Film Review – Fireflies In The Abyss

Fireflies_in_the_Abyss_r copyScreened at various film festivals around the globe and having won its fair share of encomiums, ‘Fireflies in the Abyss’ is a reflective documentary with shades of grey. It explores the lives of those in Jaintia Hills of Northeast India, whose sole means of subsistence is quarrying from the coal mines.

Having worked for Nat Geo and Discovery Channels, Director, Producer, Writer – Chandrashekhar Reddy’s fascinating but poignant film, is laced with conversations with the large migrant Nepalese population, some of whom harbour grandiose dreams but know only too well that they may never reach homeland again.

Made in 2012, this eye-opener documentary, a joint venture of four countries – Netherlands, UK, Canada and India – caused the state to wake up and eventually ban the mining a couple of years later. The camera takes the viewers deep inside the rodent-infested death pits, where, with only pickaxes and torches as accessories, the excavated ore is transported out in hand-pulled carts. Suraj, an 11-year-old, who is torn between business (mining) and pleasure (schooling), is largely the subject of this film. The film also attempts to show how, after counting their pennies at the end of the day, taking to the bottle or gambling (sometimes at archery), are the only avenues of leisure.

The camera work is admirable – of the vast and scenic landscape as well as within the mines. In man’s quest to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and shattered dreams notwithstanding, FITA is all about the unflagging and indomitable human spirit to carry on despite that ‘sinking feeling’ – literally and figuratively.

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