The Charcoal People | Chicago Reader

The Charcoal People

Even as they discuss the effects of their labor on the rain forest and their lives, workers in Brazil cut down trees, haul the wood, and build kilns to burn it, creating the charcoal that's used by steel mills to make pig iron. If the mills were to shut down, one man says, charcoal production would cease, and there would be no more work; as it is, he adds, the process will continue until the Amazon is devastated—and the irony of his speculation his impossible to ignore. Some of the charcoal-industry workers, who believe they aren't capable of doing anything else, apologize for their role in the deforestation in one of the more contrived scenes in this documentary, those frequent, subtle shifts from dialogue to voice-over almost conceal the filmmakers' craft. But the often melodically repetitive commentary, statistics-filled intertitles, and detailed yet minimalist images fuse activistic suggestion and ominous cynicism. Directed by Nigel Nobel; written by producer Jose Padilha. 70 min.

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