forest and their future generations will probably continue the family tradition out of necessity. It is a bleak outlook for the youngsters. One compelling moment has a father talking about how he wants his son to break the cycle through education(most cannot write their own names) and when the happy son is interviewed and asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he answers that he wants to work the kilns. In spite of the best intentions it seems the cycle will continue. Other touching moments are when the workers finish sawing down a 100 year old tree they look dismayed and confirm their disgust by saying it took only five minutes to chop down what took 100 years to grow. In spite of their being upset they go about the task at hand and proceed to cut and make pieces for the kiln to satisfy the insatiable desire for more charcoal. The movie can be disheartening at times but the redeeming qualities of the people, their humble attitudes, their respect for life and the emphasis on being a polite person buries their plight. If you like documentaries than this movie about the workers of the rain forest is a must. A great movie for environmentalists, teachers, activists or any organization involved in showing what is going on in the rain forest."
Why you should care about the plight of the poor and the sys
W. Chen | Medellin, Colombia | 10/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found this title accidentally at the library, and am very glad I did. The premise is simple enough, describe and open a window of insight into a class of people who make charcoal for steel mills. If I hadn't been to Brazil before, I might have overlooked this gem, but thankfully I was hungry for some Portuguese language titles when I came across it.
Viewers may get 'bored' and wonder why the camera dwells so long on these people's relatively simple lives. I believe the author did this for good reason - to show their humanity. Despite being 'poor' they are still people and have to make a living. In many ways, their 'humanity' is greater than many 'rich' people I know.
The author then links this humanity to the destruction of the rainforest. For these people need to make a living and feed themselves and their children. They lament the cutting down of a 100 year old tree in 5 minutes, but feel they have no choice.
They toil to make charcoal (Burned wood), which is combined with iron to make steel. Steel that gets shipped to the US, Europe, and Japan to MAKE YOUR CAR, or perhaps some other egomaniac's skyscraper.
The powerful bottom line I get from this video is that ALL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFORTS WILL FAIL without improved financial monetary distribution. Something which many environmentalists / earth lovers / well-paid Hollywood actors/actresses / good intentioned capitalists, etc... just don't get. This video helps to bridge that gap. The global structure of today's economy does not promote a sense of fairness / equality (I ain't talking Communism either). One only look at the caste system of India to see the effects on the environment due to such a skewed power and financial disparity over time. Or the environment of the Philippines - which adopted Catholicism and American frameworks. Considering that Brazil is vastly unequal (Catholicism...), this situation must improve. (Gini index) The question now is that the stakes are greater than just what is going on in one country.
This video is like a window into one tiny story of the global consumer food chain.
I recommend traveling to Denmark to see how things can be done, with a focus on thought process - Janteloven. It is the most egalitarian nation in the world, and not coincidentally, home to the EU Environmental ministry. As for cars, in Copenhagen, Denmark - 70% of families don't even own a car, they use bicycles. Most of the rest of the country gets by with one. This is a country with a higher GDP/capita than America. And interestingly enough, the happiest country in Europe by a - country mile - in long running World Values Survey. And 3rd overall behind Puerto Rico and Mexico. Notably, their population has not spiraled 'out of control' either.
Other videos you might enjoy are: Nova World in the Balance, National Geographic Strange Days on Planet Earth, Zapatista, and Life and Debt, and a skeptical watching of Commanding Heights.
Books - Any of the small Penguin Atlases which show the world at a glance with colorful maps. Also Stuff: Secret Lives of Everyday Things."
Interesting, but lacking...
private__ | Earth | 11/01/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"this documentary film reminded me a bit of that film about the poor children in peru who live by rummaging through the garbage dumps trying to find items they can sell or recycle in exchange for money... it is another film about society's dispossessed millions who live in filth, squalor and poverty with no hope of finding a way out in this generation and little in generations to come... as with any film of this sort, you feel a mixture of sadness for the people's plight, desperation at the fact that their situation will probably never change and pleasant surprise about how articulate the people are when describing their lives and the world around them... in this emotional sense, the film is a success and provides an adequate description of the life of brazil's charcoal workers...perhaps what was missing for me was a piece of the bigger picture... the film seems to attempt a presentation without ideology... we never see who is benefiting from the work of these obviously exploited, unprotected workers... having been to brazil and read much about the landless, miners and agricultural workers, this film presents just a small part of a big picture that you are left asking yourself about... you never see how the lives of these people fit into the bigger picture of brazil as a whole, though you can at least imagine that there are many more like them in this country and dozens of others"