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Charbons ardents

Visions du Réel Nyon 1999

Charbons ardents
(Fighting for the Future)

F 1999 142'

Director: Jean-Michel Carré
Script: Jean-Michel Carré
Camera: J.L. Cohen
Sound: S. Richard, A. Rodet
Editing: M. Mazurek
Production: Les Films Grain de Sable

In the 'eighties, the clash between Thatcher and Scargill in England over the way of managing the country's economy provoked a series of strict State measures aimed against the working classes, and more particularly against the miners whose trade union had grown into too powerful an opposition force. As had happened in the majority of mines, the Towell mine in Wales was then closed down. Deciding not to give in to bitterness and refusing to head for the dole queue, a group of miners planned to buy back the land and proposed that each employee reinvest his severance allowance and become a shareholder in the new company. Against all expectations, the co-operative came into being and everyone resumed their work. Henceforth managed by a group of workers elected from within the personnel, the mine has survived but must now look to the future for, in fifteen years' time, the seam will have been worked out. Over the course of several months, Jean-Michel Carré observed the work of the different employees and shared in their responsibilities. From white-collar executives to the underground workers, and not forgetting the new apprentice who had just been taken on, he paints the portrait of some of the actors in this working utopia. Management of this undertaking on a day to day basis is not, however, always easy. Given permission to attend the annual general meetings, Jean-Michel Carré filmed the tricky exercise of direct democracy. The directors who had committed themselves to maintaining long-term employment in the region regularly clashed with nervous shareholders who feared for the loss of their capital in the short term. Nevertheless, so far Towell has survived ,despite all the remorseless deadlines for payments that must be met. These men will obviously be ready and willing to take on new risks and challenges, if only to prove that there does exist a way to escape from the sacrosanct liberal model. When all is said and done, charbons ardents courageously and defiantly paints a picture of an alternative which places employment, solidarity and the human being at the heart of all that matters.
Visions du Réel Nyon