Where Heaven Meets Hell – Sasha Friedlander, USA

 

Saturday morning on a day that is going to be spent in theaters began with a presentation of Where Heaven Meets Hell from director Sasha Friedlander.

Gorgeously shot in East Java, Indonesia the film follows a group of miners who work in Kawah Ijen, a sulfur mine.

From its opening shot of the men beginning their climb before sunrise to its final shot of one of the film’s subjects leaving at sunset, the film immerses us in the poverty-stricken life these men and their families live in to make a mere $5 a day.

In a pair of shots that wonderfully illustrate the class divide, one shows a miner and his father eating from tin plates picking from one’s plate to the owner of the mine, who won’t even try the sugar refined from the sulfur, while claiming the sulfur isn’t toxic, has plates of food on his table.

The film serves as a poignant look at people simply trying to survive, and not necessarily make a better life for themselves but working and giving all they can to make a better existence for their children.

The men are permanently scarred and bruised from shouldering their baskets and climbing the dizzying and treacherous route up and down into the mountain crater.

The sulfurous clouds these men work in day in and day out, the conditions their families live in, the rate of pay, are all appalling and heartbreaking.

Through these scenes wander an occasional tourist, and I felt a surge of anger thinking that the watch one of them was wearing was enough to feed all of the families of the workers and put their children in school.

Yet he’s quite happy to exist in his oblivious state.

He almost serves as a reflection of the modern world, passing through, briefly acknowledging and then returning to his first world problems.

Friedlander and her crew have crafted a gorgeous film, the images and backdrops are lovely, and the people are real. They just want a better world, a little piece of heaven for their families and offspring. And they go through hell to get it.

The final screening is on Saturday May 5 at 7:15pm at the Light Box.

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