Documentary showing the dangerous working conditions in a Welsh coal mining community.

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Documentary showing the dangerous working conditions in a Welsh coal mining community.

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Sciana wegla  »

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Alberto Cavalcanti's film in praise of coal
12 May 2012 | by (Salisbury, United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

As a photographer who once lived in and took pictures of the last of the south Wales coal communities, I had a special interest in this, which I stumbled on, quite by accident as an unadvertised extra on Sky Arts 2.

That this 11 minute documentary was directed by the Brazilian Alberto Cavalcanti, who went on to direct some of Ealing Film's finest features, it's interesting also to see what he cut his film-making teeth on.

I know little of GPO films but know they were public information films that were shown as extras in the cinemas, these being the main media outlet to the public of moving images.

Yes, the rather crude maps and lists of facts are a little tedious, but it's Cavalcanti's use of patterns and compositions that convey a sense of the enormity and importance of coal. Like the famous - I think - London to Scotland post sorting train one, with the poem - Cavalcanti drums up a real sense of rhythmic power and movement through images that follow each other and blend in, via fast cutting.

The human aspect, however, was rather poorly represented, certainly by today's standards, maybe because so many still worked in the industry in 1935.

I've not seen enough GPO information films to be able to compare this one with and I had a certain interest, therefore I'm probably going to praise it more than those who don't - which are probably the majority.


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