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Mining From Sunrise to Sulfurous Sunset: Where Heaven Meets Hell

It’s quite unfortunate that the breathtaking clouds that fume from the depths of Kawah Ijenof, an active volcano just west of Banyuwangi, Indonesia, are in fact literally choking toxic sulfur dioxide gases.  Within the stunningly photographed Where Heaven Meets Hell, rookie documentarian Sasha Friedlander centers on this conundrum.  Kawah Ijenof is a primary tourist attraction for the region, but it’s also a lucrative source of sulfur – a main ingredient in the production of sugar, rubber, cosmetics, and matches – and thus, the volcano serves as a backbreaking place of employment for the poor and uneducated communities that surround the ridge.  The film follows the daily struggles of three diligent independent miners as they fill and carry sulfur-filled wooden baskets, weighing nearly 200 lbs, up and over mountainous terrain for mere quarters on the hour to support their struggling families.  A weathered old man hellbent on allowing his children a life free from the treachery of the mines works alongside a pair of younger men with fledgling families of their own.  Without professional opportunity, these families are shackled in a cycle of harrowing poverty, and yet, most of them share the hope that maybe, just maybe, the next generation will somehow be better off.  It is with this hope that Friedlander molds a heartrending (yet ultimately slight) portrait of steadfast fatherhood and familiar devotion in the face of endless hard work and physical debilitation at the hands of a poisonous yellow earth.

Where Heaven Meets Hell premieres tonight on ITVS Global Voices.

Where Heaven Meets Hell Official Trailer from Sasha Friedlander on Vimeo.


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