Bradford Film Festival 2010 - Day 1

Just so you know, this won't be another Leeds. I am not destroying my eyes like I did last year. At least not for Bradford. Leeds 2010 maybe.

Bonecrusher (US)

It is unsurprising that a documentary film about the lives of Virginian coalminers is not going to get the most attention of all the films at the festival, and this was true as, on a rainy friday I searched the corridors of Leeds Trinity University until I came upon the sparsely-attended theatre - a large lecture room with a big projector screen at the front.

An elderly member of a dilapidated and semi-deserted country town, Luther 'Bonecrusher' Chaffin - a somewhat ironic nickname given his slight form - and his son Lucas, are two of many pit men in the Wilder Miners' lineage. A profession that sucks the life from many of the town's families and has for several generations, Luther is long since retired and is missing half a lung, his face and body gaunt by the effects of the affliction known as black lung. Initially reluctant to let his son join the family tradition, Lucas managed to get his way on the strength of his arguments: it's part of the place he grew up in and thus in his blood, and more importantly when he is supporting a new family, there's good money in it.

What initially began as a rather sterile documentary on the everyday dangers and health hazards endured by these people on a daily basis, taking us on the low-load carts into the depths of the pit where only a few feet separate floor and ceiling and hazardous coal-dust is everywhere; morphs slowly into a human study over several months of a family as it loses one of it's number to a disease its' own traditions are responsible for. It is at this point that the film took my interest much more, twanging my emotions as I see the initially reasonably healthy father turn into a weakened skeleton at the same time the rest of the family grows and changes, and all the time the black cloud that causes it all (and will again) looming in the background, it's grip tight around the survival of the townsfolk. 7/10

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