Charcoal Burning

In Switzer­land, a film­mak­er who was fas­ci­nat­ed as a child by the char­coal piles close to his home decid­ed to make a film about char­coal burn­ing. In the Congo, a French doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er found a char­coal burner who under­takes this huge effort all on his own in order to feed his family. Both films were com­plet­ed in the same year. We were fas­ci­nat­ed by this coin­ci­dence, and it is the ideal start­ing point for a sub­ject that inspires so many fun­da­men­tal ideas. Char­coal has been a source of energy for many cen­turies. Indus­tri­al­ly pro­duced char­coal still exists today, but the qual­i­ty is infe­ri­or, and eco­log­i­cal­ly con­tro­ver­sial. The sus­tain­abil­i­ty of this trade is a prob­lem. No one prof­its in the long term if the last trees are cut down in Africa to pro­duce char­coal. With­out doubt, char­coal burn­ing also pro­duces pol­lu­tants. On the other hand, it is an effi­cient and renew­able energy source up to a lim­it­ed degree. Mean­while, bar­be­quing con­tin­ues to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty in Europe, along with new, rather lux­u­ri­ous ways of using char­coal – for exam­ple, in Japan­ese tea cer­e­monies. … read more


Robert Müller
Switzerland 2017 | 93 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 10:00 PM
Q&A with:
Robert Müller

In Switzer­land, tra­di­tion­al char­coal burn­ing is still a trade. Each summer, smoke rises out of the char­coal piles, or kilns. The pro­ce­dure takes five weeks. The metic­u­lous stack­ing of the wood, work­ing with the fire, the poking and shov­el­ing, the hidden process in which the trans­for­ma­tion of wood into char­coal seems alchemistic – all of this still has an air of magic to this day.

The film­mak­er Robert Müller vis­it­ed the char­coal burn­ers in Entle­buch in Cen­tral Switzer­land for the last five years. He offers a glimpse of a hard but fas­ci­nat­ing world in this cap­ti­vat­ing film with fan­tas­tic images and pre­cise acoustics that match the accu­ra­cy of the work­ing method of making char­coal. Most impor­tant­ly, it is a well-round­ed por­trait of the dif­fer­ent people involved in this trade. There is much silence, but also laugh­ter, drink­ing, smok­ing, and cursing.

Robert Müller: “I learned about a way of living where family, pro­fes­sion, beliefs and, the world stay close­ly con­nect­ed: the intense labor in nature and the adven­ture that demands every­thing of you, phys­i­cal­ly and mentally.”

Best camera, Swiss Film Award 2018; Best direc­tor, Inner­schweiz­er Film­preis 2019; Jury Prize, Trento Film Fes­ti­val 2018


Emmanuel Gras
France 2017 | 96 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 07:30 PM
Emmanuel Gras says that the idea for his film was quite simple. Kab­wi­ta, his pro­tag­o­nist from Kol­wezi in the south of the Congo, makes a living from char­coal burn­ing. Nor­mal­ly, … read more