Directed by Gael Mocaer • Documentary • 2014 • 80 minutes
"That's the fire emergency system. If there's a fire, it bursts and the water falls down," one of the mineworkers explains. He is talking about a few bags of water, all the size of a fist, somewhat haphazardly hung from the low ceiling of the mineshaft. "Like a huge waterfall."
Every day hundreds of men risk life and limb going down into the Buzhanska mine in the Ukraine to mine coal with rusty old tools from the Soviet era. It is heavy, unhealthy, hazardous work, which thanks to the relatively high pay-two to four times what people earn in the city-is nevertheless tempting to many young men. Once a year, they are honored during the Day of the Mineworker-another relic from the Soviet era, when the most deserving workers receive a rose from the director of the mine in a kitschy ceremony.
For the rest of the year the workers are ignored, pestered or intimidated by their bosses, and no one is concerned with their safety. THE COAL MINER'S DAY documents their work underground, their comradeship and dissatisfaction in and around the mine over the course of a year. Gradually overcoming the skepticism of the mineworkers, the filmmaker captures a series of oppressive, revealing moments.
"The film works beautifully as a droll interrogation of how documentary filmmakers interact with their subjects, as well as an opportunity to glimpse working conditions in a remote and rarely-visited corner of Europe."—The Hollywood Reporter